Viz afterthoughts: manifesti, missing tools and what would Leonard do?

I won’t be able to attend tomorrow’s concluding day at VizThink, so I’m debriefing now, at the end of a fun and brain-filling day.

It would be wonderful if this collection of graphics wizards could come together to frame out some manifesti. What do we believe? What do we want?

One such manifesto, created by an IDEO employee, has brought new ethics and sustainability considerations into the design process: the Designers Accord. That’s pretty ambitious.

We could aim a little lower. I’d like a manifesto to build better tools for visualization. My persistent pet peeve in this domain is the lack of simple, open tools that would bring MacDraw into the 21st Century. Picture a vector graphics program that easily helps you create conceptual diagrams, then helps you place them online, wherever you want them. And does all this with clickable elements, so your graphics are interactive.

One Web app I’ve found that’s close is Gliffy. Yesterday I signed up for their pro account (a whopping $30 a year) and started using it more. Not bad, but still not as swift and intuitive as MacDraw was for me from 1984 to 1992, when I switched to PCs.

The neighboring problem is how expensive graphic tablets and tablet computers are. If you’re really going to draw, you might as well draw directly on your computer, and that’s expensive now.

On the graphic tablet front, one of the best offers today is Wacom’s Cintiq. Their entry level device is the 12WX, which retails at about $1K.  And it’s 4.4 lbs, practically the weight of my PC. Ouch.  Before I bought my current ThinkPad widescreen, I priced their X series tablet. For a $1K premium, I would have had a slower processor and smaller screen (thus having to get an external monitor), and I would have had to purchase an external dock or optical drive. So a $1500 penalty, at least. For a pretty thick tablet.

I was so hoping Apple would scale the iPhone up about 6x screen size, so that could be my tablet. I don’t really want the Air, I want a new device that has the feel, accessibility and connectivity of the iPhone (ok, faster connectivity, please) with more screen real estate.

One last post-Viz thought. About two years back, I very much enjoyed reading Leonard Shlain’s book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess.  Shlain’s very controversial thesis is that the linear alphabet killed off the balanced, god-and-goddess birth myths that existed and replaced them with monotheistic, paternalistic and angry gods. While killing off the divine feminine, they also killed off images. Shlain believes we’re now in the process of re-integrating images and the feminine after millennia of being pushed aside. I tend to agree.

So I wonder what Shlain would have seen at VizThink. What he’d have thought of the many practitioners working hard to make visual art speak as loudly as the words we’re all accustomed to.


About Jerry Michalski

Lateral thinker, itinerant troublemaker, convener, idea mill.
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3 Responses to Viz afterthoughts: manifesti, missing tools and what would Leonard do?

  1. clarkquinn says:

    Jerry, I’ve blogged before about the diagramming tool I use and love: OmniGraffle. It work’s intuitively, and though I don’t think it will post to the web automatically, it does happily write out many different formats. Of course, it’s Mac only.

    And while I agree with you about the desire for a Mac-based tablet, and the Air isn’t it, Axiotron’s Modbook is finally out. It’s not what you’re asking for (and I’d like a real Mac Tablet like you describe) but it’s pretty darn good.

    While I haven’t read Shlain, and I don’t know if the alphabet is the driver, I do think we’ve neglected the feminine side of our divinity (for a populist take, see Brown’s DaVinci Code ;), and I too agree that we’re seeing it re-emerge.

  2. Quinnovate says:

    Oh, one other thing. I’m trying an experiment with Gliffy, where I’ve offered a diagram for collaborative editing. A couple of people have signed up, but I haven’t seen yet that they’ve actually made any edits. We’ll see.

  3. Pingback: Transnets » Blog Archive » Comment faire voir?

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