With the global population expected to top 7 billion people in 2011, National Geographic magazine has produced a 7-part year-long series providing a profile of the world’s population. The information is fascinating, and from a design point of view, it shows the effective graphic use of the magazine’s yellow and black brand colors and yellow rectangular frame logo, which has been around since the magazine began publishing in 1888. From a marketing strategy perspective, it gives us a lot to think about.
Computers and the Internet have made it possible to crunch data every which way so that we know exactly how much is spent on gift cards, military defense, Medicare and erectile dysfunction. But like so much else on the Internet, it is hard to know what to make of this glut of disparate information. British journalist David McCandless, author of the book “The Visual Miscellaneum” and the blog InformationIsBeautiful.net, is using infographics to help us make sense of it all. His solution to the information overload is to “use our eyes more.” McCandless has managed to use shapes, patterns, colors and space to map information, show relative scale, focus attention on information that is meaningful. Through juxtaposition of colored boxes, viewers can see correlations and connections between numbers that often would not normally be shown on the same spreadsheet. A whole lot of knowledge can be condensed into a very small space, and reviewing it can be effortless, relaxing and fun.
What do cartographers do for fun? They make typographic maps.
At Axis Maps in Hewitt, Texas, what started out as a clever little typographic map party announcement for a gathering of geographers in Boston grew into a full-blown typographic map of the city. Andy Woodruff, one of the principals of Axis Maps, says that he started the project because he was intrigued with the idea of expanding the style of the party invitation into a full city map of Boston. His off-hours project caught the attention of his Axis cohorts, Ben Sheesley and Mark Harrower, who decided to make both a color and black-and-white typographic map of Chicago. The maps occupied them off and on for nearly two years.
“There was nothing automatic about making these maps, unless you count copying and pasting,” says Woodruff on the Axis Maps blog. “Everything was laid out manually, from tracing streets over an OpenStreetMap image, to nudging curved water text, to selectively erasing text to create a woven street pattern.”
The World Database of Happiness (WDH) at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, has been conducting scientific research on happiness levels worldwide, in some cases taking measurements over a 30-year period. The WDH arrived at their happiness quotient by surveying their subjects’ overall satisfaction with life as well as their mood day-to-day. In addition to having the subjects self-rate their contentment level, the interviewers even conducted sight inspections, rating their subjects’ “cheerful appearance” based on eight aspects, including whether their mouth was turned up or down in a smile or frown and whether their movements looked relaxed or withdrawn. The data was basically broken down into not at all happy, not very happy, quite happy, and very happy. (WDH had lots of other happiness measures too complicated to understand, much less try to explain without becoming very unhappy.) Fortunately, Good and Open took WDH’s data and worked with Dorian Orange to create an infographic of happiness by country, using the familiar yellow “happy face” to illustrate the point.
What does it feel like to be a stranger in a foreign land? If you could communicate in the simplest, clearest language, what do you want others to know about you? Established in Berlin by two women from Argentina – one an artist, the other a journalist, Migrantas is a collective project that helps immigrants in Germany give voice to their concerns.
Just when traditional annual reports have all but disappeared in the business world, a guy named Dan Meyer in the beach town of Santa Cruz, California, has produced his own personal 2009 annual report in video format. A high school math teacher by day, Meyer aimed for the kind of accuracy that even an independent auditing firm would admire. On his blog, he credited his speed in getting his report out so fast to having a “working knowledge of a) the degree measure of angles, b) proportions, c) percents, d) coordinates, e) 3D space, f) modular arithmetic, and g) linear interpolation. “ He adds that he even calculated an integral.
Stephen von Worley on Weather Sealed posted this chronological growth of Crayola colors from the line-up of original eight introduced in 1903 by Binney & Smith to the 133 colors available today. By von Worley’s calculations, Crayola colors double every 28 years.
For a product targeted heavily to consumers who are too young to read or to talk about the good ole days when reds were redder, it is interesting to note that Crayola has remained dedicated to innovation, upgrades and product naming. In addition to its standard colors, Crayola has launched specialty sets with names like Magic Scent and Silver Swirl. It has discontinued colors with low market appeal; apparently, Maize, Raw Umber, Blizzard Blue and Thistle just didn’t cut it with seven-year-olds. Other names, of course, had to be retired for political correctness. Prussian Blue was renamed Midnight Blue in 1958, Indian Red became Chestnut. Also, bowing to pop trends, Crayola introduced metallic FX colors like Big Dip O’Ruby and Blast Off Bronze, and glitter shades like Red Violet with Glitzy Gold Glitter (a name that rolls right off the tongue), and Silly Scents like Sasquatch Socks, Big Foot Feet and Alien Armpit. It had to discontinue regular scents like Chocolate and Jelly Bean because parents complained that kids found they smelled good enough to eat – and did.
All this effort makes Crayola even more endearing, especially when you consider that with just four colors – c, m, y, k – you can arrive at any color in the spectrum, and Crayola’s target customers aren’t so jaded that they’d reject a product because it’s “last year’s model.”
In 1943, five years after it was founded and during the height of World War II, Walt Disney Studios put out an organization chart to explain how the company functioned. What’s fascinating is how it differs from org charts issued by most corporations. Typically, corporate org charts are hierarchical, with each operating division isolated into “silos” showing job titles according to reporting chain of command and ultimate authority. The CEO and SVPs get the higher positions and bigger boxes; the little boxes represent the expendable worker “bees.”
If you have something to hide, design badly and write poorly. Set the text in small type, no leading and wide measure, and use mind-numbingly dull legal language. This approach all but screams, “We don’t want you to read this, but we are required by law to tell you.”
Whether intentional or not, this is the impression given by credit card issuers when disclosing fees and terms. Cardholders who don’t immediately throw out these “envelope stuffers” are often stunned to read about a plethora of penalties, hidden fees and compounded interest. What’s more, the majority of card issuers also claim the right to increase APR or change credit terms “at any time for any reason.”
A new series of engaging commercials for Sprint, done by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, turns factoids and data that would typically go into flat charts and graphs into motion pictures. Real people populate demographic maps. Flow charts flow. Kinetic infographics breathe life into what is actually a bunch of dry statistics.