Sunday, June 17, 2012

Visual examples: seeking for a concept

You might remember professor's Jay Lehr 1985 article "Let there be stoning!" about the state of scientific talks. Inspired by it, I have been working on a slide stack about presentations . It is still work in-progress, but it has been a while since I posted some visuals, so here a sneak peek of it. Just a legal matter, all of the images under CC licenses and were taken either from Wikipedia or Flickr.

The point of this example is to seek unity, a concept, among the slides. Keynote or PowerPoint templates provide a unity concept, at the expense of death by Powerpoint.  Getting to that unity has proved, at least for me, extremely difficult. Going through this stack makes me uncomfortable knowing that although there is similarity there is no unity. 




















Sunday, June 10, 2012

Superman in commnunication

Source: Flickr under CC license
Beyond nifty soundbites,  relentless preparation, and avoiding Death by power point lies the solution of an oral communication problem in science. If you have been into college, at one point or another, you have asked yourself "What is this lecturer talking about? What's the point?" You might even have failed the test because you didn't get the point. That's a consequence of an unsolved communication problem.

Some young lecturers are arrogant and inexperienced, some old professors are out of touch with their audiences.  Amid their differences,  there is, at least, one thing in common, they all know superman.

The appearance of superman has changed over the years not only to appeal to its newer audiences, but to communicate better. The communication in comics is highly visual, so has become the communication in science. Regardless that change, the Superman's core mission hasn't changed, just like the the mission of communication of science hasn't changed either. In other words,  form follows content, content follows form.
Continuous cycle between content and form.
Think that content dictates form, and your message will be buried. Despite all the continuous change in media and technology, there are  invariants in human nature that surrogate the the former two. We love visuals, we love a good story, we love to be entertained.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A word on visuals: Condensed fonts

While going from work to home, very often I stare at the signs of public transportation looking for concepts and ideas on information visualization. One or two weeks ago I decided to walk home and I stop before this traffic sign
and looked at the typography of it. "They cheated!" I said to myself. "They used two different styles!" Let me show you what I mean:









Compare the letter "s" in both signs. The one of the left is slimmer than the one to the right. But it is not only the "s" it is also the "u" and the "a". This led me think, that the one on the left is written in a "condensed" style (by the way, I'm not sure if "style" is the right word.)

By itself, this is no more than a nifty fact. Here is why this matters. To fit in the space constraints, the design decided to change the style rather than to change the size.  Have you had that same problem when designing slides?  Even more, reducing the size would be dangerous for drivers who might reduce the speed and concentrate more on the sign than in driving. Just like in a talk, where the audience should concentrate on the speaker and not  the slide.

Here is another example of a possible combination with a condensed type:
I have seen many people trying to achieve this aligned-at-both-sides effect controlling the font size. Now you know better.
A warning note: Not all typefaces have a condensed style, thankfully, Roboto and Ubuntu do.