For this project, I really wanted to turn a moderately complex cluster of information into an abstract and simple visualisation. However, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to communicate information clearly or rather focus on the aesthetic qualities. The key point being either it is communicative or artistic or somewhere in the middle.
After a brain storm, I gathered four areas where I could find some interesting data: climbing, cooking, christianity or poetry. Climbing wouldn't work because there is very little data (other than rankings, which is boring), I couldn't decide what aspect of Christianity would work, and I couldn't find any poems that really spoke to me.
However, while my girlfriend and I talked about what we could have for dinner and she flicked through a vegetarian recipe book, it occurred to me that I had not seen any interesting recipe visualisations. After a quick google search ("recipe visualisation") turned up zilch, I began to think about how the information in a recipe could be visualised in an interesting and possibly informative way.
I chose the use a punpkin, spinach and fetta frittata because they have adequate complexity and they are also delicious.
I initially decided to abort one possible visualisation concept, which was a kind of flow chat/horizontal bar graph, similar to Emily Ginsburgs Social Studies (pages 168 - 69 of Data Flow). While this was working some ways, it was easy to communicate the information, it really didn't appeal to my desire for a mechanical like design, which had started to attract me.
I thought if you could use a data sphere to visualise files, I could use a data sphere to visualise a recipe.
Features which I decided to copy are;
- a minimal amount of text
- using the rings to represent layers or stages of information.
- embedding smaller objects inside larger objects
- to make it in processing
There are few points I'd like to make about how my design differs from this. Firstly I had to invert the way information unfolds. By this I mean while a file expands like a tree, branching off in different directions, it's data thinning off, a recipe generally starts with a lot of data (separate ingredients, different saucepans etc) and breaks down into smaller components (a single meal). So instead of having my data sphere expand outwards, mine should collapse inwards, with the centre representing the end point (dinnertime).
I should also clarify why I chose to do this in processing when it could have probably be done quick and dirty in photoshop and illustrator. Well, I can't deny a bit of masochism played a role, I tend to make things hard for myself in most assignments. But a serious concern I had with using photoshop and illustrator is that I find it is very difficult to make things look mechanical and precise. Processing has a certain aesthetic quality to it that I find very striking, and I believed strongly that I wouldn't be able to achieve the same effect with photoshop and illustrator. I also wanted to get started relearning Processing for the final assignment, and thought I could kill two birds with one stone.
Essentially I'm experimenting with the balance between communication and aesthetics. While the aesthetic I used is functional, colour distinguishes between ingredients and components, the essential effect is one of mystery. I considered labelling the foods or have a key to aid the viewer, but I think this would have been missing the point. I don't want to do the same thing as the original format of the recipe, which does it's job well enough, the purpose of this is to make the recipe into something unusual and interesting.
The context of this poster determined many of the design choices I made. I didn't figure it'd be used in a restaurant or kitchen, as no one needs a poster of a Frittata recipe in their kitchen to learn how to make a Frittata. Somewhere I do believe it would be helpful is in a shopping mall, where displaying the simplicity of the recipe would encourage interest and possible purchases. This identifies a few key aspects of how the poster should be designed, for passers buy who won't stick around to memorise the whole recipe and who'll be looking for a quick tick of approval of the recipe. This means that we don't need details and we need to emphasise colour and simplicity.
I've combined the ingredients and method into a single graphic. The graphic works by showing colour a differentiated tray, microwave and oven, and ingredients. The outer ring represents the first stage of the recipe. The next two inner rings are the second stage where things are put in the microwave, for a length of time visualised by the length of the arc, roughly 5 minutes and four minutes down the ellipse. And then the third stage where everything goes into the tray, and into the oven for approximately 25 minutes. The heat of the oven and microwave are visualised by their red borders.
This nesting of ingredients into components and then components into components, and also of the colour differentiation, the representation of time leads me onto the the crux of the poster: Processing.
How it works in Processing
I really attempted to make my program as object orientated as possible, however this was very difficult as it has been a long time since I have had anything to do with Java or OOP.
My program consists of three classes, an ingredient class, a component class, and a recipe class. The Ingredient object is the basic building block of my programs (or at least I tried to make it that way), while the component class holds ingredients and can pass them around to each other via push and pop methods, and the recipe class is used to manage everything.
It's a bit of a sloppy job, bad commenting and indenting, but I am pretty excited that it actually worked for the most part at all, as it was a bit of an up hill battle.
My only major problem was that the pdf I was creating with Processing was impossibly massive. It would crash my computer as it was saving half the time, and whenever I opened it. It took me a long time to discover that I had just made a typo with a for loop so it was being repeated over a million times instead of a couple of thousand.
This design process is what I'd like to call the hope-despair cycle I get trapped in. Having gone through another all-nighter, I've finally worked out why I waste so much time. Hope often leads to bad ideas, such as making something more complicated than necessary or underestimating the time it will take to complete something. While despair often leads to the resolve to do something good or take another look at the design brief. Which in turn leads to hope and the cycle starts again.
Partly due to the fact I was unsure about what would actually be able to do with Processing, my sketches are mainly rough attempts to explain my idea to friends. However, I fiddled around a lot with Processing and feel that some of what I did were merely sketches anyhow.
My first attempt at creating a nice looking data sphere used cumbersome wire spheres, they looked cool but were very difficult to control.
Other attempts at using fill()ed in sphered to represent the stages of the recipe. Failed again due to the stubborness of spheres.
Abandoned spheres. Now experimenting with my own arcs using beginShape(),vertex(),endShape. Found I could manage my own class of arcs better.
Starting to nest objects inside one another, the beginnings of OOP.
I'm pretty happy with my poster, I'm confident that my design choices were appropriate, but would be willing to hear opinions that differ. While somewhat dissatisfied with my design process, I think I'll be better prepared for the next assignment as a result of analysing my process.