Open Innovation – visualisation challenge – InnoCentive

Short facts:  DEADLINE: 3/17/12  |  ACTIVE SOLVERS: 485  (when this was posted)

Find an open data set available from a local government and design a utility (or improve upon an existing utility) that would make the city/town/neighborhood a better place.  Then, using a compelling visualization of the data, tell the story of how it would improve.

This is an Ideation Challenge with a guaranteed award for at least one submitted solution.

Solve this InnoCentive Challenge and win. Award: See details

Start making a difference, become a Solver today!



Skärmavbild 2011-11-23 kl. 00.31.12

Infographics tools for anyone – and anything

Seeing sites like re.vu, and vizualize.me makes me really happy. I am glad these sites and many, many more simple to use sites that makes data and information come alive exists. You can even use these tools that imports data from other popular (social) sites as quick tools for making your own fast, but really cool presentation for any other subject. Think of LinkedIn as a placeholder for the timeseries of your choice and map in the special widgets picking info from LinkedIns different slots for information. That is a fast way to make cool interactive infographics for a presentation of any business situation.

But it isn’t just pretty, it is also got well designed UX, trendy images, theme choices and simpler forms of customisations, just to the right point where the user still got the energy to customize. These things together makes people use their data and share it. This is the really great thing. The data doesn’t just sit there, forgotten on some old harddrive. The data lives – it is questioned, referred to, discussed, shared and updated. I really like that and hope to see even more online tools, using other kinds of data than just social, like this in the future. Alot of us likes to make our own software, but some things are just more handy (and less time consuming) to get served. And well served is the general direction.

Related article on these tools on lostmyjob.ca


Prototyping for iPhone

I had the opportunity to make an interactive sketch for a project on the iPhone the other day. I was pressed for time and really wanted the project. So I decided to take a closer look at tools for rapid prototyping for iPhone/iPad.

I have some limited knowledge from the past in making native apps in Xcode, using Objective-C and all the interface builders wonderful capabilities. But being pressed for time and mostly just wanting to show the concept I looked at Gamesalad, Processingjs, openFrameworks & Cinder++ (I picked those based on my own capabilities out of very many options out there).

- Gamesalad – a tool reminding me of how Macromedia Director once was. Easy to work with, powerful with scripting but way too long time and complicated process of getting the app to the client. Very nice features though.

- Processingjs – I know Processing quite well at this time so this was an obvious way to go since the html5 works fine under iPhone and iPad. The Processingjs team has made wonders and it was very smooth to get it up and running with the pre-release of Processing0199. The different modes in Processing – ”standard”, ”javascript” and ”android” is wonderful. (Learn more about the upcoming Processing 2.0 from the talk Fry & Reas held at Eyeo). I know Processing, have done a couple of things in processingjs and the clock was ticking. So I simply gave up on openFrameworks and Cinder++ since they were totally new to me.

So I went with processingjs. The sketch was quite fast assembled and it looked and behaved the way I wanted. The js_applet was however somewhat not so perfect on the iPhone since you have to adjust the screen manually if you don’t get the fullscreen option to work, which I didn’t at that time. The iPad became the perfect viewer though. And the computer screen in an modern browser was also ok. It looks a bit weird on the computer screen since the size is all blown up.

So the client got the sketch. In time. Excellent.

Then one night I couldn’t forget all those wonderful apps out there created with Cinder++ & openFrameworks. Both makes apps for iOS. And both are c++ libraries that you can use under Xcode on the mac (and windows with other IDEs of course). And they are ”creative coding” which means that normal designers can handle them with minor difficulties. I downloaded both and started trying out Cinder++. I gave up after realizing how little I had done given the time I had spent and how c++ is NOT for me. The next evening I thought I’d give openFrameworks a quick look. I got hooked very fast. The syntax and structure of the files reminded so much of Processing that I made a port of my simple processingjs sketch in openFrameworks in really no time. It is not as intimidating as the c++ indicates.

So to conclude this I can finally say that Cinder++ is too hardcore for me. The front page of their site is so hard to resist and really inspiring. openFrameworks is really the way to run if the app should run on iOS or MacOSX given my Processing knowledge. For HTML5 and javascript sketches to be run on iPhone or other mobile devices or the web in general, processingjs is an obvious choice. Processing in general is absolutely fantastic with all the libraries and toxiclibs as the lead. Toxis libraries are available as javascript to some extent as well. So the limits to create are once more gone.

UPDATE 2013-01-11: I went Cinder finally anyway. Better performance and better tutorials to get me up and running.

QV margins

QlikView margins

QlikView is absolutely wonderful. Giving access to data this way deserves standing applause. The enterprises using QlikView gets access to compare, analyze, find relations and display data in a very convenient way.

However, as an information designer I find the lack of typographic control and especially margins frustrating. And to be honest I find it very interesting that this kind of control is missing. For instance, accessing control of the line height in lists (a display object) is very hard to find and is only accessible in certain types of display objects. Very odd.

My thought is if you present information, numbers and letters is a key ingredient for conveying information. Ignoring total control of one of the most key ingredient for displaying information is, well, very odd.

Margins is one of the most important things when designing a page typographically. Setting margins the right way makes a page look great and be very legible. Ignoring margins is the single most effective way of destroying legibility and making things become very ugly and unprofessionally looking.

Margins cannot be set, adjusted or accessed at all in QlikView. Again, very strange. I hope they are thinking that ”since the user can move the display object on the page, they can automatically adjust margins.” That is true, but the trend right now when people are making their dashboards (sheets) is to compress them with tiny fonts and no margins AND on top of that borders (lines) surrounding the display object (list/table/chart etc).  Without margins. Sorry, I cannot use odd anymore, that is simply bad design and legibility in my book.

The workaround for a dashboard designer is to remove the borders on everything and place the display objects with good margins individually. But big margins and white space is not appreciated in the current trend of compacting the dashboard.

If QlikTech adds just one typographic feature in the next release of QlikView, I hope it is access to adjusting the margins in List boxes.


I wanna go eyeo

Eyeofestival seems like the one place to go this year. All the speakers are absolutely awesome. And all in one place.

From the early launch site:

eyeo brings together the most creative coders, designers and artists working today, and shaping tomorrow – expect an amazing three days of talks, labs, demos & events fueled by the people and tools that are transforming digital culture.
converge to inspire.


Graphs, triagrams and national strategic foresight panel

I had another really meaningful meeting with former GapMinder staff Jörgen Abrahamsson and Professor Jonas Löwgren at Medea, Malmö Högskola this tuesday. Jonas documented it really well and put it up here, including a video where we all speak swedish to the pretty pictures :-)

I was really baffled by Jörgens triagrams and their simplicity and look forward to get going on showing some quadragrams together with Jörgen soon. Bertin keeps coming up as a fundamental I still haven’t caught up on.

The feedback on the experiments on the graphs I played with using Jung incorporated in Processing was good and healthy. I really need a good real-world case to test my gut instinct on the effectiveness of my twisting the algorithms. I still feel there is something really good is lurking in them.

The strategic foresight panel Jonas spoke about gives me hope for some good government funding for visualization in general in sweden and hope they keep their good work going.


Processing JS – 1.0 arrived – including 3D

I thought I would post my progress on graphs during the summer but things took another direction. At least I got a picture for it. I will write more about that and marrying Jung with Processing later. Picture is NOT ProcessingJS. It sure could have though.

Because tonight I was amazed to see that ProcessingJS came to 1.0. Including the 3D! I cannot express what this means.

13 years ago I bought this book ”Teach yourself VRML2.0 in 21 days”. I thought I would rock in three weeks time, but it never happened. The browser plug-ins that rose, crashed and burned finally killed my interest in 3d on the web. Tonight I start to wonder if the dream is about to wake again. By using Javascript, HTML5 the people at ProcessingJS got something amazing going. WebGl is needed however, but this is included in all the major browsers coming releases. So not to worry about that. I look forward to experiment something real out of this as soon as time will let me. Importing 3d models is not really going to happen anytime soon unless someone writes a cool thingy soon. So back to handwriting the models again and using generated basic models in the meantime.

Amazing times we live in.

Visualising information