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I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

15 Comments

  1. Is it just me or does using a ridiculously small font to explain the meaning of the numbers take some of the coolness out of this? Maybe it’s meant to be read as a hard copy only and I just had my pdf viewer on the wrong zoom level, but I didn’t get through much of it zooming in to read the text then zooming out to try to remember where I am in the whole graphic.

    I’m all for this kind of thing. I’m just respectfully questioning the functional design of this document.

  2. White on grey is bad design–unreadable in the extreme. This is an example of *BAD* design. Someone has not read Tufte’s books.

  3. I could read the thing fine. I loved it. This is something I think would be fun to do but I think it would completely engulf your life. So much detail. It’s amazing.

  4. @Chris, depending on how new you are to these waters, I posted an interview with the designer awhile back. Apparently it’s less consuming than you think (or I thought) though I’m sure we all have different tolerances for this kind of activity.

    @Kevin, where, in Tufte’s work, did he advocate a black/white or white/black color scheme? That reference escapes me.

  5. Ahh, yes. I forgot about that interview. I’ll have to read that again to see what sort of work it takes. Thanks.

  6. Independent of any “person X says to do this” design criteria, I have a lot of trouble reading this. Small font I can handle. Grey on black I can handle. Both simultaneously send my eyes into rebellion. I’m sorry.

  7. Add another voice to those who don’t really agree with you this time, Dan. To me Feltron’s report is good at looking cool but poor at being accessible.

  8. http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=000082
    has a discussion about light on dark or dark on light for Powerpoint presentations, with strong arguments on both sides. Almost everyone there agreed that dark on light worked best on paper.

    No one argued for grey on grey.

    Incidentally, I still have no idea what the picture here is about. It seems to be a collection of random words and numbers. Perhaps there is some unreadable fine print that explains what it all means, but the overall effect is noise.

  9. Oh, and pages 153-154 of “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information are an argument against using color unnecessarily, though not entirely relevant to this design.

  10. Sometimes looking cool carries more weight than actually being cool. What is it they say in “Boiler Room”?

    “ACT AS IF”

  11. Couple of defensive notes here, though I don’t feel terribly defensive.

    1. The response “this doesn’t work for me” totally works for me. I try continually to increase my pain tolerance for media that I can’t easily access (long b&w foreign films, for instance) but there’s only so much time I can donate to inaccessible media. I’m sure the same is true for many of the commenters here.

    2. Kevin misapprehends Tufte, frankly. Very few designers set black text on a white field. Most sites (even the blog template you’re reading right now) put off-black text (#333 instead of #000000, for instance) on an off-white field — grey on grey — because it’s softer than 100% contrast. We can differ on percentages here. That’s cool. Saying, “the difference in contrast is too low to read,” for example, is a perfectly reasonable critique, but criticizing a piece for its “white on grey” says more about the critic than the piece. Namedropping Tufte doesn’t change that.

    3. We ought to at least nod to the difficulty of designing for print and screen simultaneously. I’m buying, like, seven copies of this thing, and I expect the print resolution will make better work of a small font and a small difference in contrast.

    4. More fuel for the inaccessibility fire: Felton has gone positively, deliriously nuts with this year’s edition. He aggregates Grand Theft Auto IV miles into his driving statistics, for one lunatic example, and his cover infodesign, for another, is some variation on Serpienski’s triangle though I can’t for the life of me figure out what any of it means.

    Which is at least some of the fun of it for me. This is his personal annual report. He owes nothing to a corporate board. He owes nothing to shareholders. This has liberated him from the stuffy confines of Excel graphwork. He wanders too far from the reservation for my tastes on several occasions, but I rather love watching him find and flail with his new infographic toys.

  12. The response “this doesn’t work for me” totally works for me. I try continually to increase my pain tolerance for media that I can’t easily access (long b&w foreign films, for instance) but there’s only so much time I can donate to inaccessible media. I’m sure the same is true for many of the commenters here.

    Just keep in mind getting past readability isn’t always just a matter of training, like reading subtitles for 3 hours.

    Sometimes it is just biology. Witness how when Time printed their List Issue they got a calvacade of mail complaning that the Lists couldn’t be read by their 60 year old eyes.

  13. I just ordered a hard copy myself, though he’s already sold out of the unfolded posters. I expect my complaints about font size will be alleviated in hard copy form.

  14. And I thought I was a compulsive logger. I love this entire concept. The design is sharp, but I think I like previous editions better. I could also do without the GTA aggregation, but it does give it an interesting twist.

    Anybody a member of his data-logging website, http://www.daytum.com? I submitted myself for a beta invitation.

  15. As a piece of art, it may be fine, as a tool for communicating information, it is nearly useless. I had not realized that you intended only to praise it as a piece of conceptual art.