InfoVis vs. i|e

People have set out varying hopes and interpretations for the term “Information Aesthetics,” and they mostly differ from what this organization was created to support; that’s one of the reasons we chose the less-used “American” spelling of the word. This note is the first of a few that try to better define the boundaries of our particular spotlight—perhaps closer in spirit to the original coinage by Scha and Bod (1993) (which itself seems related to some interesting work quantifying Aesthetic Judgement and Arousal due to the complexity of forms in a 1973 paper of that name by Gerda Smits—this is not a new area of study).

InfoVis tests

What makes something “Information Visualization?” At this point there are probably tens of thousands of programs turning numbers into images and many of them purport to help us understand the data. I believe most of them don’t, based on admittedly high standards: is a given tool readable, useful, worth my time? Or is it just visual titillation: fun for a moment’s early visual process engagement, and ultimately unsatisfying?

Here’s my attempt to list what runs through my mind as I see and try to evaluate new work that calls itself InfoVis. I will be expanding each section as time goes on, and welcome questions and additions.

To help facilitate discussion about specific visualization techniques I am trying to develop a terminology similar to Mathematics’ well-defined “properties,” such as closure, commutative, identity. Where I have come up with an expressive and concise term I list it above the test.

Prints have been moved to the products page

We wholeheartedly thank everyone who has taken an interest in the prints made by i|e founder Brad Paley, but have moved them to the Products page. Information Esthetics is meant to be more than just a place to get neat prints, and we want to clear the area for other features: coming soon...

Please Note: the usability-challenged design of Drupal's products page does not make it obvious that you need to click on the product title before you can add it to your shopping cart. Or just click on one of the thumbnails above. I'm looking for a workaround.

Map of science image opens Nature feature

The December issue of the journal Nature started its pictorial yearly review with collaborative work by Kevin Boyack, Dick Klavans and i|e founder W. Bradford Paley. This same image, at its true (readable) 42" x 43" size, can currently be viewed in person as part of the exhibition Places & Spaces: Mapping Science at the New York Hall of Science.

Lecture Series One video & transcripts

We’ve received scores of e-mails asking whether this material was available, so will soon be posting both video and transcripts. Stay tuned.

Lecture Series One

Completed: March–July, 2005

Making data meaningful—this phrase could describe what dozens of professions strive for: Wall Street systems designers, fine artists, advertising creatives, computer interface researchers, and many others. Occasionally something important happens in these practices: a data representation is created that reveals the subject’s nature with such clarity and grace that it both informs and moves the viewer. We both understand and care. This is the focus of Information Esthetics.

Information Esthetics, a recently formed not-for-profit organization, has put together a lecture series dedicated to helping this happen more often. World leaders in seven different aspects of sense-making have been invited to speak on topics from typography to visual perception, from charting to electro-mechanical engineering. The goal: to help expose the beauty experts see in their databases, better engaging their whole minds in interpretation; to help inspire art that’s not just decorated with data but makes the data readable, satisfying viewers’ minds as much as their eyes and hearts.