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of the most challenging and rewarding design projects I ever worked on was a
data visualization project for Microsoft when I worked at Gensler, an
architecture and planning firm. The problem? How to shuffle 50,000 employees
across 26 buildings on Microsoft's Redmond campus over a three-year period
while new buildings came available and old buildings were taken offline.
Microsoft's offices were sorely overcrowded and it was affecting productivity.
Workers were double- and sometimes triple-spaced, crammed into offices, nooks,
and crannies. A sign that business was good, but to keep it that way, workers
needed to be happy.
team started with empty maps and raw data. Lots and lots of raw data. Spreadsheets
full of it. With one piece of data looking as generic and bereft of meaning as
the next piece. Our job (the design team consisted of three space planners, two
designers, and one Excel programmer) was to find meaning in this data. Our job
was to visualize the story of how Microsoft's managers were going to handle the
monumental task of moving thousands of employees over time, some of them two or
three times by the time it was all finished.
story was there, we just didn't know it yet. And didn't know it until we'd
spent a few months analyzing the data, following pattern threads that looked
like they were telling us something, but then led to dead ends. So we explored
more, finally discovering the story revealed through patterns disclosed in maps
and management trees and color codes across time.
large Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft, inefficient, poorly planned
staff relocations could lead to unacceptable downtime, costing a fortune in
lost productivity and decreased employee morale.
me, this was a crash course in business intelligence. For Microsoft, it led to
valuable business insights that allowed the company to effectively plan and
manage its workforce and office spaces through a period of rapid yet sustained
growth and change.
good visual design principles, it wouldn't have happened. Lucky for Microsoft,
the project manager who hired me knew visual communication design was crucial
to the success of this project. We were able to provide valuable insight around
change management by using the design elements of metaphor, scale, perspective,
color and visual hierarchy—which Angela Shen-Hsieh made a point of demonstrating
in last week’s webinar, “Designing with the Power of Data.”
our fifth “Breakthroughs” webinar, Angela, along with Jared Waxman from Adobe.com,
also mentioned the importance of teasing the right narrative and approaching
data visualization from a human-centered design perspective. Good data
visualization is knowing what story to tell and how to tell it in such a way
that humans understand and relate to it.
corporations have access to more data than they know what to do with. It often
comes in raw form, or poorly presented via simple, flat, pie charts and
spreadsheets. Which is unfortunate, because within many data sets there lives a
story to be told, a narrative to be followed, an insight to be realized. The
best way to discover these hidden narratives is by combining data with design. Here
are some resources to help you do that. Tell us in the comments if there are others that you find valuable.
In our next “Breakthoughs” webinar, on December 7, we’ll be talking about web typography with guest presenter Tim Brown of Typekit. AIGA members, you won’t want to miss it!
At last, web designers have the freedom to choose their typefaces as print designers do. Hear from Tim Brown, type manager for Typekit, about the possibilities for “Typography for the Web,” part of the “Breakthroughs” webinar series designed by Adobe and AIGA—exclusively for AIGA members.
On July 27, Callie Neylan, Dan Mall and Scott Fegette presented a “Breakthroughs” webinar on responsive web design, with handy tips AIGA members could put to use right away. Here are more resources they recommend.
Section: Inspiration -
interaction design, web design, professional development, continuing education
Edward Tufte is an analytical design theorist, educator, and landscape sculptor best known for his trilogy of self-published books on analytical design—The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information, and Visual Explanations—which provide practical advice on data display as well as an array of historic and contemporary examples. He received an AIGA Medal in 2004.
Section: Inspiration -
information design, data visualization, AIGA Medal
What does it mean to be an experimental typeface? Shaw recalls those thrilling days of digital type founding and draws some surprising conclusions.
Section: Inspiration -
Monotype's Dan Rhatigan talks type design in illuminating videos
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