Posts tagged 'Data'

Mutable Maps for Many Apps

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Rivers of Southeast Asia

Rivers of Southeast Asia

Maps present us limitless layers of different data–physical, cultural or ecological. In addition to aiding us with the everyday tasks such as getting ourselves from one place to another, maps help us understand our relationship to the physical earth as well as other humans, and our connection to a dizzying array of physical, cultural, political systems and networks. So it comes as no surprise that at some point in every designer’s career, one project or another relies heavily on maps.

Maps are so ubiquitous that we sometimes ignore the craft involved in clearly presenting this enormous quantity of information. To succeed, maps must clearly describe the data they are presenting, fit it into a surrounding design language, and be readable at a variety of different scales, sizes and presentation modes.

How is a designer to tackle these challenges? What follows is a rundown of a few tools that can make the task of designing, deploying or just visualizing a map a little bit easier.
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Three Ways Anyone Can Make a Smart Phone App

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

A referee signal quiz app made with AppInventor

Designers are tinkerers. We like to be able to nudge, tuck, trim and finally throw away our creations and start from scratch. But what about designing for the explosively-growing field of mobile apps?

Increasingly, free tools are becoming available that allow designers to prototype and test rich applications for mobile devices without developing fully-realized apps. In this post I give an overview of an example for each of the three major platforms.


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Code-free iPhone interaction prototype

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

TouchOSC screenshotHave you ever found yourself wanting to prototype a simple, realtime interaction between an iPhone and another piece of hardware, but don’t have time to learn iPhone programming? TouchOSC provides a simple solution to this challenge. An iPhone app that communicates over wifi using Open Sound Control, TouchOSC allows you to control any kind of application that accepts OSC messages.

TouchOSC also includes a companion layout editor. This free desktop application allows you to define custom screen layouts of UI elements and then upload them to your iPhone. Unfortunately there are only a limited number of UI widgets, and because the software was designed to control realtime sound apps, they naturally tend toward realtime control- knobs, faders and toggles as opposed to forms, dropdowns and checkboxes of more rich interfaces. Still, if all you need is a few buttons and a slider to control an interactive system and you aren’t able to develop a native iPhone app, TouchOSC offers some enticing potential. See below the jump for some examples of unexpected uses.
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Sketchpad – A Look Back.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

In 1963 Ivan Sutherland developed Sketchpad. In developing what was to be part of his phd thesis, Sutherland pioneered what would come to be known as the graphical user interface, parametric constraints and the very concept of object-oriented programming, which he developed in order to better manage memory on the limited capabilities of the machines he was working on.

Much has been written about Sketchpad, Sutherland and all of the developments in HCI, computer science and engineering that continue to flow from his work. In the context of this site however, it’s important to note that Sutherland’s innovative engineering solutions were all driven by the desire provide people the ability to express themselves more intuitively with technology. The application precedes the solution.

“A display connected to a digital computer gives us a chance to gain familiarity with concepts not realizable in the physical world. It is a looking glass into a mathematical wonderland.” –Ivan Sutherland.

Twist your presentation like a Prezi!

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Prezi is a Hungarian startup that has developed a tool to empower people to make stunning visual presentations using text and media. Using their intuitive (yet not fully cross-platform) editing tool, creating gorgeous, dynamic motion-based presentations is surprisingly easy.

As an exhibit designer, I personally found Prezi’s strong emphasis on scaling inspiring. Since exhibition designers use scale as one of their primary mechanisms of information organization, I can even see Prezi as a potential tool for prototyping exhibit content, where the ratio in size between header graphics, sub-headers, body text and captions can be as high as 100:1.

Like most sketching tools written about on this site, Prezi’s success relies as much on its limitations as it does in its features. While the possibilities for creating zooming presentations seems endless, Prezi keeps its users on track by providing only a few design templates, not allowing users to edit transition times between ’slides’ and otherwise keeping the system as simple as possible. A professional motion graphics designer might find this constraining, but a casual user (like me) can create very professional looking results in less than a half hour. See below for an example I created (oh yeah, the final product is easy to share, download and embed in a website.)

Click Read More for more analysis.

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Sketching DNA?

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

feature_enzymesWe never thought we’d be looking at a DNA editing tool as a ‘tool for sketching’, but we don’t like to turn our noses up at something out of our area of expertise. In that spirit we submit for consideration EnzymeX, a tool by Papers creators Mekentosj.

As visual designers and not scientists, we won’t pretend we have any clue how EnzymeX works or how it is used, but given its glowing reviews from MacUpdate to the New York Times, and with features such as the ability to “Directly search and download sequences from the NCBI Entrez nucleotide database.” and “Simply and reliably determine which buffer is most suitable for a double digestion.”, we have no doubt that EnzymeX is allowing an enterprising scientist or two the ability to test theories, perform faster or at the very least settle a few barstool bets as to the effectiveness of various protein sequencing motifs.

So with a cure for the common hangover as yet unfound, I say young scientists of the world, sequence away!

Why Wiggly Wireframes?

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Sketchy WireframeAaron Travis explores the motivation and payoff for developing low-fidelity wireframes for user interfaces during the design process. While I have my own reasons for loving all things lo-fi, this (web-specific) article really nails it. Their rationales are clearly thought out and expressed in a way that make them relevant to a wide variety of disciplines.

Read More for excerpts
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Sketching in Hardware 2008

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Sketching in Hardware (“a summit on the design and use of physical computing toolkits”) returns for 2008. This year the event comes to the east coast, where it will be held at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Sketching in Hardware 3

Sketching in Hardware 2007

Friday, June 1st, 2007

Sketching in Hardware continues in 2007. This year’s theme is ‘Boundary Conditions’:

Through discussion, experience and sketching we will examine the boundaries in developing physical computing: boundaries between components, between standards, between making objects and creating experiences, between cost and sustainability, between the expected and the unorthodox, and between creator and toolkit.

Sketching in Hardware is sponsored by ThingM and Tellart


Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Scratch InstructionsThe Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab has released Scratch, a new graphical programming environment designed to teach fundamental aspects of computer programming in a fun and easy-to-understand way. Kids can create games or stories while learning basic concepts of logic and programming.

The community aspect of Scratch is cool as well – because the environment is java-based, kids can upload their creations to the scratch website and comment on each other’s creations. I’m interested in seeing if the sharing aspect of scratch can elevate to the next level, where kids can complete a series of tutorials in order to learn more advanced capabilities of the system. If the satisfaction of completing a programming challenge was as satisfying as completing a level in a video game, kids’ investment in Scratch might continue beyond the academic user-testing-group and community-outreach testing environment that it no doubt was born in.

Scratch can also be controlled by a custom hardware controller, allowing kids to create projects that are controlled by a slider, button, light sensor or microphone.

Scratch Website
SEE ALSO : Lego Mindstorms NXT