Pictograms have been part of the Olympics lexicon since Otl Eicher’s successful graphics solidified the trend at the 1972 Munich games. Here’s the latest set of Olympic pictograms from Vancouver 2010. Best served cold.


Wipe away the confusion

June 30, 2008

Great communication by Shaz Madani to promote London’s M25 motorway. On one side the poster gives exact directions that would have to be taken in order to travel from one side of London to the other, illustrating the complexity and confusion involved in taking alternative routes through the center of the city. The reverse side reads: “wipe away the confusion take the M25”.

Gerd Arntz web archive

The official fan site… here’s a brief description from the colophon:

This informative and educational website is initiated by the Ontwerpwerk design bureau in close cooperation with Peter Arntz, son of Gerd Arntz, and the Municipal Museum of The Hague, administrator of the Gerd Arntz archive.


Fun with Stroop

April 30, 2008

The Stroop Effect is often used to demonstrate the nature of automatic processing versus conscious visual control. It also illustrates our ability to quickly recognize word shapes based on familiarity, even more quickly than color.

This effect was first described by J. Ridley Stroop in 1935, and was demonstrated by giving participants lists of words printed in various colors of ink. The participants were instructed to name the color of the ink for each word as quickly as they could.

Control condition
In Stroop’s original study, the control condition consisted of neutral, non-color related words (for example, the word “dog” appeared in green ink and “chair” in blue ink).

Compatible condition
Next, the compatible condition consisted of a list of colors – the words red, green, blue, etc. – printed in their corresponding ink colors (“red” was printed in red ink, “blue” in blue ink, and so on).

Incompatible condition
The final list consisted of the names of colors written in different colored ink (for example, the word “red” appeared in green ink).

Stroop found that people could name the color of the ink faster in the compatible condition (“red” in red ink) than the control condition (“dog” in green ink). However in the incompatible condition, people took longer to name the color of the ink (“red” in green ink) than in the control condition (dog” in green ink). One explanation is that naming the color of the ink is an unfamiliar task to most people and requires conscious effort, while reading is so well practiced that it becomes automatic. So, in the third condition people experience interference – as they try to name the color of the ink, they have already read the word (for example, “red”) and need to consciously adjust their answer.

Try Stroop’s experiment for yourself and see if it takes longer to complete list number 3. Remember, for each group you’re trying to say the color of the words.

Context and expectations

March 30, 2008

Context and Expectation

A classic example of the importance of context in pattern recognition. Although the central character is the same when viewed inline either vertically or horizontally, its meaning differs depending on contextual cues from its surroundings.

Video of my talk, “a history of the stick figure” at Ignite Portland 2, February 5, 2008 at the Bagdad theatre.

Here are a few resources from the talk:

ISOTYPE charts by Otto Neurath
Stick figures as numbers. Three ISOTYPE charts shown as examples.

AIGA Symbol Signs
The complete set of 50 passenger/pedestrian symbols developed by AIGA, available in EPS and GIF formats. Download your own bathroom guy!

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
Every road sign imaginable is here. The manual defines the standards used by road managers to install and maintain traffic control devices on all streets and highways. Available for download as PDF.

Stick Figures in Peril
Flickr group of warning signs showing stick figures in dangerous, often life-threatening, situations. A must see.

A Year in Iraq
New York Times article and chart in ISOTYPE style by Alicia Cheng.

Many thanks to linuxaid for shooting and posting all of the presentations.

Thanks Portland!

February 6, 2008

Ignite2 Portland - a history of the stick figure

I had a great time presenting “a history of the stick figure” at Igntite Portland 2! Thanks to everyone for the great feedback. I’ll post reference material from the talk over the next couple of days, so check back for updates or feel free to email me.