Barcelona FC multimedia museum

This last weekend I was in Barcelona and went on a tour around the Nou Camp stadium. This has to be one of the best value sight-seeing events I’ve ever done, the highlight of which is the museum leg of the tour and the truly outstanding multimedia installation.

The first thing you come across is a darkened room with a long table with an iPhone-like touch screen interface where you can navigate through hundreds of video ’tiles’ showing famous goals, games and highlights throughout the history of Barcelona FC right up to the most recent milestones. You could spend hours exploring all the content here.


The next installation is hosted in a long narrow dark room with 11 enormous screens laid out side-by-side down the length of the room. Along the other side are a series of benches to sit and standing room from which to view a continuous loop of high definition film celebrating Barca’s record breaking 2008/2009 season when they won all 6 trophies they competed for.

The film utilises the platform provided to the maximum interchanging shots from different angles, wide screen pans and time lapse shots across the 11 screens. In combination with dramatic, inspirational music this creates an outstanding mesmerising effect that you just want to watch over and over again.

The final amazing feature is a long room parallel to the previous room which, once again, hosts a wall of screens which present about a hundred head-and-shoulder sized videos of fans singing the famous ‘El Cant del Barça’ anthem. Whilst they were recorded individually, this creates the effect of a larger crowd singing as one.

In front of the video wall are hundreds of tiny digital photo frames, about the size of a mobile phone screen, poised at the top of long thin stalks, creating the effect of a garden of flowers. These frames show randomly changing images of (I think) every player to have represented the club in its 101 year history.


All in all a brilliant experience and one that I highly recommend if you visit the city, whether you are a football fan or not. More information is available here and through the official site.

The mysterious FD33 dashboard indicator

Most days when I go out for lunch I take a shortcut through the hospital building adjoining my office. I’m not talking about obscure rat runs through wards or surgery sessions but there is a route down a series of public corridors. On one of these corridors, in one of the more remote, dark locations in the hospital (as the picture quality suggests) lives a “Ventilation Damper Panel” dashboard with a neat matrix of little indicator lights.

For three years now I’ve walked past this dashboard panel and for three years one of these lights, the mysterious FD33, has indicated red. It has never changed. What is it?

If it’s important enough to have a presence on this (admittedly old looking) dashboard, surely it represents some critical connector or important valve or vital piece of circuitry that probably needs to be attended to? Yet it hasn’t altered for all this time so, in that case, why have an indicator light for it in the first place?

So what is FD33? Is it linked to this place?

Improving an iPhone ‘My Account’ app design

The images below show screenshots from the O2 ‘My Account’ app for the iPhone. In principle this is a very useful application to keep a close eye on your track on your available free minutes and texts and details of additional charges outside of your contract.

If you assess, however, the number of items of data that are actually being presented over the two screens it reveals not only a significant inefficiency in the use of space but also a missed opportunity to provide useful analysis.

In the next few days I’m going to work on a makeover version of this application to demonstrate the type of design and content that would enhance the value of this app greatly.

Visual Thinking Workshops for Academic Institutions

I am delighted to publish details of the ‘Increasing the Impact of Academic Excellence’ workshops, designed and delivered in partnership between Visualising Data Ltd and The Visual Perspective Ltd.

These workshops provide delegates with practical skills and theoretical knowledge about the importance of applying visual thinking principles to all forms of information and communication design. They are targeted at Universities and are typically delivered on site.

Click on the images below to find out more.

The design of TV news reports

This is a video of a TV news report analysing the tried and tested methods of structuring the news, picking apart the typical elements and production techniques of how reports are constructed.

This is interesting because it makes you think about the saturation of good practice. Is there a threshold when widespread adoption of best practice (in any area) begins to have an inverse effect? Clearly a best practice approach to presenting news has become so ‘normal’ that you can identify with almost every element of this video. So is the current method of delivering news reports still the most effective way of grabbing attention and informing the viewers?

The Guardian’s Zeitgeist interface

The Guardian website has launched Zeitgeist, “a new way to reveal and explore content on the Guardian site, according to ‘social signals’ from users“.

It presents a dynamic, alternative interface for navigating to content from across the site and is, in simple terms, based on the more popular items of the day. This offers a different perspective to the organisation and presentation of news that would be typically led by an Editor – this is the user’s shaping the news agenda (“a mirror of attention“).

The Guardian is quite an innovative, cutting edge, media outlet, certainly when compared to other newspapers and they have a design-savvy brand, reflected by their unique ‘Berliner’ paper layout and their largely effective web design. Their iPhone app has been a great development and has helped to position themselves ahead of other newspapers in the race to find new, creative but effective channels for revenue. Furthermore, from my area of interest, the award-winning graphics team frequently produces excellent infographics to support news items.

The Zeitgeist designers stress that this is an experiment and one that is certainly incomplete and I think it does show. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the methodology or algorithms the designers have established to determine the content items – variation from norm rather than absolute popularity, and within-section comparisons.

I guess the main reservation I have is the capability of the interface. It is easily overshadowed by existing developments such as something like Newsmap, which has a similar purpose, organising popular news items generated from the web, but presents this in a more effective and more versatile treemap design. The treemap approach gives you a greater sense of relative popularity (rather than the somewhat binary ‘popular, or not’) and also has far more scope for providing information (and therefore navigation) to a larger volume of stories in the same space. The Zeitgeist layout provides room for only 21 content boxes which limits the range and number of subjects presented. In time, if and when it establishes a large proportion of users, it also may serve to perpetuate the existing popularity of the visible stories.

Another aspect that lets it down at the moment is the legend which tries to help users understand the subject area/newspaper section each colour-coded content ‘box’ relates to. It takes up a lot of space, isn’t particularly simple to follow and accordingly feels a bit clunky.

As I have said earlier, the designers are clearly transparent about its experimental nature and that it is only the early stages in its live development so hopefully it will continue to evolve into something that leads news interface innovation rather than slightly lags behind.

More information about Zeitgeist can be found here.

My first post…

For those people reading who frequent some of the other sites covering similar data visualisation topics you might be expecting me to include in my first post one of two things:

  1. A declaration of my love of Charles Joseph Minard’s graphic on Napoleon’s march to Moscow, or
  2. A video clip of Hans Rosling’s TEDtalk from 2006

But i’m not. Instead, my very first post is going to focus on a fusion of two topics of massive personal interest – football and graphs. Here is evidence of the sort of graph design capability that encourages people like me to start ventures like this:

The major fatal problem here is clearly that the values add up to 81% rather than 100% which renders it totally meaningless. Clearly there were other players not listed who received votes for Man of The Match that came to an aggregate of 19% but these have been left off.

Elsewhere, other problems include the unnecessary added decoration of the third dimension which is a proven distracting property when trying to interpret accurate values. That said, we don’t really need to interpret the values given that we are told twice the proportion of votes each player received.

I share the views of the majority of subject opinion leaders with regards to the worth of pie charts – avoid where possible unless your boss’s neck veins are popping out and he’s threatening to impale you with a biro unless you follow his strict instruction. However, there are at least some positives to take out of this graph, for what it’s worth.

Despite the missing off of 19% of values at least the pie chart comprises of fewer than 5 categories. The first category starts from the vertical, 12’o’clock position which helps anchor the reading of the remaining values. Furthermore, the categories are ordered in descending values so you can clearly see the ranking of values.

Nice to leave my first post on a positive note.