Unit 2 Reading

Information Design

In chapter 2 our author, Alberto Cairo breaks down the over 100 years old maxim “form follows function” to express the point that it is not applicable to every situation. He uses example from the natural world where, through Darwinian principles, he explains that sometimes it is the other way around…and should be. Function will follow form in the natural world because some beings have evolved over time and genetic mutations have allowed them to possess certain abilities. He specifically points out that giraffes did not stretch their necks to their current lengths and pass that gene on to their future generations but that because giraffes have long necks they are able to use it to their advantages for survival. Natural selection. My example: penguins. They have wings, but do not fly, the maxim wouldn’t apply in this situation. Forms do not necessarily imply function. Cairo calls it “inheritance of acquired characteristics.”

Cairo then states that when it comes to info graphics “the form should be constrained by the functions of the presentation.” and quotes Edward Tufte as saying, “effective analytic designs entail turning thinking principles into seeing principles” which really resonated with me.

Bubble charts…

I think it’s safe to say that Cairo isn’t a fan of bubble charts. And after seeing the example and reading the text I’d have to say that I’m not either. Cairo had very sound reasoning to back up his opinion. He states that the human brain is not good at calculating surface sizes, which is something I wouldn’t have guessed. And that makes bubble charts ineffective at translating information. He says that designers enjoy using circular shapes because they are decorative and people like to look at them.

In all, form does not always follow function, but rather the two have an interdependent relationship and should be carefully considered.


In this infographic I can see relation by scale right away. I already have most of the information I want simply by seeing the size of the ships: who and how large? Years, exact dollar amount, and industry by color coordination are all great supplemental information.

This infographic is displaying Military bases in the US and abroad. And what a viewer is able to see right away is the extremely large military presence the US has across the globe. However, this infographic comes up short when delivering other useful information. I’d like to see the same map but how much each base costs to operate. and what percentage that accounts for in the national defense budget. Then a viewer could see right away where defense funds gare allocated and then form educated opinions.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s