Poor Form: Response

I think there’s a couple messages central to Healy’s writing. First: a successful piece of information design or data visualization must consider the audience specifically, and human perception more broadly. Healy writes that “An image intended for an audience of experts reading a professional journal may not be readily interpretable by the general public.” As for general human perception, he outlines several ways this trumps a designer’s logical intentions - for example, choosing colors they know are different because they selected entirely unique values, yet recognizing that they may still be similar enough that they’re not easily differentiated by the human eye. He also goes into more formal aspects such as of Gestalt principles, contrast, the components of color, and retinal variables. There was a secondary message towards the end of the piece as well: “problems of honesty and good judgement.” Healy discusses - and acknowledges the merit of - both sides of the debate over what the ethical role is of the designer. Do you include all context to avoid risk of bias or skewed interpretation, or permit modifications that suit your greater point? Ultimately, Healy ultimately seems to come down on the side of the zero baseline, which I would agree with given the caveat that this may not always be the right choice, depending on the information itself and necessary additional context. I am tempted to disagree with his assertion that “chartjunk is not entirely devoid of merit,” but ultimately don’t wholeheartedly. I am personally a fan of a simpler aesthetic across design, but he put forth a convincing argument for the other side. I’d be interested in having a discussion on the three things that can make data design bad: aesthetic, substantive, and perceptual. I don’t disagree with any of them being a significant contributor to a poor design, but I’m curious to know which people see as more/less important. Could you fail at two of the three components, and still have a successful piece of work?

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