Visual thinking

I like to read and I like to write. But I have admit something. I’ve always tried to solve problems and explain complex issues by using images and visual aids. I love comics and I love photography. I try to follow Seth Godin’s rule of “no more than six words pr. slide” when making presentations. I try to tell myself: “don’t tell it, show it”.

I’m also deeply fascinated by physics and mathematics. The first thing I did when I learned to code was to make software that visualized the mathematical problems we tried to solve at school.

So I’m not surprised of the fact that I love data visualization and ways to show complex patterns and huge amounts of data visually.

And here are two of my best resources:

Information Aesthetics.

“Inspired by Lev Manovich’s definition of “information aesthetics”, this weblog explores the symbiotic relationship between creative design and the field of information visualization. More specifically, it collects projects that represent data or information in original or intriguing ways.”


An example from Information Aesthetics
An article about Open Street Map and a visualization of how people have edited the growing database of maps in their open and free to use database.
OSM 2008: A Year of Edits from ItoWorld on Vimeo.

A wonderful visualization of the collective force behind a site like openstreetmap.

FlowingData explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better – mainly through data visualization.


An example? How about “5 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year“?

And of course. I can’t write anything about data visualization without mentioning Hans Rosling and his amazing presentations.

So what’s your favorite data visualization sites?

Visual thinking

Some advice for building a web site – 2007

To some extent I am repeating myself, but I just had to get this down. The web is evolving and rules change. Both for the the people using the web and for the people publishing. First, consider these four words, describing a couple of things that are important (click the words to get the full story behind them):

Make it available and remember the long tail.

Communication channel. Not only a distribution channel.

Metadata, tags, RSS, widgets and descriptions.

Give the users control.

Then focus on keeping things simple and spend huge amounts of money on getting the usability right.

Then build your site using as much off-the-shelf software as possible. And remember that there are a lot of free, open source solutions that are very solid systems. A standard LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) or something similar as the basis. Consider publishing systems like WordPress and Drupal. Frameworks like Ruby on rails and Django. For media publishing consider professional solutions like Brightcove,,, etc. And don’t be afraid to integrate with well proven sites like Flickr for images, for tagging, YouTube for video etc.

When you are making that system that lets your audience get some control you might have to build an API for them. Why not start with the API and build the initial system using that yourself?

Yes, I know. This isn’t the definitive guide to build a killer web site, please feel free to add your best advice in the comments.

Some advice for building a web site – 2007