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Creating the UK Book Cover for Information Is Beautiful
May 13, 2010 10:41 PM   Subscribe

A short photo story about how a version of this image ended up as the 91st and final cover design of the book, Information is Beautiful. See all 91 covers in chronological order. [via]
posted by mlis (16 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
MLIS: “... how a version of this image ended up as the 91st and final cover design of the book, Information is Beautiful.”

Somebody was a huge fan of New Order's second album, I'll bet. (Peter Saville's not a bad role model for a design person.)
posted by koeselitz at 11:16 PM on May 13, 2010


Man, I've seen that image around lately. I actually hate it. I understand that it looks cool but it is just impossible to read quickly. The only way to actually get any information out of it is to memorize at least the culture/letter mapping.

And on top of that, there are no borders between the rings. So you have to figure out what band a color square is supposed to be in before you can figure it out. Look at emotion "64" and you see two black swatches. How long does it take to figure out A) which emotion that is, and B) which cultures use black to represent it?

People talk about how awesome it is, but if you actually want to know which colors go with which cultures go with with which emotions, it's a huge pain in the ass. And there is really no reason at all for it to be circular.

If I were designing it, I would have left it as a grid, and would have put the labels (not numbers) in each block. At least put the names of emotional states, not numbers along the edge.

(And the cover doesn't even bother with a key, making it completely meaningless)
posted by delmoi at 11:25 PM on May 13, 2010 [17 favorites]


"First thought, best thought" (Kerouac)

This is a good example of anal retentiveness.

When I started art school, I had the hardest time coming up with just, *ideas* - what to draw? what to paint?

That got solved just by drawing and painting a lot. What I found was that I was afraid to create and there was also a disjoint between my head (creativity) and my hand (the craft).

Then, the problem was, not that I didn't know what to make, because I had no ideas, but because I had too many. I didn't know what was good, what was bad. I'd go mad with revisions.

Now, I'm in a phase - no doubt because of the financial burden of making, *stuff*, the time I have to make things (not as much as I'd like) and simply the fact that life short - if I have an idea, I go for it, until the end.

Nothing against revisions - but it's a good exersice to simply give yourself a deadline and hit it. The last drawing I did - I worked on it for a few hours, once I was happy with a 5 minute sketch. The differences between both are minimal. Surprised myself. Any more fussing wouldn't get me anywhere, but something dead looking.


Always remember: Parkinson's Law

My drawing teaching also had a good axiom: easier to go from loose to tight, than tight to loose.
posted by alex_skazat at 11:39 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also hate it, for the reasons delmoi posted above as well as the blatantly missed opportunity to sort the colours into a thematic spectrum.

I'm not even going to address the uselessness of the actual data. South America? Yeah, that's one culture.

Not.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:41 PM on May 13, 2010


Tufte fail. If you are going to do a circular infographic, have a good reason why it should be circular. Pretty much any circos image looks better.
posted by benzenedream at 11:59 PM on May 13, 2010


And of course, information is hardly beautiful, it is at best useful and, well, informative. So I guess the confused title of the book determined the outcome.
posted by Laotic at 12:59 AM on May 14, 2010


That is a horrid infographic. For all the reasons Delmoi noted.

If a client asked me to create it for them, I would try to get them to see reason, but then I would probably end up doing it anyway. Because I have no shame and expensive hobbies and no one hires designers much for ideas any more, "just 'draw' my crap idea except for slightly neater and not in crayon."
posted by maxwelton at 4:05 AM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't know anything about creating graphics, I'm just the poor slob who tries to decipher and interpret them, and this "Colors in Culture" wheel is very pretty and completely useless. I also don't understand the categories: African, Muslim, Asian, Japanese, Chinese? So where does Egypt fall in this spectrum?

It completely puts me off the book, that is for sure.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:56 AM on May 14, 2010


Agree with all the criticisms outlined by Delmoi (as well as maxwelton's insight into the state of the design business today.)

It's pretty and modern and slick and everything, but does ass as far as communicating anything clearly. Hint: If you have to rely upon a six-mile long legend next to your "infographic", you are in Failville.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:31 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, I've seen that image around lately. I actually hate it. I understand that it looks cool but it is just impossible to read quickly.

To be fair, they did say that information is beautiful, not that information is informative.

(I hate it too.)
posted by DU at 5:59 AM on May 14, 2010


1) It seems weird in this modern internet-connected age for books to still have American and British editions with different titles and cover designs.

2) It's also weird that the American title is The Visual Miscellaneum and the British title is Information Is Beautiful. American titles don't usually include five-dollar words.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:01 AM on May 14, 2010


Now I have this useful chart to show people when I tell them "purple is the cruelest color."
posted by justkevin at 6:20 AM on May 14, 2010


This seems more fitting as the cover for a posthumous new edition of Clash of Civilizations.

pours one out for Huntington, that essentialist rogue
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:27 AM on May 14, 2010


Personal websites ("My lovely books!") bug me when they don't make clear, prominently, who the author is. There's nothing in the header here, and each post on the front page lists only its category and the number of comments—information that might help the author's ego a bit, but both are low on the list of things visitors will immediately want to know. Even the "Contact" tab just lists his first name, presumably because he figures anyone who would visit his website already knows who he is.
posted by cribcage at 6:35 AM on May 14, 2010


Man, I've seen that image around lately. I actually hate it. I understand that it looks cool but it is just impossible to read quickly. The only way to actually get any information out of it is to memorize at least the culture/letter mapping.

Yeah. Can't favorite this comment enough. It's really a stupid, stupid visualization, poorly thought through, and I'm guessing at some point someone was like "no, I'm not changing it, I've done so much work on it and besides can you think of anything better no I didn't think so!"

How embarrassing for the people involved with that book.
posted by dubitable at 1:46 PM on May 14, 2010


How embarrassing for the people involved with that book.

Oh, I see it belongs to the author! Doh. It's too bad too, 'cause I don't think some of his other visualizations are all that bad. This one is pretty good.

This one is really awful too, though. It's...impenetrable. The opposite of what you want in a visualization.
posted by dubitable at 2:07 PM on May 14, 2010


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