Good Data, Better Presentation: telling stories with your data

A meaningful dashboard clearly depicts volume, trends, and relationships, provoking action as a result. This is, after all, the very point of web analytics. However, by taking a more narrative approach to their creation—with characters and relationships, context and conclusions—dashboards can be made richer, more communicative, and more actionable than they commonly are.  More ‣ 

Give ’em an inch…

In establishing some rather detailed PowerPoint templates recently (which is quite doable with a decent grid in place, by the way), I came across this a rather amazing article on Microsoft’s support site: ‘PPT97: PowerPoint Centimeters Different from Actual Centimeters’. The title says it all really, and unfortunately it’s neither: (a) a joke; or (b) any different in Office 2007.

In classic ‘that’s not a bug, it’s a feature’ mode, the article goes on to say ‘how much simpler the metric grid is in “PowerPoint centimeters” than in actual centimeters’. Or centimetres even. So much for convenient internationalization then, eh – one wonders if Microsoft’s fans at the European Commission might have something to say about this…

We’re talking telephone numbers

Custom typefaces for telephone directories can have many advantages, some of which were highlighted in another article. An interested reader enquired about some of the sources for that information, which reminded me that, at one point, I was actually considering directory typography as a dissertation topic during my Reading studies, and had gathered a fair amount of reference material in preparation.

In the end, I wrote a lengthy study of the euro symbol (subsequently published in Baseline), but almost a decade later, I still think the topic is worthy of further exploration. After all, aside from the cost and environmental benefits achieved through streamlined design, directory typography is a perfect demonstration of both typographic choreography (the letterforms and the space around them), and period methods of font creation.

However, as everything moves towards electronic format—who looks at a phonebook when it’s so easy to call Information or reach for Google these days?—perhaps this is a topic reaching its twilight years. (Indeed, a study of mobile phone typography might be more timely.) Still, there’s no harm in sharing some of the collected references, is there?  More ‣ 

Why type matters

Fonts grow on trees and everyone with a computer is a designer, right? Which means they all know about type, of course.

Well, not quite. Typography is a language, with its own grammar and syntax. And as with any language, fluency comes with in-depth study and regular practice, making communication as fluid and efficient as possible. And as communications channels both proliferate and converge, command of the language is a vital component in creating the most functional and efficient vehicles for communication. Type matters – read on and find out why.  More ‣ 

Making a Mockery

In a previous posting, I referred to small, homegrown apps that do specific tasks very well. One such is Balsamiq Mockups, a highly targeted application for mocking up user interfaces.

Where Mockups really wins is by striking a clever balance between utility (it contains pre-built versions of just about every UI component you could ever realistically need), fidelity (meaning even a quick sketch looks polished enough to convey quite detailed aspects of an interface), and hierarchy (that quick sketch has sufficient structure to indicate meaning and intent). Every component is editable to some degree, so, for example, switching from tabs to dropdowns is a simple copy-and-paste. Wireframing therefore becomes a snap, and yet there is still enough of a handdrawn feeling to convey a sense that, while things are certainly considered, they are not yet set in stone.  More ‣ 

Just my type: Platelet

Proofs from early development of Platelet

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I designed a typeface called Platelet. Having been Internationally schooled (ie. how to be dexterous with just one or two of the classics, most notably Univers), it was my first experience of creating letterforms, and there’s no denying that it was a naïve effort in many ways. Notwithstanding that however, the nice people at Emigre took enough of an interest to put it on the market (in July 1994), and the rest, as they say, is history.  More ‣