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Back in 1994, Muriel Cooper, one of the co-founders of the MIT Media Lab where she taught interactive media design as the head of the Visible Language Workshop, presented her work at the TED5 conference in Monterey, CA.

Her presentation would initiate a new era of data visualization, and it changed the way designers thought of the possibilities of electronic media. (Maybe quite similar to how David Small's dynamic renditions of text changed my way of thinking about 3D visualization). Her work was revolutionary as it pushed typography into the 3 spatial dimensions, and augmented it with dynamics, animation and interactivity. Tragically, it was just after this event that she passed away.

Since many years, David Young has carried around an old VHS tape that demonstrated this work, to show it to students as an example of Muriel's vision and as an inspiration to push creative boundaries (or, as told in the film: "We must reexamine the current stultifying interface standards and metaphors. We must define a rich vocabulary, tools and design strategies that are applicable to any information domain and to this multidimensional world"). He has finally digitized the tape and has posted it online for all to see (see the movie below).

"The work is a beautiful demonstration of the ideas that Muriel had been pursuing for much of her career. Dynamics, interactivity, typography, and live data. For this video she used the titles "Designing and information landscape in time and space" and "The dynamic visualization of information in two and three dimensions."

For more information about Muriel Cooper, you should read Muriel Cooper's Visible Wisdom" by Janet Abrams.

Note: Image above taken from the Talmud Project by David Small, and Financial Viewpoints, by Lisa Strausfeld.



It’s dated here as 1994, but I was shown parts of this work pre-1989 when I was working at Bitstream, just down the block from the VLW. The context then was that the researchers had questions about rendering text, which for all the type, is rare in this video. If I knew then what I know now about rendering text, I would have gone to work at the VLW as a janitor if I could.

It’s interesting now to constrast the seemingly ham-fisted navigation and chainlink type of the web to the dreamscape in this video.


Fri 09 Apr 2010 at 12:43 AM
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