As part of a Data Visualisation exhibition during Second Year, I joined a group consisting of Product Design and Computing students from the University of Dundee in order to conceive and create an interactive screen-based visualisation. The purpose of the visualisation was to communicate a collection of data clearly, the result a tangible and understandable source of information for its user
The task required our group to research a topic that would supply us with sufficient data that we could further illustrate. I encouraged my team to research sources that could assist people in their daily life in order to make the finished design not only stylish, but desirable and helpful. With further research, we explored the emergence of lifestyle products and apps, specifically those that track its user’s fitness and health. After enquiring across the University, I managed to interview a student who used a fitness tracker to measure his daily step target and sleeping pattern amongst other things. Throughout the interview, I discovered that the student found the information supplied by the pre-existing mobile application to be beneficial, yet it was presented in a way that he could not compare and contrast his results over the period upon which he tried to improve his fitness. The software, whilst informative, was designed in a way that did not encourage him to meet the targets he had set himself. Another aspect he felt was lacking was personalisation – the application featured basic colours and could not be edited in order for him to make it truly his own. With these insights, I attempted to expand upon the data that he already had and resolve them to a high standard for which he would prefer.
In order to ensure we could create a visualisation of a high standard before the approaching deadline, we decided early to focus the visualisation on the topic of sleep. With this design decision, the database was more focused, and was centred on a topic upon which we could draw inspiration from with the visualisation’s design. With further research, I discovered that the student’s aimed to have as close to 8 hours of sleep a night, with the technology processing the different stages of his sleep (REM, NREM, Deep Sleep). This data would later be used to refine the visualisation for the students own specifications. A major design concern was the form of the visualisation. This concerned how the data was communicated so that it was understood quickly, yet in a pleasing manner. Our lengthy ideation stage was filled with rapid ethnography to create quick ideas and sketching to illustrate them, which in turn produced weird and wonderful design solutions. I suggested the idea of shaping the visualisation like a clock face – the imagery of the clock I felt fitted the project well. The student who we were designing the visualisation for was primarily concerned with the timing of his sleeping pattern, and enjoyed tracking when on average he went to sleep each night.
With this direction, the design began to evolve through sketching. From the beginning, we wanted the design to pin sleeping values recorded through the fitness tracker upon the clock face which would provide insight into the student’s sleep at the glance of an eye. With development, I focused upon the design comparing values, so in the final concept the user could compare two values of sleep against one another. However, the visualisation began to look cluttered, and was difficult for the computing students to code, instead the visualisation was programmed to allow the user to move between the specific days of the week easily. With the help of the computing students, we could easily access the data of past sleeping values which would create a database upon the visualisation. This data also provided the values of the different sleeping stages previously mentioned, which the computing students could then manipulate to be further compared.
Created using open source Processing software (from which the final concept owes its name), the final design is a sleek, refined interaction that works simply, yet communicates the data collated in a bold and interesting way. For the exhibition, I designed a poster detailing our visualisation complete with a description of the product. In the visuals I drew upon the colour scheme of the visualisation along with a simple clock face to develop the theme of time that continued throughout the work.