Infographics and UIs I’ve Loved

Some of my favorite characters in movies aren’t people, they’re GUIs (graphical user interfaces). In Iron Man, Stark’s robot butler named Jarvis is represented as a wonderfully snarky and futuristic UI. I recently saw a movie called Sidewalls where the main character was an architect and she would see the sketches behind the buildings. In Stranger than Fiction the GUI transports you into the mind of a compulsive IRS agent. It’s wonderfully appealing, see for yourself:

(I only picked up Pale King because I thought it would be similar, let me know if it isn’t). The recent British Sherlock Holmes show, Sherlock employs a similar trick. All of these UIs, as I’m calling them, display more information on the screen than you would otherwise see, but in a way that doesn’t feel cluttered or unecessary.

Lately I have been really enjoying these older data visualizations at A Handsome Atlas. Infographics and maps overlap in some very interesting ways. Good Magazine consistently does this well, as does the NYTimes Online. Here are some interesting visualizations of New York, and maps made by local artists/designers Sha Hwang and Eric Fischer. It seems like a designer’s job is to balance, usability, aesthetics and economy, is a cartographer a designer too? How is their job different?

Apple Maps – Old News

*I’ve decided to change my blogpost day to Monday and shorten the posts while I’m in school.

It’s been a few months since Apple announced it would they would create their own map app, no longer relying on google maps. I’ve linked to a few articles below. I read somewhere (I can’t remember where) that apple has hired real cartographers to run their maps department while google hired computer programmers. I’m curious to see how this turns out.

With the advent of GoogleMaps everyone became an amateur cartographer. But in order to make maps that display more specific information you need to be able to use a program like ArcGIS and you need some rudimentary knowledge of programming. Is this a problem? In my Human Computer Interaction (HCI) class we’re learning that it is never the User’s fault if they can’t get something to work. Is it okay for some fields to require specialist knowledge? Why/Why not?

On a personal level I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth it to learn enough about computers and programming to write my own programs or whether I just need to learn how to use the crappy existing ones well enough for my needs.