Hot Topics in Information Design

I have accepted to work for the Information Design Journal as Special Interest Editor.

I want to think in the open about this:

What is a “hot topic” anyway?

In my view there are four criteria for any topic to be “hot”:

  1. the news value
  2. actuality
  3. amount of discussion in the community
  4. touching “high-level aspects”

The news value

The news value is a very hard to identify aspect. Some topics may be news to some and outdated to others. There is no “topic map” that shows the age of topics – hardly even an identified list yet (while there is a list of research fields and areas of expertise). So the news value pretty much comes down to a statistical evaluation of demand and interest in certain topics.


In contrast to news value the actuality can also be high for older topics that have regained some attention recently. It can also be interesting, because it is reflecting about new developments and “game changing” or disruptive topics.

Amount & intensity of discussion

To define “amount of discussion” one needs to look at two things: the quantity of participation (e.g. the postings in discussion forums and mailing lists) and the level of dissent above consensus. Both values are hard to track.

Touching high-level aspects

Any submission in the “hot topic” section should focus on the identification and reflection about the topic itself — and its location in the overall topology of topics. So the direction of a submission should be “looking from inside out” or trying to define a bird’s eye view onto the subject.

Possible candidates

I went through some monographs, magazines, conference sites and journals and tried to identify an initial list of hot topics. This list is nothing more than a starting point – a first step.

  • Multi-touch user interface design
  • Making sense of the mobile technology
  • Visualizing complex matters
  • Visualization as political propaganda
  • Open government
  • Aligning sound and visuals in UI
  • Improving public transport
  • Intercultural communication

More steps will follow and this list will change.

Do you think there is a “hot topic” not in this list? I am constantly collecting material — do not hesitate to e-Mail or twitter-message me.

Fast Company: Is Information Visualization the Next Frontier for Design?

This article asks wether or not Information Visualization is a field on its own in Information Design:

If we’re going to live in a world driven by data, the thinking goes, we need a simple means of digesting it all. We are increasingly a visual society, and our understanding of the world is increasingly made possible by this new visual language.

… and …

Designers have historically excelled at finding insightful ways of looking at complex problems. Visualization will likely play a prominent role as design evolves beyond the consumer economy (selling $2,000 poufs and other high-end furnishings) and helps create efficient new forms of buildings, food distribution and transportation.

Information Design and the Monetary System

I am personally interested in how the lack of information or proper presentation of that information led to the current financial crisis. Obviously the information was available — but not well understood, not correctly aggregated or falsely interpreted by politicians that were responsible for phony policies and flawed legislations.

Continue reading Information Design and the Monetary System

New semester: Information Mapping 2

I decided to repeat a seminar from a couple of years ago: Information Mapping. This time I want to suggest two optional research topics that I think might be very intersting to work upon: the first is “60 years Hiroshima” and the second is “Deforestation“.

I got interested in the Hiroshima topic last year when I accdidentally crossed a website of the “Children of the Manhatten Project”. It kicked of a long web research that really totally amazed me.

The Deforestation topic is a tribute to two things: a) the famous Knowledge Navigator video by Apple and b) the software EarthBrowser which I recently obtained and which was improved with stunning high-res images of the earth surface. Here is are two samples – the second shows a zoom to the center of the first view:

Anyway I am convinced that both topics serve perfectly as context for exploring data visualization and information mapping experiments. Generally I am not sticking to topics like these, if students want to work on things to explore that have more appeal to them.

The course starts on March, 23rd. See course weblog.