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Tag "graphics"
Infographics are everywhere and a lot of development both in therms of technology and style has gone into the representation of information in the last few years. It is however an old topic and through out the past century aspects of graphics, design and technology in regards to the presentation of data and information were developed.

The Gestalt Theory (Detailed article in the German Wikipedia) was developed in the early 20s of the last century or Tufte (earlier on urbanTick) wrote his much influential books in the 80s and 90s to name two.

Image taken from the189.com / Informotion project by Bryan Ku docuemnting the final game in the 122nd edition of the Wimbeldon Championship Men’s Final between tennis giants Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. See the animated version HERE.

The reason for some more recent development in information design and especially and especially handling is connected to technological and practical changes, but also the increased availability of raw data and details to be turned into information graphics.

Often however the subject to the data is temporal or process based with need for background or lead in, change of place or frequent change of perspective. For these cases animated inforgraphics can be a great way to communicate knowledge. Besides who doesn’t like to look at motion pictures? It really fits in with the whole TV consuming sort of urban lifestyle.

Its pretty save to say, that for the first time the book Informotion: Animated Infographics by Gestalten bring together a selection of the best motion picture graphics communicating knowledge. All of the examples are very recent projects and most can be found on either vimeo or youtube of course. However the interesting bit on the book is the context the examples are being put in. The editors Tim Finke and Sebastian Manger put great emphasis on contextual details in a wider sense. Where publications like the recent Taschen Infographics are a mere selection of great examples the Informotion book includes the theoretical and practical aspects too.

This of course makes the book heavier to read, it’s also but not only to look at, but you get a lot more out of it for your practice. Besides inspiration the book provides a refresh and update on the graphic, visual and design theories as well as the technical details of animation production such as software, storyboards or size, resolution or format.

Image taken from binalogue.com / Images showing the page spread design. The example shown here is an animated infographic by binalogue showing the CANAL Isabel II water cycle. See video below for the original animation.

There is also one of the aNCL (animated New City Landscape) informmotion graphics included as anexample in the book (p.188-189). It is the animation produced in collaboration between urbanTick and Anders Johansson on the Twitter landscape in the area arond the city of Zuerich in Switzerland. The original post on the animation can be found here, the animation is below.

Of course there is something awkward about a printed book about animated examples. However the content lives up to the expectations and whilst the animations can not be shown in the book the story can still be told. Even more so that the examples are discussed in detail and help to illustrate the theoretical elements of the book. In this sense there is literally more to the book than just the pictures and lines of text there is actual information in there plus Gestalten have a website where readers can get additional info and links to the animations. The list of examples can be found HERE.

Image taken from Gestalten / Book cover.

Finke, T. & Manger, S. eds., 2012. Informotion: Animated Infographics, Berlin: Gestalten.

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Information graphics are the subject to a brand new Taschen publication Information Graphics that is bringing complicated data made understandable through brilliant designs to a strong coffee table near you. The book is colourful with strong visual guidance, large, very large and heavy, some 480 pages heavy. As this outline shows, its a bold publication that doesn’t hide behind all the various examples of graphic design, but provides a tasteful framework to showcase the many awesome examples of data narratives.

Cover Information Graphics
Image taken from aestheticsofjoy by Stephanie Posavec / Writing without words exploring possibilities to visually represent text.

Of course info graphics are currently trending and one of the most talked and specially passed around topic, not only online but more recently also in the media. All the large media houses have a special information design group and the publication showcases a number of these examples. In this context the book is not the first such collection of good designed information, but certainly one of the boldest in a positive sense.

The publication is edited by Julius Wiedemann und features contributions by Sandra Rendgen, Richard Saul Wurman, Simon Rogers from the Guardian Data Blog and Paolo Ciuccarelli. This is a very interesting team Taschen has put together for this publication with, whilst still being information specialists, covering a broad spectrum of perspectives and expertise.

NYT Historic Shift
NYT Historic Shift
Image taken from dynamicdiagrams by NYT / Interactive visualisation showing the changes in election results over the period 2006-2010. Find the interactive version at NYT

Where other publications, for examples Data Flow by Gestalten, Otto Neurat by NAi or indeed Edward Tufte focus on the context of the graphics, the theoretical background of narrating information as well as the actual teaching of how to present information the Taschen publication is a showcase. It is foremost about showing great examples from a variety of sources on how to visualise data sets graphically in mainly 2D. There are a few web based, animated or interactive examples too though. This takes into account that complexity showing in these graphics is continually rising.

Husevaag Escape Routes Husevaag Escape Routes
Image by Torgeir Husevaag / Escape Routes, 2010-2011. A series of drawing studying possibilities of spatial movement under given time constraints. On the left the map and on the right a detail of some of the blue shaded location sixth path details

Showcasing such a large collection of examples is tricky in that the ordering system as to how the examples are organised becomes very prominent and therefore important. Here the editor has decided to go with a very low number of groups to arrange the info graphics. Where other publications make an exercise out of inventing a whole new system to clarify and characterise the examples this one takes the simple approach. This both refreshingly straight forward and annoyingly rough. What do the chosen terms Location, Time, Category and Hierarchy actually describe, or more importantly how are they distinguished?

The questions remain unanswered however, this does not stand in the way to enjoy the great quality and variety this collection shows. Its a book to brows, jump and flip, a publication you will keep in reach for a long time and always go back to to enjoy or indeed recharge your design batteries.

Cover Information Graphics
Image by Taschen / Book cover Information Graphics.

Rendgen, S., 2012. Information Graphics J. Wiedemann, ed., Köln: Taschen GmbH.

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From sustainability to the new beauty in the following four books are put forward to start into 2012. The topics all address some of the concerns raised about cities in the past year or so and all contribute to the current discussion around changes in social and spatial organisation at large. With globalisation and technology social structures are changing requiring urban environments to be adapted. This will not happen tomorrow, nor is it a case of restarting in building it new from scratch. The only option is to keep transforming and by testing and engaging with the presented new thoughts and aspects we might take a step into this direction.

Not all cities are mega cities. In fact most of the cities are small to mid sized. According to the work Mike Batty had done together with Martin Austwick and Oliver O’Brian on Rank Clocks plotting city sizes in the US, only about 10% of the cities are mega or large. The rest of the cities are under 1 million in population size.

In terms of sustainability potential these large numbers of smaller cities could actually play a major role and this is what Catherine Tumber put forward in her publication Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World published by MIT Press.

There are so many problems the smaller cities face. From long terms decline due to the faltering of industries, massive transport infrastructures slicing them into non workable urban islands and social struggles related to working poor and general poverty reminiscent of postcolonial squalor. The biggest struggle however is the fact that they are excluded from the general debate of urban planning and theoretical thinking. They all practice urban planning and development, but with only little recognition and background.

Tumber argues that due to the smaller sized, shorter distances and proximity to farmland and recreation these smaller cities have a lot of potential to implement sustainable concepts and start integrating those in everyday urban practice. Tumber especially points to renewable energies, such a wind, food production and local agriculture as well as manufacturing skills. Its all about producing and consuming locally.

These ideas are not new and sort of resonate with early garden cities ideas, especially in the praise of size and population density. This is not at all a negative association, but more a practical application. Since here it is not about setting up a new place to live, which can in itself not be sustainable, but about reprogramming an existing one sustainability is given an additional dimension.

Small, Gritty, and Green Book cover
Image taken from archpaper / Small, Gritty, and Green, book cover, part.

Does a city posses its very own spirit and identity? Daniel A. Bell and Avner de-Shalit argue in their new book The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age published by Princeton University Press that actually they do. The authors draw on the ancient Greek concept of city spirit and argue for the rediscovery of the local urban spirits around the world especially in connection to todays globalisation.

Earlier publications have picked up on this topic and characterised cities in such a manner as to work out distinct identities. Saskia Sassen in Cities in a World Economy and more recently Martina Löw in Soziologie der Städte
(sociology of cities). THe concept of the citiy spirit is, as Löw points out, closely entangled with the city marketing that has been very popular in the past fifteen years as a tool to distinguish, present and attract.

Bell and de-Shalit look specifically at nine modern cities: Jerusalem (religion), Montreal (language), Singapore (nation building), Hong Kong (materialism), Beijing (political power), Oxford (learning), Berlin (tolerance and intolerance), Paris (romance) and New York (ambition). Of course soe of them sound like external concepts. Especially Paris and the age old topic of romance, hey but never mind it shapes the place in a certain way and this identity hold the potential to develop something specific and relevant.

Each city is portrait in a lot of detail making good use of story telling as well as combining theoretical aspects with practical experience. A good read for travellers of thought.

The Spirit of Cities Book cover
Image taken from the Atlantic / The Spirit of Cities, book cover.

“We have to find our way back to beauty!” Lars Spuybroek argues in his new book The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design, published by V2_publishing, for a revised approach to design culture moving away from the technological practice of modernism towards a more romantic notion of art in the sense that beauty always combines variations, imperfection and fragility. Spuybroek bases his arguments on John Ruskin‘s aesthetics. Overall the book is a project to wrest these topics out of the Victorian era into the present. This is achieved by combining the five central themes of Ruskin: the Gothic and work, ornament and matter, sympathy and abstraction, the picturesque and time and ecology and design in combination with more recent thoughts on aesthetics by philosophers such as William James and Bruno Latour.

It becomes a projection of a world of feeling and beauty in such a way as it completely does a way with the fundamentalism and absolutism of modernist conception of design.

The Sympathy of Things Book cover
Image taken from il giornale dell architettura / The Sympathy of Things, book cover.

Graphical representation of information are in every case an abstract representation. Often to represent a point of view or a standpoint is required and depending on this the representation is biased. In Picturing the Uncertain World: How to Understand, Communicate, and Control Uncertainty through Graphical Display published by Princeton University Press, Howard Wainer is looking at the phenomenon of information display of statistical data and the possible complications.

The book is less about graphics than numbers, although graphics do play an important role. Similar to Dona M. Wong’s Guide to Information Graphics and also like Tufte’s Books The Visual Display of Information and Envisioning Information the correct representation is at the heart of the text. However, Wainer focuses more on the conditions and the explanations than the design.

Wainer is a longtime expert in statistical graphics who works as a research scientist for the National Board of Medical Examiners and as an adjunct professor of statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The examples are discussed in detail in order to really get the reader to understand the points Wainer is to make. This has the advantage that for a number of the examples the reader also comes to finally understand the actual meaning of the graph probably well known to him. The book draws from a great range of examples including Charls Joseph Minard’s plot of Napoleons Russian Campaign, Florence Nightingale’s Diagram of Mortality and William Playfair’s Wheat Prices graph to name a few.

The book is written in a very accessble language and takes time to explain the details as well as linking it with current facts and events that enlighten the presented problem further. Definitely a great read for data enthusiasts.

Picturing the Uncertain World Book cover
Image taken from Borders / Picturing the Uncertain World, book cover.

Wainer, H., 2009. Picturing the Uncertain World: How to Understand, Communicate, and Control Uncertainty through Graphical Display, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Bell, D.A. & de-Shalit, A., 2011. The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Spuybroek, L., 2011. The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design, Rotterdam: V2_Publishing.

Tumber, C., 2011. Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World, Boston, MA: MIT Press.

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Eduard Tufte is one of the key theorist on visualisation design and graphics communication. His books have sold extremely well and his concepts have been picked up by a lot of influential designers. He is quoted frequently in writings and has very large follower basis.

Even though his books, six there are published by his own publisher Graphic Press, are already published for more than a decade, in fact his first important book, The Visual Display of Information was first published in 1983. All of the publications are by now into their second edition and still selling strong at a retail price of above $40.00.

The New York Times called him The Minister of Information, to name but one example of titles he was given. Tufte lectures around the world always drawing a large crowd.

Tufte started teaching at Princeton together with the renown statistician John Tukey where the foundations for the first book The Visual Display of Information was developed. The second edition of this publication (2001) is then also dedicated to the memory of Turkey.

This first book on graphics and information design was an instant success and transformed Tufte from his political science background into an information visualisation expert. With the publications that followed he sticked with this new field of his and extended on a number of concepts in the field of visualisation of quantitative information.

Two qualities of Tufte’s book are standing in the foreground. For one there is the quality of the publication design and there is the beauty of the numerous examples drawn from across the centuries. In combination, together with a solid argument and visionary, but detailed observations it creates a extremely powerful statement which is pure joy to read.

Even thought he publications are of some age, they currently live through a revival, in the context of the current data visualisation hype. With these wast depositories of quantitative information accessible the chalenges of visualisation are still as present as ever and often the readability and the presentation is compromised.

Time Series of Exports and Imports, Playfair
Image taken from Businessweek / An examples of the use of Tuftes Sparklines intended to be in text graphs summarising the development of time as extensions to textual or numerical descriptions.

In his first book The Visual Display of Information Tufte (1983) sets out to develop a language to discuss graphics and a practical theory of data graphics. As Tufte puts it in his foreword to the publication: “At their best, graphics are instruments for reasoning about quantitative information.” He mainly bases his explanations on the comparison and the discussion of examples. Very didactically Tufte relays predominantly in his descriptions on “this is not very good! It could be improved in this way!”

In this sense the first part of the book is focusing on the history, as Tufte puts it, the recent history, of graphicsal representation of information since the 18th century. Tufte refers to William Playfair (1759-1823) as the main inventor of a theory and practice of information graphics.

Time Series of Exports and Imports, Playfair
Image taken from Wikipedia / William Playfair’s Time Series of Exports and Imports of Denmark and Norway

In the conclusion to the book, the chapter 9. Aesthetics and Technique in Data Graphical Design Tufte brings together the observations made through out the book and makes suggestions for design decisions in regards to the graphical representation of quantitative data. It is simple things Tufte picks up here, like line with, chart size and orientation or shading, but those are the main tools of communication and what generally is overlooked.

It is only in his second book Envisioning Information that Tufte (1990) opens the discussion to include more aspects of graphical representation, sort of departing from the initial focus on quantitative data, math and statistics. In this publication Tufte incorporates much more and this is well reflected in the content that reads: Escaping Flatland, Micro/Macro Readings, Layering and Separation, Small Multiples, Colour and Information, Narratives of Space and Time. Here Tufte incorporates the visualisation and style of maps, train time tables and information signs.

It is in this book that Tufte actually discusses the impact of the design and the potential as it is evoked through good choice and specific planning. Where the first book ends, with practical suggestions, this area is extended in this second publication into a whole book really. And it is in these chapters, as listed previously, the reader finds the evidence and the presentation of again comparative examples leading the discussion.

In many ways these two books come as one and it does make sense to read them in sequence and still each book has its perfect identity. For even if your not into the practice of graphical representation of either quantitative data or any information at all it is great joy to look through the books and admire the perfect layout along with the stunning collection of examples each surprisingly comprehensive and integrative with the developing discussion of the book.

Envisioning Information: Narratives of Space and Time

Tufte, Eduard R., 2009. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information Second Edition., Cheshire, Co: Graphic Press.
Tufte, Edward R, 1990. Envisioning Information, Cheshire, Conn: Graphics Press.

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The American Trade Center used to be extremely promotionally active around Europe to promote and showcase American products and innovation. The tool was a set of exhibitions in European capital cities such as Milan, Stockholm, Paris and Frankfurt from 1963 1978. It was held in the folowing up of the Marshall Plan to suport and strengthen Europe’s economic foundation.

Image taken by urbanTick / Art work by Lanfranco Bombelli for the US Trade Centre Exhibitions.

Lanfranco Bombelli was commissioned to design each exhibition. He started earlier, around 1950, to work for the US Government as an pavilion architect, together with Peter Harnden.

Actar has published a catalog Lanfranco Bombelli – US Trade Centre Graphics in Europe for the exhibition with the same title at the Arts Santa Mònica. The exhibition featured an instalation by Tom Carr. You can see some images from the exhibition set up process HERE.

Image taken by urbanTick / Art work by Lanfranco Bombelli for the US Trade Centre Exhibitions.

The US trade shows run on a very tight schedule four exhibitions per month. Bombelli worked on each for five days, spends two days for the design and three for the production. This publication covers his graphics work, both for the exhibitions spaces and for the posters and flyers.

In an awesome little book these graphical works are here summarised. Very little text lets them speak for themselves. Bombelis art, was as the catalog points out, “based on geometrical compositions and inspired by mathematical principles”. The cear shapes, the fitting colours and the linear arrangements are standing in for the perfect graphical language even though they are produced as art works. It fits perfect with the current visualisation trend and can be put in line with recent publication such as Otto Neurath by Nai Publishers or Gerd Arntz by 010. However while the Neurath and Arntz both were interested in the characterisation of representation, Bombelli is illustrating and interpreting, not developing an ordering system but a visual communication language.

Image taken by urbanTick / Art work by Lanfranco Bombelli for the US Trade Centre Exhibitions.

Carr, T. & Altaio, V., 2009. Lanfranco Bombelli: US Trade Center Graphics in Europe Bilingual., Barcelona: Actar.

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The Feltron Annual Reports have become something like an institution. On one hand for the graphics they celebrate but on the other hand also for the content or topic each report focuses on.

In the current design climate of hyped data visualisation the Feltron Report is one of the leading publications. Even though the series started earlier in 2004, it became an icon with the 2007 report. It features for example in the great documentary ‘Journalism on the Age of Data‘.

Feltron 2006
Image taken from Feltron / Page 3. The 2010 Annual Report on personal activities.

How are these reports compiled? Feltron explains in the FAQ: “The first and most difficult step is to keep meticulous records of the year. On top of my own records, I rely on services like Last.fm, Netflix and Flickr to keep records of my music-listening, movie-renting and photo activities. For my offline activities, I make daily recordings in iCal which are later poured into spreadsheets to enable counting and comparisons within the data.”

The rising interest has lead to the creation of the logging platform Daytum. Here individuals can start collecting data about everyday live activities as a sort of log book. Further more the page offers the option to also visualise the data, of course very much in the style of the Feltron Annual Reports.

EMoore report
Image taken from asis&t / The personal logbook at EMoore.

Other Self Surveillance Services could be Moodstats or lifemetric. A more embedded approach takes grafitter. It monitors your twitter account and picks up on defines hashtags. This can then be graphed out. So you can tweet away your log book.

Image taken from farm4 / The settings and hashtag definition page at grafitter.

The lates Feltron report departs from the personal log book and maps out a third persons life line. In this case it is Feltron’s father. This relates very much to the Travel Pattern Over Generations report compiled by David Bradley. It is an interesting documentation, not so much in it self, but very much as a personal comparison. With the personal dimension of the data it is very easy to relate to it and the primary reading of it will be in relation to one’s own history.

Feltron 2010
Image taken from Feltron / Page 4. The 2010 Annual Report is an encapsulation of my father’s life, as communicated by the calendars, slides and other artifacts in my possession.

The Feltron Reports are available for purchase in the Feltron Shop.

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This is sort of movie time at urbanTick. Before you press play here, get your popcorn ready and fill your bottle with whatever. The movie you are going to watch is a dramatic 53:57 long, but it is definitely worth it. The most comprehensive documentation at the moment about the visualisation trend we are currently already in the middle of. ‘Journalism in the Age of Data’ is produced by Geoff McGhee: “Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists. Some newsrooms are already beginning to retool their staffs and systems to prepare for a future in which data becomes a medium. But how do we communicate with data, how can traditional narratives be fused with sophisticated, interactive information displays?”

It covers everything, mainly graphics of course, but also technology, narratives, truth, journalism, documentation, colour, interaction and of course data. Data in many forms and shades. This ranging from free data to collected data, data gathering, data collection, data storage, data cleaning, data preparation, data, data, data, data…

Flight paths
Image by Aaron Koblin / Flight paths over the United States. The colours represent the plane model.

It is great how they get the producers of the visualisations to talk about their work, the movement and the critiques. This makes it a rather personal documentation. Of course you also get to see the best visualisations of the past two years. Of course some of them you have seen here on urbanTick before, including for example the ‘Movie Character Interaction Charts‘ by XKCD, or of course the US flight path maps by Aaron Koblin. But now, GO!

And a note here, you can watch a ‘fuller’ version directly at datajournalism.stanford.edu. It is shown together with additional material and comments as a sort of interactive version.

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We can usually have it our way, especially using the digital media. There are so many ways and so many options we’ll find something suitable for you. If not try Google or Spezify. Anyway in terms of mapping there is little choice. You can go for OSM, Google Maps, or StreetMap. How we find our way is extensively dominated by these services. In the streets of London people very often stand around at crossroads with an A4 printout of an internet map page to find their way. In everyday situations the classic map producers such as OS have little meaning. This ultimately is true too for the graphics used by these mapping services. These graphics take a dominating role and influence the way we navigate. This is one of the reasons I mainly use the satellite view, but stil this is a very specific representation. However as for example demonstrated by xxxx in his clip these map representations have become everyday objects we are very familiar with and more importantly we trust. Since we relay on it to navigate, we start to believe in it as a true representation of reality and therefor very deeply start to identify with the product.
Compared to proper maps eg. Kummerly und Frei, Schweizer Landestopographie or OS Master Maps, digital maps like Google Maps are extremely simple and cheep. And still or because of this they become so familiar so quickly.
Artists have quickly realised that this is a great opportunity to reflect on the way we are manipulated by a few providers of navigation graphics. One of them is Christoph Niemann and his Abstract City project is really a joy! Dive in and have it Your Way!

Images taken from niemann.blogs.nytimes.com byChristoph Niemann / Three individual maps from the Abstract City project

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We life in a fast world and a visual world. Information is consumed anytime everywhere. Information and with it knowledge has become one of the worlds resource. The battle around it is mainly about the visualisation.
In a stunning publication Nai Publishers have dedicated a book to one of the founders of our contemporary understanding of visualisation. Don’t worry if you haven’t known him before very few actually have. His name is Otto Neurath. The book with the title ‘Otto Neurath – The Language of the Global Polis‘ by Nader Vossoughain tells the story of this Austrian sociologist who did not fear any topic or occupation to follow his interest. Neurath is an incredible vital and versatile scholar, practitioner, politician, theoretician, developer or craftsman. What we maybe don’t know is his work, but remarkably it feels somewhat familiar, as if we’d known it.

Image by Otto Neurath, taken form gis and science where you can find a collection of Neurath’s illustrations.

The publication is in the tradition of Nai publishers a truly nice designed piece and it has this surprising twist to it, it is a hardcover but in the form of a paperback, I love it.
The book redraws Neurath’s life along his work and engagements. It puts a special focus on his collaborations with well known figures of his time, such as Le Corbusier or Corneis Van Eesteren. The later’s work was also currently published by Nai Publishers in the book ‘The Functional City‘ also reviewed on urbanTick (1, 2). The author has chosen to structure the book along three major topics under which Neurath’s work can be organised, community, democracy and globalism. It gives a good sense of the broadness of Neurath’s work and involvement. However it can be confusing as this structure is not chronological, but the content is still based on his life. So duplication and repetition can no be avoided. Nevertheless this also has an upside and can for the observant reader lead to some hidden ‘Pulp Fiction’ moments, were the same situation is seen from different vantage points.

Image by Gerd Arntz u. Otto Neurath, Collection International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam taken from artnews / Mengenvergleiche.

The title of the book basically already hints at most of the aspects of Neurath’s work. The ‘language’ points to Neurath’s work on a ‘language of symbols’ making knowledge and information accessible to all and with it empowering everyone to take part in social and political discussions and decisions. ‘Global’ has to be read in the sense of everyone, Neuraths vision as described in the book at a number of occasions really was to reach everyone, especially making data accessible to underprivileged groups of society. ‘Polis’ finally summarises Neurath’s interest for the city, settlement or aspects of spatial organisation of society in general. This is, as you have guessed, at the same time summarised the three chapters in a nutshell.

Image taken from the book ‘Otto Neurath – The Language of the Global Polis’ (p 64) / “Neurath felt that cut-outs allowed the masses to feel as though they were participating in the production of knowledge, which was central to his philosophy of reform in general”

But be aware the book is a lot richer and if it were a thriller the many twists and bends would be highlighted. And really this is what it is, because it is modelled on Neurath’s life there are jobs and projects that just didn’t work out, especially in connection with the war and other dramatical political changes in Europe at the time. Neurath seemed to have been involved in almost all of them. So don’t miss the section with his detailed biography that is attached towards the end. Together with the index, a section on detailed notes and epilogue a this is a publication that leaves little to desire.

In 2008 there was also an exhibition at Stroom den Haag on Otto Neurath curated by Nader Vossoughain. A lot of the content i still accessible on line, including a video interview with the curator.

The modern day version of Neurath’s icons or isotyes can be for example found at AIGA, the professional association for design, at the Isotype Institute or seen in use for a chart visualising the war in Iraq by the NYTimes.

As seen, still today, some will claim even more so, the visualisation is the very big topic. Together with the computer and finally with the internet increasingly unbelievable amounts on data a created, recreated and shared. Large collections only now with the contemporary technology become accessible. Recently the public claimed successfully to free data sources and open them up for public access, e.g. data in the UK and London specifically –London data store. Not that the general public can handle or understand all this information but currently they have the power to put on enough pressure. But globally visualisation is the hot topic. In all areas but also specifically in politics a traditional field of facts argumentation.

Vossoughian, N., 2008. Otto Neurath – The Language of the Global Polis, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.
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You are the City by Petra Kempf, Lars Mueller Publisher by Birkhaeuser, 2009. A book that is not really a book might be more of a book than many others. This book here is really not a book, it is a box of sheets and a leaflet. The sheets are colour prints on clear acetate. It is a radical take on city planning with very limited to do’s and not to do’s.
This is rather refreshing and the fact that the transparent sheets allow for creative combination of the presented content goes way beyond telling the “reader“ about the new ”must” and ”don’t”, but rather directly involves them to participate and shape a number of distinct perspectives on the discussed topic. There is not much more to be said, is there?
Well there might be, there are questions about the formality of the visuals, the similarity of the representation, the limitation in the selection of tools and forms. One could argue that is the stuff for discussion and aftermath of the book, as it is still the authors take on the subject and it probably is, but the book does not offer any format for this. So the engagement with the reader ends there, were the sheets can be combined.

Image by UrbanTick

What Birkhaeuser says about the publication: “Cities are hybrid entities based on multilayered and sometimes contradictory organizing principles. As complex networks of geographic, economic, political and cultural segments, they are caught up in a constant process of differentiation. How are we to understand such dynamic processes, especially the complex connections between individuals, whose movements and interactions leave traces in the urban landscape? This publication offers architects, urban planners and general readers interested in city design and growth a novel approach, a mapping tool that creates a framework for understanding the continually changing configuration of the city. With transparent slides, the tool allows one to superimpose various realities like layers and build new urban connections. It invites readers in short to immerse themselves in the complexity of our cities.”

Image by UrbanTick

The book subtitle is “Observation, organization, and transformation of urban settings”

In regard of the topic of cycles and rhythms in the city, this publication has a similar aim to start describing and understand the city in a dynamic sense. Kempf writes in the introduction titled “To the Curios”: “Cities are an everyday invention. They are informed and imagined by many people at the time. A cities’ form is expressed in a vortex of temporal relations, mirrored in the activities of a collective body o individuals interacting with one another.”
This dynamic approach is also reflected in the naming of the different areas o investigation. The books contains 22 sheets covering four distinct areas, those are: Cosmological Ground; Legislative Agencies; Currents, Flows and Forces; Nodes, Loops and Connections.
The naming ad the approach can provoke links to Lynch. His five elements plan for the city from his “Image of the City” book were: Nodes, Edge, Path, Landmark, District. Five are much simpler to remember ( might be the success of the book) than 22. But obviously there are some more option with a higher number.
It does get complicated though. I can list all of them because I have the leaflet in front of me, but the suggestive and at times literal names are easily confused. But maybe this is not the point. Maybe it is more important to create an image though the naming that guides the combination process. The mix of naming strategies is more confusing. Sometimes it is something like Bus Lines or Airport compared to Information Swirls or Under the Ground. The mix of specific and more poetic names probably makes for the distinct aura of the publication.

Kempf has worked on a very similar project in 2001. Back then she called it Met(r)onymy 1. Images and style are fairly similar. It seems to be something she has started to develop much earlier on.

A very interesting comparison between “You are the City” and an earlier book by Zaha Hadid called “Ubiquitous Urbanism” is made on Kosmograd. The formal relationship of the two projects is striking. Interesting because Petra Kempf is Adjunct Assistant Professor at Colombia, the same institution where Zaha Hadid developed her book.

Image from Kosmograd

I don’t want to leave it here, because this could really create the wrong impression about the book. It is not a copy of something and it is a well thought approach to something new. It really opens the eyes in terms of planning, design approaches but also graphics and communication, You are the city – the City is you ha not promised something it will not be able to deliver, It is rather a very real promise and a rather lasting impression.
And if not for al these reasons you want to have one by now, there is one more. Put all the acetates on one pile, look into the sheets from an angle though the reflection (this book is horrible to photograph at a university with these kind of cheap lighting) and enjoy the depth, physical and theoretical this publication is able to create just there in front of you. This is worth buying a book for. Is it a book?

Image by UrbanTick

Kempf, P., 2009. You are the City Pap/Trspy., Baden: Lars Müller Publishers.

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