design


I have this theory that everything you could ever want is on the internet, or will be soon. In fact, I’m going to be giving a talk in a few weeks at MetaSpace in DiscourseLab, which is a 5-day event that’s part of paraflows 2008, a digital art and culture festival in Vienna, and this very idea is part of the premise of my talk.

In preparation for my talk, i wanted to find a way to generate labels that looks like cards from an old-fashioned card catalog. I figured that there must be something like this somewhere online, but I didn’t know how difficult it might be to find. I typed “card catalog” into google and this Card Catalog Generator was the fourth result, with this explanatory post called Roll Your Own Catalog Card as the fifth result.

I love when things like this happen. So, now I’m going to use this to prepare some of the graphics for my talk and, it’s very meta, but I’m going to have to mention how easily I discovered it too. Thanks John Blyberg!

The New York Times published an amazing interactive infographic that shows the box office take, over time, for movies that came out between 1986 and 2007. You can scroll along and see the general trends or you can search for a specific movie. It’s presenting a pretty constrained set of data, but it’s tremendously engaging. (Click on the graphic to go to NYTimes.com).

New York Times movie box office data info graphic

Two of my colleagues, Anh Dang and Nirali Patel, are going to be speaking at a conference called IxDA Interaction 08 in a few weeks. We recently had a preview of their presentation, called Designing Information. I don’t want to give too much away, for those that may be attending the conference, but I really enjoyed hearing about it because it converged nicely with my own interests.

The aim of their talk is to discuss their point of view on how to present data in a way that’s meaningful – not just cool or interesting looking. There are some sites that present really beautiful infographics, but they don’t necessarily tell you anything. More suitable for hanging on the wall than for providing illuminating knowledge or understanding. I think that’s just wasteful.

I’m not a designer, myself, so in my line of work I generally collaborate with someone who is. Ideally, I bring insight on the full range of data and the story that it wants to tell, and the IA or designer has the tools and techniques to make that story come to life. Anh and Nirali have a great perspective on the thought processes, insights, and strategies needed to make those techniques really work, and I’m glad to see them contributing their ideas to the discussion.

My company, Avenue A | Razorfish, has published a Digital Design Outlook book, and an accompanying blog. I contributed an article providing a user experience perspective on the Semantic Web. I’m excited about the potential for bridging the gap between really powerful semantic technologies and elegant and effective user experiences. I think this is one of the major digital design challenges of the next few years.

For more details, read my article, The Semantic Web We Weave, on the Digital Design Blog.

I enjoy Facebook, but I find some of the available apps increasingly annoying. Aside from the fact that many of them are pointless, I’m really disturbed by the tactics they frequently employ to make themselves ubiquitous.

One of the apps that, in a general sense, I actually like is an app that lets me rate and review movies, share my opinions on films, and read about the opinions of others. It includes a “Movie Compatibility Test” which tells me how close my taste is to my buddies’, based on comparing our ratings for some 50-odd movies. It alerts me every time one of my friends has taken the quiz, so I can go check how well we matched up. I love movies, and all this sounds pretty cool. The problem is… (more…)

This evening I went to see a documentary called Helvetica with some friends from work. Normally I wouldn’t write about films here, but this one seemed appropriate. Positioning itself as a documentary about a font, it was actually a broader exploration of the evolution of typography and what a font communicates. 

Helvetica logo

Helvetica was created in the late ’50s. At the time it solved many graphic design problems and it sort of took the modern world by storm. Later, there was some post-modern backlash, but the font was already so ubiquitous, there was no going back. The film depicted the views and feelings of many prominent designers, and offered a wide range of perspectives on the font.

(more…)