Every student was asked to pick a topic for a “personal annual report”, collect data, analyze and prepare structures and finally transform them into a visual language and conceptual screens for an interactive visualization.
Here’s a showcase of the resulting projects (in no particular order) and some random thoughts at the bottom of this page.
Since it was about personal topics, the scope was very broad and everybody was quite motivated to dig deeper (and learn more about themselves). All projects are documented online, so please click on the teasers if you can read some German!
Here are some unsorted thoughts around the course:
I was very lucky when Reto Wettach, a professor at the department of Interfacedesign at Fachhochschule Potsdam, asked me to do a workshop in Screendesign basics last summer. I almost declined due to being too busy, but I am very happy I didn’t: I had a really great time, met very nice and talented people and I’m happy with the results.
It was my third teaching assignment, it felt like the first time again, though. Which is a good thing. When you’re a full time professor, what I am not, being experienced is helpul. You’re getting better and more efficient in preparing a course, you have your tricks and your personally improved methodology. In general, but mainly if you only do it from time to time, I think it’s good to keep a certain level of “innocent curiosity”. A distinct hunger for new things and ways to go. Teaching is learning, and that’s a great enrichment for student and teacher likewise.
Since there were no constraints except that it had something to do with Screendesign, and I had no real similar previous courses to repeat, I had the privilege to freely define a project for the semester. I don’t believe in preaching abstract aspects and techniques like software tools or things like “the best colours and fonts for the screen”. These things evolve along the road anyway. My plan was to work on a quite holistic project setup, giving people a chance to be confronted with their own questions and problems, use and enhance their own analytical skills and creative methods to find good and new ways of doing things. Be it with ideas, structures, visual languages – or deadlines.
Mainly because several students in the course had a print background and no real Screendesign experiences at all, my aim was to get them involved not only with interactive media – but also with analysing, structuring and visualising quite large and dynamic data sets. Annual reports, which to me still seem to be a realm of the print world, felt like an interesting field for that. Again and again I come across really nice examples of printed annual reports, but there are at almost no time compelling interactive solutions.
Also, I loved every single issue of the Feltron annual report. From the first time I saw it I was convinced it was a great topic for a personal project – or for a university course. So the project setting became “personal annual report”. Since a long time, I’m interested in visualization methods from journalistic infographics to scientifc information visualisation – so I’m convinced it’s a great and important topic to encourage people getting involved with. And it is a field that never stops evolving, where you are never about to reach the ground, no matter how deep you dive (yeah, this is for interactive media or even media in general, but it feels stronger to me when it comes to data visualization).
At that time, I was also convinced that things like the Feltron annual reports were just first signs of a certain next step. In a digital world, where everybody is surrounded by data and once elitist knowledge and tools are becoming more and more ubiquitous and easy to use, why should people only communicate and express themselves with written words? Only a few months later, there are several new online services to create and share personal data visualizations such as daytum or mycrocosm added to the slightly older Many Eyes or Track-n-Graph. Eric Rodenbeck from Stamen Design summarized it best so far: data visualization is a medium. And it’s a very important craft for modern Screendesigners.