Bespoke Infographics: Anna Wintour’s Family Tree

After our presentation on diagrams, I asked my D4 students to visualize this NY Post/Page 6 article, Anna Wintour’s Family Tree.  While the actual functionality of some are more successful than others, it’s really interesting to see the variety of visual and strategic approaches to outlining the Vogue queen’s connections. Check out some of their work below, and click on Permalink beneath each image if you’d like to get a closer look.

Mapping the brands we love – Store Locator Guides

For Project 2, students created a store locator map for their selected brand. Check out some of the gorgeous specimens originating from our section of Design 4!

How To Document Your 2D Art & Design Projects

Several of you have inquired about the best way to photograph your design projects.  First and foremost, don’t use the camera on your phone–use a legit point and shoot or DSLR camera!  For other specifics, check out these two great resources, and we can discuss more in class if you have any questions.

This etsy blog posting Etsy Success: Photographing 2D Artwork by Pikaland is uuber helpful, too. I hope she doesn’t mind me re-posting below. It’s too good not to be shared!

Etsy Success: Photographing 2D Artwork

Story by pikaland
Published on Sept 16, 2010 in Seller Handbook
Photo by jamieshelman

Taking great photos of your work is key! How you present your artwork is just as important as the work itself, and more often than not it’s what makes the difference between someone understanding/buying your work. Flatness is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when photographing 2D work and presenting it online. Context is everything; it is important to remember the item isn’t just an image on a screen! For flat 2D objects, such as drawings and prints, show a scanned version of the work, but also a shot with space around the work. You want to give your viewer an idea of the size of the piece, as well as its presence!

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I am an object d’art! Not just a 2D image on your screen!

Before I begin, I must state that lighting is THE most important thing when photographing your artwork! Natural lighting is almost always the best way to show off your work and photographing near a window is one of the best ways to achieve this. When looking at the images below, note where the light source is coming from, you can tell by the shadows and contrasts in light and dark. In almost all of the photographs you can see the light coming from the right or left, and more likely than not it’s coming from a window! Keep this in mind when choosing where to photograph your art.Below you will find a number of great examples and ideas on how to photograph your work to its best advantage:

Frames
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Frames give your work visual weight and make it more of an object. It not only gives your viewer an opportunity to see how your work would look framed but also what frame works best with your work. The power to visualize where you see your artwork and in what context is huge. I would recommend investing in a great frame that works well with many of your pieces and rotate different images in it to photograph your works. Also keep in mind where you photograph your framed work, where would you ultimately visualize your work hanging? Would it lean against your desk or hang on the wall of your studio or do you have a great room in mind in which you would hang it? If so, show it! Where you imagine your work to be displayed will help your viewer imagine where it could be exhibited in their own space.

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Wood Surfaces
One of the best surfaces you can use to photograph your art is wood. Not only is it organic and natural but often adds warmth to your image and doesn’t compete with your artwork.

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Holding Your Artwork
Holding your work not only gives the viewer an idea of the size of the piece (in relation to your hand) but also makes the work more personable, more accessible or object-like. We like to pick things up, hold them in our hands, become familiar with them through touch before we buy them. In essence you’re picking the work up for the buyer. Your hand becomes the viewer’s hand and allows them to view the work as an actual object.

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The Art of Display
Giving your work context or creating a narrative surrounding your art can enhance your image enormously. There are a number of ways this can be done; some of the best include other objects that relate to your artwork and including other works of art displayed around the work or hanging in a group. Often this visual chatter adds to the energy and value of the work itself. Get creative, be inventive! Just make sure the objects or images you choose enhance your work of art and really add to its character. Make your photograph a work of art in itself! If you’re having fun staging and photographing your work, chances are the image will be fun for viewers to look at as well.

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Editing
Once you’ve taken fantastically lit and well staged photos of your work you’ll need to edit.

Using Photoshop or a similar program, be sure to adjust brightness/contrast when needed as well as saturation and hue (perhaps your image looks a little green or the light a little too yellow, you can use the hue bar to adjust and change this). Also be sure to crop your image, getting rid of any unnecessary space or objects. Remember, when photographing your workl you are also composing a picture. Just like when you compose your work of art, you want to make your photograph as visually engaging and interesting to look at as the work itself. Choosing the right way to best showcase your work is key.

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Things to keep in mind:

  • Use natural lighting!
  • Have fun photographing your work, it will show in your photographs!
  • Only use objects, surfaces, or backgrounds that will enhance your work (you’ll know when it’s working when you like the photograph you’ve created as much as the work itself!).
  • If someone’s attracted to the image of your work they’ll be attracted to the work itself.
  • Once you’ve found a way that best showcases your work, be sure to photograph all your work in the same way; consistency is key in the presentation of your art.

Edward Tufte: A Principled Man, A Man With Goals

In his book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, info design guru Edward Tufte lays out some excellent principles that we are going to follow as we design our own information visualizations in Design 4.  Keep these lists handy and refer to them frequently!

TUFTE’S PRINCIPLES OF GRAPHICAL EXCELLENCE¹

•Graphical excellence is the well-designed presentation of interesting data—a matter of substance, of statistics, and of design.
•Graphical excellence consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency.
•Graphical excellence is what gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.
•Graphical excellence is nearly always multivariate (involving two or more variables).
•Graphical excellence requires telling the truth about data.

TUFTE’S GOALS OF INFORMATION VISUALIZATION²

•Above all else – Show the data.
•Induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than about methodology, design, technology of graphic production, or something else.
•Avoid distorting the data story. Be truthful in the representation.
•Present many numbers in a small space.
•Make large data sets coherent.
•Encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data.
•Reveal the data at several levels of detail, from a broad overview to the fine structure.

¹From The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte, p. 51

²From The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte, p. 13

Anatomy of an Infographic

While designing infographics over the course of the semester, we must remember that our infographics should always include the following:

  • Headline (Name your infographic)
  • Paragraph of text that explains what the infographic is about
  • References/footnotes giving credit to all sources
  • Pictograms
  • Strong visual hierarchy
  • The Grid System
  • All charts should have titles so it’s clear what data is represented
  • Labeled X and Y axis on all charts and graphs
  • Labeled pies on pie charts
  • Cohesive color palette used throughout
  • Clear typefaces, limited to 2-3 max per infographic composition

Making Maps in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator

I’ve scoured the internet looking for helpful (and easy) map making tutorials.
Check out these 3 great sites:

Check out Spoon Graphic‘s fantastic tutorial on making road maps with Adobe Illustrator.  They make it look so easy!  Their trick is creating individual brushes for each type of road.  This is a real time saver.

Designer Freelance‘s tutorial takes a more manual approach.  Their map design includes a hint of terrain, so it’s a bit less abstract/stylized and a tad more labor intensive.  They rely heavily on the use of layers in Adobe Illustrator.

While the maps we are making in class are grounded in reality, we can still learn from the world of fantasy map making.  Over at Virtual Verduria, they are using Adobe Photoshop to create maps.  Their demo for making topographical mountains is particularly helpful, and the image that shows the five Photoshop layers as separate components clearly demonstrates how Photoshop layers work together.  It’s a great example.

(Repost from d4 2011)

Brainstorming: Mapping Your Thoughts With A Mind Map

In class last week we discussed making Mind Maps as a brainstorming tool.  I stumbled on this primer on LiteMind that will refresh you if you’re still having trouble wrapping your brain around making a Mind Map.

How to Draw a Mind Map

Drawing a mind map is as simple as 1-2-3:

  • Start in the middle of a blank page, writing or drawing the idea you intend to develop. I would suggest that you use the page in landscape orientation.
  • Develop the related subtopics around this central topic, connecting each of them to the center with a line.
  • Repeat the same process for the subtopics, generating lower-level subtopics as you see fit, connecting each of those to the corresponding subtopic.

Some more recommendations:

  • Use colors, drawings and symbols copiously. Be as visual as you can, and your brain will thank you. I’ve met many people who don’t even try, with the excuse they’re “not artists”. Don’t let that keep you from trying it out!.
  • Keep the topics labels as short as possible, keeping them to a single word – or, better yet, to only a picture. Especially in your first mind maps, the temptation to write a complete phrase is enormous, but always look for opportunities to shorten it to a single word or figure – your mind map will be much more effective that way.
  • Vary text size, color and alignment. Vary the thickness and length of the lines. Provide as many visual cues as you can to emphasize important points. Every little bit helps engaging your brain.

London 2012 Olympic Pictograms

Check out the pictograms that will be used during the 2012 Olympics in London.  Can you identify each of the activities?  Are they easy to understand?  Do they meet the criteria required for an Olympic pictogram to be successful (as determined by Keith Bright and Associates, the designers who created the pictograms used at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics)?

Six criteria essential to a successful pictogram:

•Clear communication; pictograms, by themselves, should be recognizable by people of other nations.
•Consistency; the pictograms should be identifiable as a set, through uniform treatment of scale, style and subject.
•Legibility and practicality; they should be highly visible, easy to reproduce in any scale and in positive or negative form.
•Flexibility; the pictograms should not be dependent upon a border and should work equally well in a positive or negative form.
•Design distinction; the pictograms should avoid stylistic fads or a commercial appearance and should imply to a worldwide audience that Los Angeles has a sophisticated, creative culture.
•Compatibility; they should be attractive when used with their Los Angeles Olympic design elements and typestyles.
You can read more about pictograms at the 2012 Olympics here.
Take a look at the beautiful preliminary sketches below:

Olympic Pictograms Through The Ages

Great video from Steven Heller for the New York Times. It traces the use of pictograms at the Olympics. Check it out–which are your favorite??

Class 2: Getting A Bit Moody with Fashion Moodboards!

The semester is off to a really great start! I was completely impressed by the quality and variety of the mood boards presented in class this week. From fabric swatches, to gel stickers and gemstones, to chains and feathers, there was a lot of great material analysis and concept research on display. A few student work examples and mood board details are above.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this inspiration translates to our first information design project–the fashion show invitation (information design, pure and simple). Not only do the student need to clearly express the Who What When Where of the fashion show (discernible in 4 seconds or less!), they also need to inform the recipient of the essence of the brand.  That’s a lot of information packed into a tiny envelope!