Thursday, January 8, 2015

Google your way to a bigger brain.

I have an average memory. The really smart people I know all have amazing memories, some even posses eidetic ones. One thing that makes them come up with really good solutions to difficult problems is their ability to naturally entertain several incongruous and opposing ideas at the same time.  (Roger Martin calls that "integrative thinking.") Google can help with this.

I have "played" in the online crowdsourcing platforms since 2009. Prior to that (2004) I created content for digital-product portals. AKA image stock banks. I can't even begin to calculate the hours of effort put into all of this, but I can tell you it that it has improved my capacity for creative and critical thinking.

Google (and Google Scholar) makes certain that we spell correctly and check our facts (Yes, Bill Murray really does have 5 kids and was born, September 21, 1950.) but more important than any that, it off-loads that part our brain that may not be so good at keeping our ideas vivid and lively. If our short-term memory is under par, google pics up the slack. If we get stuck, roaming the net refreshes our neural-networks. The only thing missing is the "physicality" of thinking. Since we are just typing at a key board and not roaming the aisles of a library. Moving the body is also good for the brain. For now I will just take many walking breaks between my binges of googling and thinking.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Signal in the Noise - looking for faces...

This is an exercise in random drawing with SketchPro in reflection mode along the X axis. We wired to see this way we'll inevitably see what appear to be "faces" of all sorts, alien, sad, happy and bulldog with crown! What do you see?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Storytelling and the power of a simple vector.

There's the proverbial "arc to a story" that defines its dramatic (or not-so-dramatic) moments over time. When you make it explicit and actually identify the plot points and map them onto a time-line (as Vonnegut so famously did for Cinderella - my version below) it becomes clear that you can't have a hill without a valley and that distorted lines are indicative of action. If nothing ever happens in your life then you're either just boring or you have flat-lined prematurely and you're actually deceased.

“Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories” (Cinderella) YouTube. 30 Oct. 2010. Web. Sun April 2014.

Visualizing complex journeys with vectors is a powerful way to tame complexity long enough to get a real sense of stakeholder needs and systemic inconsistencies. This technique was used for my paper on visual sensemaking and informs maps that describe the journey of a person with chronic illness. When their path, as well as the paths of other stakeholder groups,  viz. healthcare system and care-giver community, are plotted on the same time line, pattern emerges that may suggest how situations  can be improved or re-imagined for better outcomes.

...more on the simple vector to come....

Monday, November 10, 2014

Visualizing genomic sequencing without a degree in Biocomputing

The drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book.”
– From the novel, Fathers and Sons (1862) by Ivan S. Turgenev

When art collides with science, can the outcome be a visualization that communicates meaningfully to both the scientist and the “other”? If it’s not within your purview of experience it should still be relevant and meaningful. But how does a visual designer successful navigate within the domain of a scientist?

Deconstructing a complex idea eliminates essential properties that gives it meaning in the first place. Finding the space between scientific meaning and an aesthetically pleasing design can only be achieved through a constant dialog between the designer and the scientist. It is an iterative process that involves sharing developmental sketches until the final outcome satisfies both parties. It's this sensemaking-strangemaking vortex (more on this in another post) that produces effective visual artefacts to help communicate complex science.

(full disclosure: the images shown above are not created by the author. These images informed a design process that was used to produce a high-level visual overview of a laboratories research goal - which must remain confidential at this time.)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Art Direction for Sensemaking

A famous creative director said that once you find that unique "thing" about a product or service you need to tell a story about it by "flipping it on it's ear". What he meant was that we need to find an arc to our story which is unique, compelling, dramatic and memorable. After all, it's just another car, or brand of beer. How many different ways can we do the same thing? After 20 years of making the familiar and often intrinsically boring things, weird and exciting all for the sake of advertising drama maybe it's time to think again...

"....too often visual designers get preoccupied with creating the next shiny new thing. They chase clients who encourage them to surpass the latest trend, to find new ways to tell the same old story. These clients and designers produce work that may do well at award shows but often just draws more praise and accolades from their peers than from their target audience.

We all want to be recognized for our efforts and someone still needs to sell dog food. The packaging matters, as does the TV spot and the interactive website and a myriad of other visual devices that make up that so-called integrated ad campaign. This work pays a lot of salaries and it is serious business. But what if these same designers put their process to work on more challenging problems? What would happen if they were to harness their power of strangemaking at the point it intersects with their brand of sensemaking and instead of producing things that look really cool, they produce things that provoke us to think? Not just to think to be contemplative, but to actually think hard about creative new ways to solve some very old, complex problems."
(from the Coda for my master's paper on visual sensemaking Sept. 2014)

Friday, August 22, 2014

communication and visual design

You've heard this before: there is no such thing as writing, there is only "re-writing" (not sure who said that first). The same is true for visual communication: the process loops back and forth from rapid sketching to computer rendering, until finally it "looks and feels" done or you've reached the deadline!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Visually exploring letterforms for a word mark...

I won't get into the rationale or reveal the exact nature of the client's brand and image but this short vid shows just a portion of my visual-thinking-process.