Latest Reviews

June 23, 2011

Gamestorming - A Review by Gary Smith

If you are currently practicing design and are tired of using the same three or four techniques for the extraction, organization and presentation of material pertaining to your projects this book is worth having on your shelf. I know of one in our midst who has successfully used several of these techniques on a recent project. If you are looking for a higher-level approach to your design conundrum you won’t likely find it here.

A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers
by: Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, James Macanufo

Paperback: 288 pages… READ MORE »

Latest News

July 26, 2012

Results from CHIFOO Institute of Design Interest Survey

The CHIFOO Institute of Design Research Committee was intended to gauge the interest in the local CHI/UX community’s interest in a formal continuing education program, potentially sponsored through the CHIFOO organization.

The response was very good and seems to indicate a strong interest in the development of a good resource for professional UX training.

Conclusions presented in this survey:

The nature of this survey was exploratory, and the results indicate that it is worthwhile to pursue additional feasibility analysis into the possibility of designing a CHI/UX continuing education program in the Portland area. The initial survey indicates:

  • There are practitioners clustered in the “experienced” (10+ years’ experience) and “newbie” (0-4 years’ experience) categories. The ideal educational program will accommodate both advanced and entry-level professionals.
  • Professionals tend to wear dual hats as project contributors and project leaders, indicating the need for both technical and leadership skills.
  • Key business challenges include:
    • Communication and teamwork (including getting stakeholders to understand CHI / UX, leadership and facilitation, “pitching” ideas)
    • Formal grounding in best practices (being able to defend decisions with facts)
    • Training… READ MORE »

Latest Commentary

November 9, 2009

Data Visualization With Circles, Spirals, and Other Round Things

In this post, I’ll be writing about using circles and spirals in data visualization. There are some interesting things you can do when you arrange your data circularly – benefits you don’t get from more traditional layouts. Of course, I’ll also discuss the drawbacks, too. None of these techniques are categorically superior to the alternatives.

This is certainly not an exhaustive review of the topic. There are many kinds of visualizations I won’t be able to explore in a blog post. The common thread here is simply “things I’ve found while researching another project I’m working on for my information visualization class.”

Nightengale’s Coxcomb

One of the earliest examples is Nightengale’s Coxcomb. This graph was created by Florence Nightengale during the Crimean War to advocate for better sanitation. It shows that the number of deaths due to preventable causes (blue wedges) exceeds the number of deaths due to wounds (red) and other causes (gray). It also shows the success of sanitation efforts – the decrease in preventable deaths in April 1855 corresponds to sanitation cleanup efforts in Turkey.

Figure 1: Nightengale’s Coxcomb

The major advantage of the circular layout of the coxcomb is the way months have a consistent placement around the axis. This makes it easier to do year-on-year comparisons. (This will be a recurring theme.)

Nightengale was careful to map data values to the area of wedges, not the radius. This solved one problem, but introduced another. Nightengale was avoiding the problem where area increases as the square of radius. Had she mapped her data values to the radius, this would have exaggerated the values, since a doubling of the radius would show a quadrupling of the area (Rehmeyr, 2009). But by avoiding that lie factor, Nightengale made it somewhat harder to compare months. You can somewhat easily tell that the radius for January 1855 is about twice as long as the radius of November 1854. But what of the area? People aren’t that good at estimating area, especially of odd shapes like wedges (or even rectangles with differing aspect ratios).

Teoria Generale Della Statistica

Figure 2 avoids the area/radius confusion of Nightengale’s coxcomb, by plotting the data as spokes on a wheel. It is also much less visually striking than the coxcomb. It’s okay, sometimes, to sacrifice some utility (but not honesty) to increase impact.

Figure 2: An early circular plot (Gabaglio, 1888)

The graph comes from Teoria...