Building Facebook Home with Quartz Composer (by David O Brien)

This is just the first in a series of videos that Dave O Brien created in a timely fashion: Some of you may have heard about the Facebook design team using Quartz Composer for prototyping their Home app.

The emphasis on animations resonates with another current debate, about the haptic experience that physical books provide. The result of that haptic experience should not come as a surprise to you, my endeared regular readers: There are affordances about mapping information to spatial and haptic cues that pictures under glass can’t provide.

When you read a book or magazine, you are navigating information in physical space. Your brain creates a rough map of the information that you are browsing while you are flipping page after page. Moreover, it draws upon past experiences with book space to inform the mental image of your current read and bestows you with a sense of empowerment over the text, and a feeling of serendipity.

Now, when you take away the physical feedback that paper provides to your senses, you are taking away functionality from the user interaction with the text. No feeling the weight of pages to tell how far into the text you are, no sense of halting and reversing the flick of a page in mid-air because you glanced something you want to inspect more closely.

But you know what pictures under glass can do for you to give you some design elements not available to print? That’s right. Animation. Hence the video above. The design team from Facebook realized just how much physicality matters, so they looked for a way to make their wireframes animate according to physics. Inertia, pseudo-gravity, all these sorts of things matter in animation.

I’m not saying that you can fully emulate the experience of physical objects with current digital technology. I’m saying that you need to make up for the shortcomings of our current interaction paradigm (pictures under glass) by introducing explicit feedback mechanisms. Visual feedback is the go-to choice most of the time. But sound or vibration is already available in many touch devices.


Wealth Inequality in America (by politizane)

I’m pretty late to the game here—everyone and their dog in the data-viz blogosphere must have linked to this video already—but I believe I should still make an effort to tell you why this video deserves so much recognition:

Wealth Inequality In America encapsulates how to craft a compelling narrative out of data.

I’d like to point out three noteworthy elements you can learn from it.

  1. Contrary to popular belief you don’t need a call to action to drive your message. You will find that at the end of the video it will sum up the narrative by telling you to realize what the situation is. There is no nudge what you should do about it, no step for you to take after watching the video. The message is all about insight, not about action and it works better for it.

  2. You can make a successful narrated animated infographic, an explainy video if you will, with somber pacing that goes over 5 minutes. The video starts off with suspense as the storytelling device to draw you in. Giving you just enough information to make you question your own knowledge and wishing to know what others think (always a powerful motivator, curiosity about our peers) and what you may not know. From the big reveal onwards the narrative kicks in and creates the 1% persona, giving the audience an avatar to picture themselves in, somewhere in the 99% range

  3. Translating numbers into charts and charts into stories works best once you cover the angle of how these charts and numbers are relevant to your audience. Find that angle and you find a story you can tell with the data. Take cues from how this video breaks down the complexity into bite sized chunks. The very same technique could be used to sway a board when you have to present in a meeting, or get investors to follow your reasoning.

As a quip to Edward Tufte:1 This presentation style surely could have empowered NASA engineers to prevent a catastrophe.

  1. He is famous for writing groundbreaking books about data visualization. Unfortunately what he has to say about Powerpoint is just as popular, if ill informed. ↩︎