Writing

Design and the Elastic Mind

Perhaps three months late for an announcement, and at the risk of totally reckless narcissism, I should mention that four of my projects are currently on display in the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. My work notwithstanding, I hear that the show is generating lots of foot traffic and positive reviews, which is a well-deserved compliment to curator Paola Antonelli.

There’s a New York Times article and slide show (too much linking to the Times lately, weird…) and a writeup in the International Herald Tribune that even mentions my Humans vs. Chimps piece.

The first wall as you enter the show is all of Chromosome 18, done in the style of this piece.

chr18-elastic-510b.jpg

It’s a 3 pixel font at 150 dpi, so there are 37.5 letters per inch in either direction, and the wall is about 20 feet square, making 75 million letters total. Paola and her staff asked whether it was OK to put the text on the piece itself, which I felt was fine, as the nature of the piece is about scale, and the printing would not detract from that. The funny side effect of this was watching people at the opening take one another’s picture in front of the piece, mostly probably not realizing that the wall itself was part of the exhibition. Perhaps my most popular work so far, given the number of family photos in which it will be found.

Former classmate Ron Kurti also took a nice detail shot:

chr18-placard-kurti-510.jpg

Also in the show is the previously mentioned Humans vs. Chimps project as seen below:

chimp-510.jpg

This image is about three feet wide so you can read the letters accurately. It’s found next to an identically sized print of isometricblocks depicting the CFTR region of the human genome (the area implicated in connection to Cystic Fibrosis). The image was first developed for a Nature cover.

isometricblocks-510.jpg

Finally, the Pac-Man print of distellamap is printed floor to ceiling on another wall in the exhibition. Unfortunately there was a glitch in the printing that caused the lines connecting portions of the code to be lost (because they’re too thin to see at a distance), but no matter.

pacman-crop-510.jpg

Much moreso than my own work, however, by far the most exciting for me is the number of projects built with Processing that are in the show. It’s a bit humbling and the sort of thing that makes me excited (and relieved) to have some time this summer to devote to Processing itself.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 | iloveme  
Book

Visualizing Data Book CoverVisualizing Data is my book about computational information design. It covers the path from raw data to how we understand it, detailing how to begin with a set of numbers and produce images or software that lets you view and interact with information. Unlike nearly all books in this field, it is a hands-on guide intended for people who want to learn how to actually build a data visualization.

The text was published by O’Reilly in December 2007 and can be found at Amazon and elsewhere. Amazon also has an edition for the Kindle, for people who aren’t into the dead tree thing. (Proceeds from Amazon links found on this page are used to pay my web hosting bill.)

Examples for the book can be found here.

The book covers ideas found in my Ph.D. dissertation, which is basis for Chapter 1. The next chapter is an extremely brief introduction to Processing, which is used for the examples. Next is (chapter 3) is a simple mapping project to place data points on a map of the United States. Of course, the idea is not that lots of people want to visualize data for each of 50 states. Instead, it’s a jumping off point for learning how to lay out data spatially.

The chapters that follow cover six more projects, such as salary vs. performance (Chapter 5), zipdecode (Chapter 6), followed by more advanced topics dealing with trees, treemaps, hierarchies, and recursion (Chapter 7), plus graphs and networks (Chapter 8).

This site is used for follow-up code and writing about related topics.

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