Smart is Seamless: How UX Leverages Edward Tufte’s Principles of Visual Information

Posted 4 years ago by Kyle Averack No Comments

Edward R. Tufte grandfathered the multivariate design approach to the world of visualized information. His paradigm shifting perspective of micro and macro data clustering ushered in the sophisticated approach of presenting information in strategic, multi-layered structures for designers the world over.

While considering contemporary approaches to graphical user interfaces (GUIs), how are products or services (un)intentionally leveraging Tufte’s ingenuity in their designs? In this review, I will cover how Tufte’s multi-layered principle of engagement has been utilized within the predictive, context aware mobile application, Google Now, and the whole-body movement tracker, Nike+ Fuel Band SE.

Whether you’re anxiously following moment-to-moment results of your favorite sports team, discovering local events to plan a nice outing with friends and family, or simply checking when the next train will arrive while you wait at the station, Google Now proactively delivers information to you in pieces throughout your day of various points-of-interest you define (Figure 1.0).
With briefly summarized cards of information, you can sift through several items in rapid succession, which is reflective of Tufte’s Macro Reading Perspective. Each card of information encapsulates a larger set of information, whereby more refined information can be accessed by selecting an item of interest (Figure 1.1).
When you choose to review more information about a particular summary, you are brought to a denser, or detailed, view of your selection. This view state draws upon the Micro Reading Perspective, whereby, more granular information is viewable upon further engagement (Figure 1.2).
With a nearly unnoticeable degree of engagement, Google Now’s personalized simplicity allows you to navigate through various levels of information densities with a great amount of ease. It’s predictive, context aware functionality provides a smart delivery of information that seamlessly integrates into your daily life. By leveraging Tufte’s Macro/Micro Reading Perspective, Google Now excels with flying colors the capacity to flexibly allow you to review information with various levels of detail.

Now, do you know what it’s like to have motivation on your wrist? Wherever we are, one thing we know is that our mind, our body, and our experience tell us that movement helps us define our lives. What does your movement say about you? What story does it tell? With the Nike+ FuelBand SE, your movement no longer has to remain a mystery. Keeping track of the intensity of your workouts, your morning routine, or your activities throughout the day has never been more fun and simple (Figure 1.3).

The intelligent fitness tracker has a three-axis accelerometer built in that easily syncs via Bluetooth 4.0 to your iOS device or computer. Along with telling you the time, the FuelBand displays the level of progress you have made to meet your goals through mini LED’s simply by pressing the action button on the FuelBand. This overview status of your movement is aligned with Tufte’s Macro Reading Perspective of visualized information. While the device is tracking kinetic motion and calculating your Fuel Points in real-time, its holistic status view captures the overarching picture of your movement (Figure 1.4). This snapshot review of your total progress throughout the day summarizes how close you are to your ultimate goal.

Moreover, the Nike+ FuelBand SE seamlessly synchronizes with your iOS or computer where your personal information is visualized with great detail. Displaying your Nike+ Sessions or giving you access to your support network through the Nike+ Groups view gives you the tools to remain motivated, while also demystifying the passing movement you generate in the day (Figure 1.5). Just like Tufte’s Micro Reading Perspective, you have at your disposal the ability to engage with high detail the number of calories lost, number of steps taken, distance traveled, and so much more. This granular level of information the Nike+ FuelBand SE affords you through tracking your activities ultimately empowers you to gain insight into your personal motion.
Contemporary design of our best products and services available are (un)intentionally leveraging Tufte’s Principles of multivariate design in various forms. Whether it’s context aware software, or movement tracking devices, Tufte’s designerly ingenuity seems to be as ubiquitous as the technology of our time.

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