Monday, March 16, 2020

RIP Michael Hertz

I regret I wasn't aware of him until he died, but the designer of the New York subway map passed away recently, and there's an interesting obit in the NY Times.


When clients drop the ball

Karen Schriver recently tweeted: "What do Information designers do when a client spends a large sum to do a high-profile project, but then drops the ball and has no time to manage it?"

This is all too familiar, and over a long career I've had a few of these experiences, some of which are possibly still covered by NDAs or the Official Secrets Act so detail is not possible. They are infuriating and disappointing because even if we have charged for our work that's not the only reason we do it – we want to do great stuff and improve the world.

One notable one from around 20 years ago was a major government form that almost every citizen uses. We redesigned it and ran a large scale live pilot which showed we'd dramatically reduced error rates. The government agency realised that each error took a civil servant around 30 minutes to deal with, and the reduction in errors therefore meant that they would have to fire or redeploy around 1000 people, leading to a probable trade union dispute. They just took some minor aspects of our work which reduced errors by around 6%, which was their target for the project.

I have also heard civil servants worry that the improvement was so great that it would make them look like idiots for putting up with the old version for so long.

And I have had work ruined by in-house designers or contracted branding agencies who were tasked with implementing it, and digital teams who insist on controlling everything.

Oh well...

Monday, February 24, 2020

This is a sign

Looking back at those huge but ineffectual anti-Brexit marches, at least the signs were great. I particularly liked this one which wasn't picked up in the press coverage (yes, I was there so now you know what I think of Brexit).


Thursday, February 20, 2020

Dodgy chart hits the front page

It's not often you see information design cited in a political row but today the Number 10 press office tweeted about a dodgy chart used in an EU statement about trade relations with the UK. It's reported more fully on the Politico.eu website.

The EU published a chart showing the scale of trading relationships with various partners. It uses circles to represent amounts, and I've blogged about this before (well, it's nine years ago now...).



You shouldn't do that because humans can't compare volumes as well as they compare lengths. This is what Isotype was about...

Below left is the comparison they made. Then I've show the comparison by length, and, even better, horizontal bars with a block for every 10 billion and the figures provided.



According to Politico.eu:
'David Spiegelhalter, a professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, said the Commission's approach was "indefensible" and went against "standard graphical practice."
"It's also the biggest mistake to make. It's incorrect to use diameter to represent volume," he said, adding that it was "the sort of thing a junior person would do."'
...or a graphic designer, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Hello again

After a break of more than three years, this blog is back.

I stopped in 2016 because of various distractions, notably the rebuilding of our home and the design and construction of the garden, which is my pride and joy.

It's all settled down now, so I'm once again in need of an outlet for my opinions, observations and anxieties... however few people are listening.