Infographic MOOC: week 3 exercise

I’ve signed up for Alberto Cairo’s massive online open course on infographics and data visualization.  I’d been tempted by other MOOCs before and decided I didn’t have the time to commit to it, but this one caught me at a good time.

The entire course has been very good so far, giving a great perspective on how infographics relate to journalism as a whole as well as how to think of the infographic / datavis gap as a spectrum of functional and artistic intent.  It’s also included some Illustrator tutorials that have finally gotten me over that initial learning curve in designing with vectors.  (Although as you’ll see shortly, I still have a long ways to go.)

The week 3 exercise was to draw up a draft for an interactive infographic based on the data mentioned on The Guardian’s Datablog re: the transparency of international aid agencies around the world.  The Datablog post includes a couple of bar graphs – a good tool for comparing values with precision, but the stacked bars don’t convey a lot and there’s room to tell more.

My draft suggests a few improvements.  Users could be allowed to filter the aid agencies by geography, letting them compare agencies based in the same region more easily.  Radio buttons could also let users choose between seeing the full aggregate score or only the subscores based on the three levels of detail that the transparency report surveyed the agencies on.

The biggest change I’d propose is on the second layer of the infographic – a slope graph to highlight the general trend across agencies of improved transparency.  This was one of the summary points of the original report and is worth highlighting through data.

Here’s the PDF mockup I created; I used fairly simple shapes to represent tabs, dropdowns, etc rather than spending a lot of time on them, as in a real interactive I would expect to be grabbing UI components from a library for whatever coding / design tool I was using.

aid transparency draft copy

Knitting!

I’ve been on a knitting kick lately. It makes for a good evening activity, as it’s something I can do while sitting on the couch and hanging out with my wife (without the mentally-distant factor that happens if I’m online or gaming).  Plus, if you’re going to be a guy who knits, might as well nerd out on it for maximum unusualness.

The backstory: I worked for a month or so as a coder for a downloadable game about knitting.  I needed to know how to draw knits and purls – which is awfully hard to figure out if you know nothing about knitting.  So, I picked up a beginner book and learned.

That game got cancelled (the design was kind of shaky, my prototyping skills were insufficient to come up with something convincing in time) but then I found this book, which strangely found its way onto my bookshelf. (How do you NOT put that title on your bookshelf?)  The projects in there are fantastic, and I think I’ve made half of them by now.

Now I’ve discovered the fun of Ravelry and being able to search through an entire internet’s worth of free patterns intelligently, as well as posting photos to show off a bit.  For example, the weird yarn I found for these ‘Medallion Mitts’ just made the whole enterprise worth taking pictures of.

My last project was actually a pattern I invented, cribbing from the general deal of “knit in the round to make a hat”.  I had tried knitting the fisherman’s watchcap found in Knitting With Balls, but I got impatient and made it a little too short, plus the ribbing came out too wide and kind of goofy.  I’ll leave the rest of the story for now as it should get its own post along with writing up the pattern, but you can see the results on Ravelry here.