Space Tourists

Here is a film recommendation: Space Tourists, a documentation by Christian Frei ran on Phoenix tonight.

Space Tourists follows multi-millionaire and X-Prize sponsor Anousheh Ansari on her 2006 journey to the ISS and Charles Simonyi through his training in preparation for his flight. You get a really interesting view of the ISS and the Russian space program which feels like it’s stuck somewhere in the 70s.

But it gets really interesting when Frei contrasts the super-rich and high-tech with scrap metal chasers that find and tear apart the Sojus boosters falling back on the grass plains of Kazakhstan, farmers in the Altai mountains that make tools out of rocket scrap metal. We also see a failed attempt of the Romanian ARCA team to launch a rocket in to the stratosphere, which is an entirely different thing than the Sojus technology. (Good news is, in October 2010 they launched their rocket successfully.) These not-so high-tech touchpoints of people with space are really the new and interesting thing.

I wholly recommend watching it. I stumbled across it while zapping and was riveted.

The official movie site is here.

What if Economists were in charge?

I am a big fan of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s Freakonomics, both book and blog, and their refreshing perspective on “the hidden side of everything”. Only recently they have launched Freakonomics Radio, a regular podcast which I recommend to everyone who is observing people and numbers.

I just got around to listen to the last episode What Would the World Look Like if Economists Were in Charge? This speculative question opens another truly entertaining and informative podcast episode. I had to laugh out loud at Mart Laar’s description of his encounter with Margaret Thatcher. I found Stephen Levitt’s anecdote of his daughter at the end especially insightful, as it explains why negotiators (like lawyers) and not number people run the show in politics.

Superfreakonomics is already on my bookshelf, but given my current workload this will have to wait until July i am afraid.

Google Zeitgeist 2008

Google has published Google Zeitgeist 2008 this week. This yearly summary of the year’s most popular searches at Google. So what is interesting here? 

Google Zeitgeist 2008

The results for the most popular searches in Austria are odd: youtube, orf, ebay, hotmail, wikipedia, herold… Not just Austria, all over the world people seem to mix up address bar and the search field.

This implies a few things: first, this seems to be a basic design flaw in internet browsers. Of course, the address bar is commonly placed on top, but for most people attention is drawn to the all important input field in the center of the start page. (Or, if I recall correctly, in Internet Explorer people’s inputs in the address bar are redirected to a search engine when no website is found)

Whatever the cause one can’t help but notice, secondly, people (the significant majority) are nowhere near internet-savvy. In some countries more, in some countries less. Really successful in the web business are the people who really acknowledge and exploit this fact: hackers, phishers and spammers. On the legal end of the spectrum, most internet advertising and market seems to just talk and connect to the experienced internet user segment.

Thirdly: Why bother printing your web-address on ads? Or, if you are internet service like or Why bother confusing your clients with adresses? What has to stick is the brand name, and then you have to make sure you own the search results when it is entered.

And lastly, it probably pays to buy yourself into the searches for names of your competitors. Say someone wants to get to eBay, googles eBay and as first result gets the paid ad for, an Austrian auctioning site. Admittedly, eBay know their stuff too well, but for most other brands you can position yourself right in front of your competition’s gates.

Iconic Photography reinterpreted

Last week I stumbled across these weird images:
Do you recognize them?

After some scratching my head, I summoned the power of the internet and a simple “where do these images come from?” brought the answer within minutes: They were made by Glaswegian art group Henry VIII’s Wives. And yes, they are aged citizens in their neighbourhood reenacting “Iconic Moments of the Twentieth Century” See how many you can recognize.

They also reminded me of Jon Haddock’s reinterpretation of iconic moments in the real world and movies that I saw a couple of years ago, where Haddock drew them in the isometric view of computer games like Civilization or The Sims.  Same moments as above:


He did a lot more. They are all worth a closer look, click here. (most of Jon Haddock’s work is worth the look)

I am generally fascinated by those reinterpretations. They demonstrate how original images truly deserve the term iconic. I mean, they were shot long before I was born. Nonetheless, we immediately recognize them again, no matter how sketchy the reenactment.  


Recent Reading: The Arrival

Shaun Tan - The Arrival I am still working myself through the comic book canon. Along the usual suspects like Moore, Miller, Ellis, Ross, Otomo, Sartrapi or Thompson every now and then I find (in this case by a friend’s recommendation) something new and amazing.

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is one of the best graphic novels I read so far. Without any words Tan tells the story of a man moving to a foreign country to build up a new existence. He illustrates with dreamlike images the overwhelming experience to arrive in a country where everything is new, larger and no sign or writing makes sense. Shaun Tan incorporates stories of refugees, questions like ‘What makes a home?’, friendship, loneliness to a beautiful story. All captured in simple, yet powerful pencil art.

Fantastic. Highly recommended. If you plan to grab just one comic book or graphic novel this year, make it this one.


New Maps Of The World

Via the Creative Review Blog I found this interesting exhibition at the New York MoMA: “Design and the Elastic Mind” running February 24–May 12, 2008.

This exhibition highlights many projects small and large where design made data legible, turning it into information. And sometimes into objects of breathtaking beauty. Like the image above: Barrett Lyon’s map of the internet from 2003, The Opte Project.

Too bad I will not be in New York anytime soon, but there is an excellent and extensive online exhibition available. If you are in any way interested in visualization of data you should absolutely positively check it out.

View the online exhibition here. (does not work with Safari, use Firefox if on a Mac)

There are so many awesome things to be found. I hope I will have some time later today to browse through the site.

Songs in Charts

Songs as information design? Here is a wonderful new thing to do with piecharts, flowcharts or other diagrams: turn song lyrics into visualized information.

SONG CHART is a Flickr Group that has originated from preserving a Live Journal meme. Many of these musical infographics posted are just brilliant. I love this simple idea:

Friday Im In Love The Cure

They are pure genius when they not only catch the lyrics but also the character of the song, like this one:

Around the World Daft Punk

More here, check it out: Flickr Group: Song Chart

I figured this would be a could drill and I added a couple of charts myself. But I couldnt help wondering what Tufte or Maeda would do for this.

heinztocotronic biginjapanlovewilltearuspart yellow

via Fontblog