Visualizing Visualizations

For our last project in Visual Rhetorics, we were to create a missing chapter on rhetoric for Alberto Cairo’s The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualizations in a style that matched that of the text. I was really excited by this project, and decided to create a visualization on creating visualizations as a sort of pull out poster that would come between Parts II (“Cognition”) and III (“Practice”) that made visible theory as method and invention through visualization. I did outside reading on invention from John Muckelbauer’s Invention and the Future: Rhetoric, Postmodernism, and the Problem of Change, Johanna Drucker’s Graphesis, Karen LeFevre’s Invention as a Social Action, and Janice Lauer’s Invention and Rhetoric and Composition – none of which made it on to my infographic. What I quickly determined was that creating infographics are difficult, and creating and infographic about infographics seemed beyond my ability. The poster field began as all text, an obvious problem for something that’s supposed to operate as a visual. I kept re-drawing my layout for the infographic until I couldn’t remember what my scope was. I drew it on paper, on a posterboard, and finally my bathroom wall (in pencil). That design started the creation of the infographic elements, but proved insufficient. After several more drawings, I felt like I had a too reduced representation of invention, theory, and method. If creating icons for this graphic wasn’t difficult enough, even sticking to the basic shapes I used to create my symbols, establishing a relationship and organization amongst them felt impossible. This was probably one of the coolest assignments of my graduate program, and the last one I will turn in, so creating something lame despite my energy and efforts feels…well, lame. Lesson learned: infographics need several weeks after being created to assess that they are functioning as designed. I feel like all of the planning I did, while not useless, did little for me in comparison to creating and playing around with elements in the making of the infographic. Even though it’s been submitted, I would like to return to this one over the weekend. I am absolutely determined to make it work.

I will have nightmares about the voids between my elements…

Cairo Chapter


an end to stagnation

(if I state it, it becomes fact, right? …)

too much stasis of thought. brain like pond (man made) in need of churning, of percolation, of thought bubbling to the surface even if they go “nowhere” but pop and recombine with molecules in the air. brain like pond scum. (speaking of scum, this coffee is quite bog-like. more scoops in a single pot doesn’t bring on more energy, but more acid reflux). a snippet of morning re-reading to vibrate and make vibrant matter (it’s spring: things are looking up, or rather, down with the help of theoria):

“Graphics reveal data.” The conviction that information exists outside of – or in advance of – the presentation of data in graphical form is problematic, even inaccurate, from both a theoretical and a practical point of view. On a mundane level, certainly we can understand that information designers see their task as the creation of clear, legible, unambiguous presentations of data. But every graphic representation is a rhetorical device. Every presentation structures arguments — it doesn’t “reveal” facts in all their purity through the fallible, flawed system of graphical expressions. The relations between what is communicated and how have to be acknowledged. (23)

Johanna Drucker, Graphesis: Visual Knowledge Production and Representation