Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What a graphic can tell you

A while ago I used to co-post in Kathy Sierra's blog "Creating Passionate Users." I wrote a post there that I've copied over to my blog because I wanted to be able to refer back to it (and I don't know if the archive edition of CPU will hang around forever). (Link to original post on "What a graphic can tell you.")

So I'm copied my original post here... and also wanted to make the point that I'll ALSO be talking about various sensemaking and information visualization topics in this blog as well.


I love looking at things in a new way. More to the point, I love it when I see things about the world that I thought I knew... but then realize there's more to the story.

And for the past few years I've been doing various pieces of research into information visualization--the science and art of making complex information visually perceivable. It's cool, it's fun, and every so often you learn something really, really interesting.

I was just sort of doodling the other day in Powerpoint. (If you must know, I was trying to prepare a talk to give at some university, and I started wondering how many dots you could usefully squeeze onto a Powerpoint slide.)

Now that sounds crazy: doodling in Powerpoint? Yeah, I know. But come to think of it, why not? It's got a bunch of okay tools for drawing and while you probably won't make great art, it's fine for quick sketching. You won't confuse the output with a masterwork in oil or water color, but it's really great for a quick sketch. And it IS the tool I spend a lot of time using, so I've grown pretty accustomed to its idiosyncracies.

So I drew a bunch of dots. Then it hit me--if a dot stood for a day, what would my life look like as a set of dots on the screen?

(You can click on each image to see it full-size.)

If that's 20 years worth of days, then what would the rest of my life look like? Could I fit a lifetime's worth of days onto a Powerpoint slide?

And how would you think of your life in terms of segments? I fooled around some more and came up with this as a way of thinking about the various parts of my career.

I certainly hope that my life and career last more than 60 years! Nevertheless, I found this an intriguing way of looking at the progress of your life.

Or, to put it more pragmatically, where's your dot?

Question for you: What information graphic was most informative / influential / insightful for you? Was there a great piece of infoviz that really just did it for you?


  1. interesting and truly serendipitous dan. just last week i had randomly come across CPU and noticed you were part of it...and was going to ask about it.

    and then just yesterday i created an "infographics" channel in my icurrent ... after i had been reading a fast company article online and browsing around on their site , looking at infographic of the day section. liked the world map colored in by the social networks most in use. simple graphic but indeed educational. didn't realize the whole world wasn't using FB!

    but back to an answer your Q of the day. interestingly, there's a whole 'pool' of infographics on flickr...and that's where i discovered this comprehensive graphic for layla who is lately obsessed with the beatles and wanted to know which "beatle" worked on which songs frustrated that i couldn't give her the answers off top of my head! well, a designer named mike deal in NY had the same longing and created the document that answers it all but made it vizually informing as well. link (not back to flickr group because link was broken there) to it here : http://www.mikemake.com/#72772/Charting-the-Beatles

    and before i leave...i like this guy's work as well. informationisbeautiful.net/


  2. not just career we can reflect our life more colorful way