Monday, January 23, 2012

Animating Science

How do we communicate ideas of cells that are "smaller than the wavelength of light".

Good question.

Visually communicating these concepts must be a real challenge as it needs to show what is happening in 3 dimensions at molecular level of things we understand, but can't actually see. This video shows neatly how scientists can use drawing, illustration and animation as part of their thinking process. I find that this is where real design communication comes into its own. Design and illustration has always been fundamental to a process of thinking and not 'showing off'. Of course we need to show our thinking and that's where the presentation of our thinking turns into animations or infographics.

Unfortunately many infographics (or infocrapics) get lost in the delivery of their own beauty rather than using relevant information to make clear by way of an illustration. These infographics aren't used to work out complex ideas into simpler, more easier to understand graphics, rather they use information to force an outcome which is purely attractive without substance.

Take for example the following:

In an effort to make the Top 21 Albums of 2011 more visually attractive the 'designer' has used different sizes of the name of the album to relate how popular it is. In addition they have used different fonts to differentiate the albums. The trouble is that the names of these albums are of different length so this skews completely the weighting given to each name by increasing its size! Why do this instead of producing a list or a simple bar chart? The creator hasn't used this as a thinking aid or a communication aid rather as a source of self gratification. Amazingly the 'designer' quotes the original source which is a simple list, not much larger in size than the infographic, but which gives more information…

Let's think about how we communicate and communicate what we think.