Design Patterns

Posted: December 18th, 2008 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

I began compiling a list of relevant resources for Interaction Design Patterns and thought I should share it with you. For those who are not sure what I’m talking about, a design pattern is a formal way of documenting a solution to a design problem in a particular field of expertise. The idea was introduced by the architect Christopher Alexander in his brilliant book A Pattern Language, and it has been adapted by many other disciplines, including Computer Science and Interaction Design. Here’s the list of resources:

Interface/Interaction Design Patterns

Information Design Patterns

As Chaomei Chen states on his book Information Visualization “a taxonomy of Information Visualization is needed so that designers can select appropriate techniques to meet given requirements”. This can start with a detailed selection of key design patterns employed in the field. The list compilled by Christian Behrens is a great step in the right direction.

Information Design Gems

Posted: December 16th, 2008 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Graphis Diagrams

Graphis Diagrams, published by The Graphis Press in November 1976, is a precious book for anyone interested in Information Design/Visualization. I first saw this book in the school library, while working on my MFA thesis at Parsons School of Design. The first time I opened it, I was mesmerized by the color, layout and originality of some of the works shown on the book, which surveys a vast array of Information Design projects from the 1960/70’s. I tried to look for the book online, just to quickly realize it had run out of print a while back. Some second hand specimens could still be found, but certainly out of reach for a small budget student like me. So it took a bit more than a solid year of post-college work and a move to London to convince myself on purchasing this gem. And the hunger didn’t go away there.

Semiology of Graphics

In the end of 2007 I gave in to my most expensive book purchase ever - but certainly worth every penny. Semiology of Graphics by Jacques Bertin (Sémiologie Graphique in its original French title) is one of the great classic, yet not so distant, books on Information Design. First published in 1967, this outstanding work provides a comprehensive framework for the analysis and representation of data on paper and it’s one of the most important theoretical landmarks for the field. Mine is a second hand version of the English translation published by the University of Wisconsin Press in January 1984. You can still find a few copies in specialized book dealers, online auctions and even Amazon third-parties.

William Playfair Atlas

The third Information Design gem I recently bought was at a much affordable price, in part due to the great work of Cambridge University Press, which merged arguably the two most significant works of William Playfair, The Commercial and Political Atlas and the Statistical Breviary in one unique and accessible volume. The book is an exact duplication of the original work (from 1786 and 1801 respectively) including many of Playfair’s hand colored charts in full color. It also includes an extensive biography of William Playfair as well as annotations to help place the text into perspective. Anyone working on Statistics or Information Design has an immense debt to the work of William Playfair, who invented some of the most common types of diagrams, some of them still used compulsory nowadays. We owe him the line graph, bar chart, pie chart, circle graph, and an indeniable passion for thinking outside the box when it comes to representing data in alternative ways.

VC @ Manchester

Posted: December 14th, 2008 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Last Friday I was in the University of Manchester to give a talk on the topic of Network Visualization. I finally got to meet Martin Dodge, who is a lecturer in Human Geography at the School of Environment and Development, and has indirectly contributed to my growing interest in the area of Data Visualization. Martin is the man behind the classic and highly influential Atlas of Cyberspace - a major precursor in this field and a strong influence in the birth of The Atlas went live in 1997, and although it stopped being updated in 2004, the work has been a remarkable source of inspiration for early explorers in this area. One of the books resulting from the large body of work collected at the site has been recently made available for free in PDF format. All the chapters can now be downloaded here.

I also had the chance to meet Martin J. Turner, who is Visualization Team Leader at the Research Computing Services, and the co-organizer of the ACM SIGGRAPH Chapter - University of Manchester series of talks. We had a brief but insightful discussion on the new challenges of cartography and graph drawing, highlighting some problems that I might explore here soon.

Labels VS Roads

Posted: December 3rd, 2008 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

The following two projects display an interesting alternative to common map design. The one on the left is a map of London, showing only the labels of streets, parks and neighborhoods. The second image, on the right, is a map of the US displaying 26 million individual road segments. What’s particularly interesting on both cases is that even though they highlight a unique graphic element (labels or roads), certain geographic features - such as river Thames and several parks on the first one, or sparsely populated areas, mountains and rivers on the second - are immediately perceived.

A detailed view on both maps shows how intricate they are. If the portrayed subject was the same, these two representations could simply highlight different layers of the same map. I enjoy the simplicity of the execution and how it still maintains its integrity even by showing a single layer of a usually dense matrix of information.

Visualization Posters

Posted: December 2nd, 2008 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Some people, including myself, have developed a fascination for the tangible world of printed-paper, in opposition to the bright pixels of online visualizations. Just last week I received yet another email on this topic. My obsession for maps, antique ones in particular, is not new and I’ve started collecting a few personal gems over the past years (gems to my eyes at least). This obsession has spread into other areas, and lately I found myself collecting a variety of different size tubes that have to be kept in a cabinet at home, since there are no free walls for its content. Most of these posters are great pieces of information design and I’m always eager for new ones, even if they ought to be stored in a dusty cabinet for now. I’m sure a time will come when they finally see the light of day and get displayed with the consideration they deserve.

Just in time for Christmas, and since so many people have demonstrated an interest for this subject, I decided to share some of the links I’ve been collecting. The following list includes posters I’ve bought and others that are currently on my wishlist. Please feel free to point to other relevant works in the comments section.


History Shots

A growing collection of outstanding posters. Great work and dedicated service. Some works have been featured in VC. See the U.S. Army Divisions in World War II and the Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music.

Information Esthetics

Information Esthetics showcases work made by W. Bradford Paley and other key contributors and sells some of the pieces at affordable prices. The site is slightly outdated but some of the posters can still be bought. The Map of Scientific Paradigms has unfortunately been sold out, but a poster of the famous TextArc can still be purchased. You can check other great projects by W. Bradford Paley here.


Great collection (4 posters) of different flow maps from Internet backbone architecture to international telephone traffic. A bit overpriced but well designed and highly detailed.

Stefanie Posavec Series

Freshly updated, Stefanie Posavec’s project Writing Without Words is now available for purchase in a series of 6 posters showcasing her detailed and intricate design skills.

Catalogtree Posters

These remarkable collection of posters should simply be available for purchase. I bet they could generate a good source of income from these pieces. Some of their work is currently on VC, check here and here.


Blanka is a renowned collection of original, vintage and limited edition posters and prints. Slightly expensive  but worth every penny. London’s Kerning, with its roughly 1 X 1.5m (39×59″), isolating the bulk of labels in the city of London is my favorite.

Ork Neighborhood Posters

Beautiful typographical posters of different neighborhoods of many American cities.

Individual Posters

Hello VC world!

Posted: December 1st, 2008 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Finally got the time to kick off VC blog. I always felt it was hard to communicate with many VC users, so I hope this space will facilitate a more direct dialog with a wider anonymous audience. What you can expect from this blog is occasional insights into Information Visualization, Complexity, and Interaction Design. I might cover different aspects of projects featured in VC or simply related trends and subjects that might be of interest to you. This space is also yours, so feel free to contribute.