created for science; honored for design

This project was featured in SF Moma's Designed in California exhibit in spring 2018. From May 2019 to Jan 2020, it will be shown simultaneously at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City and Cube design museum in Kerkrade, Netherlands as part of the 2019 Design Triennial.

This is one of 3 projects I worked on with the amazing team at Stamen Design in spring 2016. 

Bar chart view of genomics matrix

Bar chart view of genomics matrix

Matrix view of genomics matrix

Matrix view of genomics matrix

metagenomics matrix

This project was exploratory in nature, designed for scientific discovery. 

Stamen collaborated with scientists and technologists at the Banfield lab in Berkeley to revamp a tool for exploring and analyzing data related to the genomes found in sampled ecosystems (across many tiny organisms). 

One of the most important aspects of the project that I focussed on was subtle design decisions that reflected the nature of the data and the types of data questions. For example, in many cases, the difference between 0 and 1 was VERY important while the difference between 10 and 30 was much less important. Unlike many bar charts, the tallest bar is often not the most important. So, in the "bar chart" view shown at left, I encoded values over 10 as the same length as 10 with a pointy top to indicate that it continues above 10. That way super high value bars don't distract as much from the overall chart and smaller values. This allowed us to create this very seamless transition from focussing on several organisms at once (several rows) as a matrix to seeing a single row as a bar chart. Before I clipped the bars, the long bars were just too distracting to make the viz work. 

Similarly, the light colors for 1 are very bright against the dark background in this color scheme. This way 1's stand out, and gaps (0's) are quite visible as you scan either bar chart or matrix view. 

It was especially exciting to see a project where the key design decisions were made for scientific purposes be recognized in a design exhibit at the modern art museum SF Moma and Smithonian’s Cooper Hewitt design museum.

CEO of Stamen, and design technologist, Eric Rodenbeck described the project in more detail here