I have creative ADD

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Bison — Complete

September 16th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Bison, Digital Process

So I’ve been holding on to these images for a long time and it’s time to let them go, and end the bison project.

These images were pulled from a set that spans years 1902-2000.





I can’t tell you how much I’ve wrestled with calling this “done”. You can see how this project changed over time. My most recent intent for the image was to create a data-driven graphic. I wanted to create shapes that were somehow linked to bison population and the value of coins.

Then I started reading more Tufte and realized that what I was creating was information graphic heresy.  Total info-junk. I debated changing tracks again to create a readable information graphic poster. Something more quantitative! I needed more science!!! Maybe I would make it interactive? Maybe HTML5 Canvas??!! I had a new version with more readable data all sketched out. It would be great!

After the initial buzz wore off, I returned to the thought that I really just wanted something I thought looked good and could hang on the wall. So I kept it simple.

We’ve done some things with this image that totally violate it’s use for quantitative data and understanding. Here is a marked up version that explains where some of the data is coming from.


So, we have some quantitative problems here:

  1. It’s unreadable, there is no legend! The shapes have no meaning w/out my chicken scratch.
  2. You don’t measure qty over time by using a pie chart!! (although you can find examples) and you certainly don’t overlap them!
  3. I’m ignoring the fact that this data set is incomplete. There are footnotes missing from the data, double strikes, years where there was no information, herd notes, etc. I’m just ignoring this stuff.
  4. I’m capping the height of extreme values. There are a few edge cases that would create arcs that would scale off the charts and out side the bounds. I’m bending the information to create a more pleasing aesthetic over the whole data set.

So, this image doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it’s pretty, maybe not. But I made rules in a compter and created it. The amount of bison sitting on the plains in Yellowstone in 1916 and the value of the bison nickel in the same year is what creates the image. That is somehow exciting to me.

From a design standpoint I have to mention that this landed really close to some of Mark Weaver’s work. He has some work with bison and the colors are very similar. I really adore Mark’s work and I can’t say that I wasn’t inspired by him. But hopefully the variations in my iterations and my extensive research here is proof that I’m not ripping anybody off.

This project has taken a long and meandering path. This has been a very messy inefficient way to get to a solution. The agency model is;

Sell > Discover > Design > Build > Deploy.

My process was more like;

Discover, Discover, Design, Build, Discover, Build, Design, Discover, etc.…

I also switched software several times along the path which was a huge waste of time. The software cycle looked like this.

Flash > HTML5 Canvas >  Processing > Flash

So much thought and effort involved in created something so simple.

Usually I subscribe to the idea of less talking and more doing, but the writing process of this experience has been very cathardic. It helped organise my ideas and helped keep me accountable even if I’m only writing for the search engine crawlers. In the end, this process was a little backwards. I started with an image and worked backwards to find data to support it. But I have to say I’m happy to have the experience and some bison art to hang on the wall.

So…on to the next thing.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Josh S. // Sep 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Nice that you saw it through to the end. Lots more reality came in to play than I expected. Great write-up.

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