City Murmur

The city murmur project was initiated by Writing Academic English (W.A.E.) and was realized at the Visualizar ’08 workshop in Madrid, Spain. The idea behind the visualization is to see an urban space through the eyes of media. On-line newspapers, information agency, blogs and personal websites, thematic media are monitored to highlight the pattern of perceptions on the urban space. This monitoring activity leads to the creation of an atlas that will produce – in real-time – different maps based on news sources, themes, and time. The atlas allows users to understand the urban space as a function of media attention and biases and social and cultural diversity of the city itself. We’ll leave the full description to the creators – visit City for more information.

Some of our thoughts

Most remarkable about City Murmur is the distinct visual style. Every detail complements the look of a kind of worn out look & feel. Muted colors, warm and earth like tones and a sensible use of a serif font differentiate this piece of creativity from most of the other contemporary visualizations. From the visualizations itself to the website describing it, every element matches the look & feel, thus giving the project a holistic visual style. One could argue, that some of the design choices aren’t complementing the readability but rather simply giving the look, but we have to keep in mind the target audience for this type of a visualization. A lot of people not involved in datavisualization get overhauled when confronted with a too minimalistic visual style and prefer being introduced to a more visually rich design. As a creator of datavisualizations we have to know who will read our visualizations. As in every design desciple, knowing the target audience helps making better design decisions along the way. There’s a wide range from reducing the ink-data ratio to the maximum an thus dismissing all unneccessary design elements to creating a more playful visual design and making the solution even fun to read. Understanding the target audience and having clear the goals to achieve with a visualization will lead to good decisions and therefore a overall great user experience.

The combination of interesting data, outstanding visual style and a holistic approach of communicating such a project made City Murmur one of my favourite visualizations of 2008 and created a benchmark for visual storytelling in datavisualization.


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    Fresh DataVis: City Murmur