Hello to all of you!
It’s the end of week two at Alberto’s online course and I am loving the idea of taking this online course. Even though I have a full-time job and 100 other things to do and it’s getting harder to follow the course, I find some time to do justice to it. I recommend for people interested in data viz to take this course in Jan. Alberto literally lays out the fundamentals of info graphics and dat visualization through this course. Being a designer, I can say that the course emphasizes more than umpteen number of times on the purpose and need for information design. I’m finding it hard to stay away from the habit of pretty(fying) and beautifying graphics for the sake of its form. A chance to learn the basics I never knew of is a privilege.
Week two’s discussion topic was this:
To begin with when I saw this, I thought well this is pretty cool! It conveys almost everything it wants to. Words used the most, Obama using words vs Romney using the same; I dnt see anything wrong with it :O plus The New York times generally do a great deal with their info graphics, so must be perfect. At this point I wish I could tell my professor ‘Alberto, this is a good one, it will flex my brain muscles’.
Then when i knew ‘I was hired by Steve Duenes, infographics director at the Times, to make a constructive critique of that piece’ (hypothetical situation obviously), my mind started to see things it wouldn’t otherwise (ofcourse the readings and lectures during the course help a great deal). So, lets begin with what I came up with:
Things that work:
I like the interesting take on word cloud and the fact that the % of usage of words makes it favour either towards ‘republicans’ or ‘democrats’ (didn’t see this in the beginning though). The second thing I like is the choice of words, Words used are words that make sense in context of politics and debates. If you looked at it overall, you would get a sense of words used by either conventions. Many other positive points and on the whole I feel, the NYT did a good job in making bubble charts clear enough compared to some others out there.
Things that don’t work:
1. The bubbles are clickable but don’t do anything on click. Their function isn’t very clear.
2. When you drag the bubbles out of their place they go where you leave them. WHY?
3. There is a search bar on top to search for words, I didn’t use it much and am wondering if it’s really needed. It’s not a playful graphic and searching for words like ‘is’, ‘and’,'I’ is redundant and has no context
4. Some of the words like ‘AUTO’ and ‘WOMEN’ are described below and I cannot figure out why. Why only these words and not others? Why do they disappear when you drag a bubble out of its place? Initially they almost looked like sections for the graphic.
5. The pull out quotes at the bottom could be a nice element, but is easily missed in the scrolling. Plus its too long and doesn’t add to the story user is getting from the graphic.
The more I look at it and think of it; I realise that it’s a great graphic as a static and the interactive elements don’t have any value addition to the communication. They do things that seem to be deprived of any function. Most of the story that can be communicated is given to the user in the first go.
What I can do to improve this communication follows:
I am not very good at coding and the lack of practice in Flash and Indesign hindered my attempt at making this interactive. Im still on it though:
So, the sketches follow:
This is how I see the whole thing readjusting itself ( it’s a concept sketch and can be worked on a lot in terms of appearance). What I liked about the previous one was the fact that the words would move towards one convention depending on which convention used it more. I feel the key message for users in this is the correlation of the word between the two conventions. A scatter plot in my opinion communicates 2 things clearly: Firstly, it tells how many times one word is used by both conventions. Secondly, it gives us an idea of which convention the word is leaning towards. The closer the circles (all same sizes) are to the 45 degree line the more balanced is the use of the word by both conventions.
What could also be a nice element is a zoom button to zoom into the congested areas and blow up the scale :O