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Utopia in our Pocket
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This past March, Involution's Dirk Knemeyer spoke at TEDxDenisonU as part of a series entitled “Real Utopias: From Dreams to Practice.”

In “Utopia in our Pocket” Dirk proposes that, thanks to the proliferation of the smartphone, we can start to think about radical changes that will fundamentally shift the way we live for the better. He charges his young audience to consider how they can participate in exploring and leveraging technology for truly meaningful change in our world.

About TEDx
TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

About Involution Studios
Involution designs and builds exceptional software for innovative and visionary companies. We deploy small and experienced teams to create applications that are highly usable and appropriately beautiful. Our client list includes Apple, AstraZeneca, McAfee, Microsoft, Oracle, PayPal, Shutterfly, and Yahoo. For more information please contact info@goinvo.com or +1 617 803 7043.

Dirk Knemeyer has a few questions about Apple's ideas for a mobile medical solution.

This coming June, Apple is expected to announce their “Healthbook” app. In a bold expansion on the concepts of Involution’s hGraph app, Apple is attempting not only to federate all of a user’s important, top-level health and wellness data but also to synchronize with hardware devices that do everything from analyze blood to count steps to monitor heart rate.

Healthbook mockup

Mockup of Healthbook screen published to Behance this past February.

hGraph, your health in one picture

hGraph, the only open source visualization for your complete health, developed by Involution Studios.

There is an enormous need for this kind of software. Right now hundreds of companies are shipping devices that collect or track health and wellness information, but locking that data into proprietary interfaces that they are trying to monetize in order to sustain a business. This bottom-up approach worked in validating the market, but it is not at all consumer-friendly in the aggregate. It is too hard for a user who knows how all of his or her different services work to get a good picture, let alone a doctor or emergency healthcare professional. Having one software interface where all of your data is tracked and displayed is clearly the correct solution. Someone certainly needs to do it. The question is, is Apple the right company to be doing it?

Emphatically: No, for three reasons.

  1. Apple is terrible at software. Can you name one piece of software that Apple makes which is really excellent? From iTunes to Mail to Pages to iCloud, one is worse than the other. OS X? Used to be the best, largely thanks to engineering, not design, but as they try to unify their desktop and mobile operating systems and user experience, it gets worse every day. Keynote? OK, I will grant you Keynote. But Apple has a long track record of being astonishingly good at hardware and cover-your-eyes-bad at software. Maybe they get it right here—I hope they do—but as my Mail app continues to misbehave and iCloud remains unusable after more than a decade of trying, I can’t fathom that they will.
  2. Health information access needs to be universal and consistent, not specific to mobile OS providers. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are locked in a battle for digital supremacy. Rather than search for solutions that are complementary they are each trying to create their own OS, their own devices, and their own mapping programs. If they are now also providing their own Healthbook equivalents, it could present a serious challenge. Do we expect healthcare professionals to train up on three different software environments? What happens to your Apple data if you change to Microsoft, will it be lost or just offline and not integrated? Do these shortsighted competitors have the vision to cooperate?
  3. Apple’s parochial interests will stifle innovation. The totality of this picture is a complex one. Apple, correctly, is trying to bring together a tremendous amount of health data and information from potentially very different sources and devices. Meanwhile, they are rapidly patenting various hardware, software, and input and output mechanisms aimed at the rapidly expanding mobile medical device market. Each success brings Apple closer to developing a Healthbook that is more proprietary, less universal, and infinitely less useful in the long-term and/or outside of the Apple bubble.

Ideally this sort of software would be created by an international non-profit focused solely on health and wellness as part of a blueprint for healthful humanity. Among their initiatives they would make this sort of top-order software as accessible and transferable and standardized as possible. Of course, there is no such organization. It seems like an obvious thing to be funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but how much Microsoft stock does the Family Gates still hold? Around and around we go.

About Involution’s Health Design Practice
For almost 10 years, Involution has been building software for health companies of every shape and size, from household names like AstraZeneca and Walgreens, to research leaders like the Personal Genome Project and Partners HealthCare. We also work with the most exciting and progressive health startups. We’ve made digital healthcare our top focus.

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O'Reilly OSCON

Open Source Convention
July 20-24, 2014
Portland, OR
Register

Remember doctor’s visits when you were growing up?
The wooden tongue depressor. The well-worn stethoscope. That weird thing they jammed in your ears.

As design harnesses digital, materials, and networking technologies, a very new health experience is just over the horizon. Proactive, lifestyle design. Tracking real-time health data. Non-invasive tools. Custom “just for you” treatments based on your actual genome. These are all real technologies, being used by ordinary people. Together they are leading us to “stage zero” detection and treatment which has the potential to double or better the lifespan of every first-world citizen. Not science fiction, the children of the 2020s will only know this reality. Tongue depressors will be limited to school craft projects and popsicles. And it is all the product of technology and design.

Join Involution Studios Creative Director Juhan Sonin in Portland this July as he introduces participants to the macro factors shaping these realities, along with an in-depth exploration of the various impacts of and opportunities for design.

About OSCON
Once considered a radical upstart, open source has moved from disruption to default. Its methods and culture commoditized the technologies that drove the Internet revolution, and transformed the practice of software development. Collaborative and transparent, open source has become modus operandi, powering the next wave of innovation in cloud, data, and mobile technologies.

Now in its 16th year, OSCON is a unique gathering of all things open source, where participants find inspiration, confront new challenges, share their expertise, renew bonds to community, make significant connections, and find ways to give back to the open source movement. The event has also become one of the most important venues to unveil ground-breaking open source projects and products.

About Juhan Sonin
Juhan is the Creative Director of Involution Studios, and has been the creative leader of four different organizations, producing work recognized by the BBC, the New York Times, Ars Electronica, National Public Radio, and Billboard Magazine. Prior to joining Involution, Juhan spent time at Apple, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), a few startups, and MITRE. He is also a lecturer on design and rapid prototyping at MIT.

Arlington Visual Budget recognized for innovation, value, and impact.

BOSTON, MAInvolution Studios today announced its Arlington Visual Budget has been selected as a finalist in the Best Doing Good Innovation - Product and Most Insightful: Big Data and Analytics Innovations - Product categories for the MITX What’s Next Awards. This year MITX combined its annual Innovation and Interactive Awards into a single show recognizing Boston’s entire digital ecosystem.

Since 1996 the MITX Award shows have grown to become the largest and most prestigious awards competitions in the country for marketing innovations, celebrating the best creative and technological accomplishments emerging from New England.

“The finalists that emerged from an unprecedented number of submissions received for this year’s MITX What’s Next Awards demonstrate the creativity and innovation of our region’s rich digital ecosystem,” says MITX Board Member and Communispace Chief Operating Officer Howard Kogan, who serves as Chairman of the MITX What’s Next Awards Advisory Committee. “From startups to large corporations and everything in between, the individuals behind this work continue to raise the bar for the entire digital community.”

Arlington Visual Budget

AVB provides the next generation of accessibility in financial information that enables citizens to see, engage, and discuss.

The Visual Budget system converts the town of Arlington's revenues and expenditures to simple graphics and charts that describe Arlington’s finances. It also provides definitions for complex budgeting terminology, and includes a tool where residents can input their yearly property tax bill and find out exactly how the town spends their tax dollars. Taxpayers can learn about town revenues, expenses, and funds displayed in both graphical and tabular formats. What’s more, the system enables users to provide feedback and ideas, an essential component of empowering citizens with both information and a greater voice in decision-making.

Town Management Analyst Michael Bouton said he was happy to work with Involution’s creative team on the project. “It was a blank canvas,” Bouton said. “We came in with an idea and the conceptualization of it was them.” Involution designers Roger Zhu and Ivan Dilernia donated their time, and the company has made the code for the project available online for other town governments to use. An Arlington resident, Involution’s Creative Director Juhan Sonin was excited about the collaboration, saying “It’s a part of our civic responsibility as designers to get involved in the design of policy.”

Involution Studios will be recognized with the other finalists in the Best Doing Good Innovation - Product and Most Insightful: Big Data and Analytics Innovations - Product categories at a gala awards ceremony traditionally attended by over 1,000 of the region’s top interactive marketing and technology professionals. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Westin Waterfront Hotel on May 29th.
Purchase tickets for the Awards Ceremony

About Involution Studios
Involution designs and builds exceptional software for innovative and visionary companies. We deploy small and experienced teams to create applications that are highly usable and appropriately beautiful. Our client list includes Apple, AstraZeneca, McAfee, Microsoft, Oracle, PayPal, Shutterfly, and Yahoo. For more information please contact info@goinvo.com or +1 617 803 7043.

About MITX
Established in 1996, MITX — the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange — is the leading industry organization focused on the web and mobile, bringing together the digital marketing, media and technology community to engage in what's next and how it will impact the marketing and business worlds. Connecting more than 7,500 professionals in New England, MITX is a dynamic community of thought leaders and collaborators in search of insight, education and opportunity. Creator of FutureM, MITX is headquartered in Boston, MA.

User Experience Conference 2014

May 15, 2014 at 8:00 a.m.
Sheraton Boston Hotel
39 Dalton Street, Boston, MA 02199
Register

The wealth of tools recently released makes it easier to stitch design assets together into “interactive prototypes.” The limiting factor in these tools is that they rely on the static data in your comps.

Join Involution designer-engineer Ben Salinas as he introduces techniques for gathering real data and incorporating that data into comps and prototypes. In a live demo, Ben will discuss techniques for processing data and generating data as well as how to use these techniques to evaluate the success or failure of a design.

This session will help the intermediate or experienced designer expand their design prowess by breathing new life into their stale and static comps. The participant will walk away understanding the tradeoffs around when to choose to incorporate real data and when a static comp can perform just as well. Most importantly, the participant will have been exposed to the tools they need to incorporate these techniques into their day-to-day design work.

Involution Studios is a sponsor of this year’s Boston User Experience Conference. In its 13th year, the Conference will cover critical topics in usability and user-centered design with practitioners, students, and experts in the field. Participants can partake of unique content and one-of-a-kind learning opportunities for all—newcomers and seasoned professional alike.

About UXPA Boston
The Boston Chapter of the User Experience Professionals’ Association is a highly active community for persons with individual and professional interests in usability, user experience design, and their many related fields. UXPA Boston is a regional chapter of the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA). Membership is free and includes user experience events, access to job listings, and a role in the vibrant Boston usability community.

About Involution Studios
Involution designs and builds exceptional software for innovative and visionary companies. We specify, architect, design, and develop applications for web, mobile, desktop, devices, and emerging technologies. Involution deploys small and experienced teams to create applications that are highly usable and appropriately beautiful. Founded in 2004, complex, mission critical software has always been our business. We've produced high-quality applications that are being used every day by over 150 million people. Our clients include Apple, AstraZeneca, 3M Health Information Systems, McAfee, Microsoft, Oracle, Personal Genome Project, Partners HealthCare, and US Department of Health and Human Services.

Dirk Knemeyer on multimedia information design.

Over the past month numerous news outlets--CNN in particular--have devoted extensive coverage to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. While the story is certainly a tragedy, the degree to which its coverage has eclipsed that of stories like the Ukraine situation is a little curious. Regardless, what really raised my ire most recently was CNN’s featured homepage graphic related to the lost plane saga, shown here.

Health Axioms Sketches

The image that CNN featured in their April 7 homepage headline on was a screen capture from one of the videos associated with the story. Source: Malaysia Flight 370: 'Our optimism is fading away, ever so slightly' By Tom Watkins, CNN. April 7, 2014.

This is an example of some of the worst information design I’ve recently seen in such a prominent and frequently visited position on a major news site.

Let us examine the many problems here:

Because everything is important, nothing is important. No less than six pieces of data are put into boxed backgrounds and presented with some form of blaring text. What is really important? Where should the reader look? There is no information hierarchy here.

Fonts, fonts, so many fonts! There are (at least) eight different fonts being used on this graphic, if we count font type, size, color, and style. This inconsistency exacerbates the muddying of importance and hierarchy that was already introduced via other display techniques.

Superfluous information clutters a very small space, further undermining comprehension. The yellow callouts contain too much specific information to go with a headline. The lines showing mileage lack context when viewed outside of the video. At a glance, the combined elements serve to make ambiguous what the “Planned Search Areas April 7” are, which is a real problem!

And onward… Presumably the proper order of importance should be:

  1. Focus on the fact that there are search areas planned for April 7 and indicate where those areas will be. The copy in the current box is correct, but it should relate to the red highlight boxes in color presentation, not the completely unrelated white/black that is currently used (and which is also redundant with the cognitively unrelated AUSTRALIA box). Moving this “Search Areas” callout to the upper left of the graphic would also bring it spatially proximate to the actual spots it is calling out to.
  2. Identify the spots where signals were detected. This should be done with a single callout box that reads something like “Possible signals detected” pointing to both of the bulls-eye graphics. These elements should share a color palette to emphasize their relationship (so, green/back/white instead of yellow/black). This callout should be located in the lower left or lower middle to be spatially proximate to the actual spots it is calling out to.
  3. Clarify the purpose of showing the distance of each of the five ocean locations to Learmonth and Perth. If important, each of the five targets should clearly be pointed to instead of just the four lines shown (and some of those being ambiguous as to what they are pointing to and why). This needs consistency of treatment and clarity of purpose. Still, these are too detailed for a headline image and would be best simply left out.
  4. Make geographic elements consistent. The label identifiers for the relevant locations: Australia, Perth, Learmonth, and Indian Ocean should be presented more subtly, similar to “Indian Ocean” on the original graphic. They should be completely presented--not cut off as “Australia” and “Indian Ocean” are, or obscured like “Southern” in the lower right.

Here is our version of a redesign, from Involution designer Jen Patel:

Redesigned Planned Search Areas graphic.

A cleaner, clearer version of the "Planned Search Areas" graphic. Designed by Jen Patel.

Executing strong information design is not difficult, but as CNN has illustrated, very poor information design is unfortunately easier to fall into than we might like it to be. A well-crafted, succinct headline deserves a clean and clear graphic.

About Involution Studios
Involution designs and builds exceptional software for innovative and visionary companies. We specify, architect, design, and develop applications for web, mobile, desktop, devices, and emerging technologies. Involution deploys small and experienced teams to create applications that are highly usable and appropriately beautiful. Founded in 2004, complex, mission critical software has always been our business. We've produced high-quality applications that are being used every day by over 150 million people. Our clients include Apple, AstraZeneca, 3M Health Information Systems, McAfee, Microsoft, Oracle, Personal Genome Project, Partners HealthCare, and US Department of Health and Human Services.

37 Million Mile Data Challenge

Involution Principal Jon Follett has recently been selected to judge entries in the 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge, sponsored by The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. Using data from the Massachusetts Vehicle Census, contest participants will have six weeks to determine why Massachusetts drivers burn up 37 billion miles each year, with the goal of discovering insights that can help the Commonwealth build a more efficient and sustainable transportation system.

“Particularly in the open government movement, information visualization has become an important method for making big data sets understandable, and stimulating discussion about critical issues,” says Follett. “Making data accessible helps people to spot patterns and trends and to approach problems in new ways — even getting answers to questions they hadn’t thought about before. Interactive designs make it possible to gain deeper insights that can lead to better decision making and more innovative solutions.” A seasoned designer, Follett has created data visualizations for AstraZeneca, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Survey Sampling International, among others.

Designers, researchers, analysts, and developers will work individually or in teams to come up with interactive visualizations, maps, infographics, and even games that reveal actionable information from the vehicle-use dataset. Data Challenge entries are due April 19 and the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on May 1.

About Jon Follett
For nearly two decades Jon has been leading or contributing to Web application design and development for organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Jon is a recognized thought leader and internationally published author on the topics of user experience and information design. He recently contributed a chapter, “The Beautiful People: Keeping Users in Mind When Designing Data Collection Methods” to Beautiful Data published by O’Reilly Media, Inc. He has written over 25 articles for industry publications such as UXmatters, Digital Web and A List Apart, and his work has been translated into a variety of languages.

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March 1, 2014
UNTETHER.tv

From protein to pixel to policy, design-for-health possibilities and responsibilities are immense.

Involution’s Creative Director Juhan Sonin talks about design-for-health possibilities in an upcoming UNTETHER.tv interview with host Rob Woodbridge.

What we call “health” is made up of episodic issues and interventions … we are most conscious of our health during the moments when we’re face-to-face with a clinician.

In “Design for Life,” Juhan posits that continuous but noninvasive collection of individual health data may hold the key to those “teachable moments” in data that signal potential outcomes and prompt micro behavior shifts that, in turn, offer feedback and affirm new behaviors. If health is beautifully integrated into our daily life, so that we're getting continuous assessments, we’ll be able to adjust in near-real time.

This design space needs to chew on the massive volume of data and massive volume of human factors and their interrelationships — from what we're eating, how we're moving, how we work, and what makes up our genome, and expand that to an entire system picture of a human living on Planet Earth. All of that interconnecting and interlocked information tissue needs to be condensed into a single decision space that's not a data dump but a highly personalized, insightful crystal ball.

About Juhan Sonin
Juhan is the Creative Director of Involution Studios, and has been the creative leader of four different organizations, producing work recognized by the BBC, the New York Times, Ars Electronica, National Public Radio, and Billboard Magazine. Prior to joining Involution, Juhan spent time at Apple, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), a few startups, and MITRE. He is also a lecturer on design and rapid prototyping at MIT.

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TEDxDenisonU
March 1, 2014
2:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Herrick Hall
Denison University
Granville OH
View the Livestream

Join Involution Studios’ founder, entrepreneur Dirk Knemeyer at TEDx Denison this Saturday as he shares his perspective on “Real Utopias: From Dreams to Practice.”

As miraculous as the changes to the world over the last 20 years seem, since the Internet became mainstream, most of those changes are conveniences and not truly meaningful difference in our world. In “Utopia in our Pocket” Dirk proposes that, thanks to the proliferation of the smartphone, we can start to think about radical changes that will fundamentally shift the way we live for the better.

TEDxDenisonU will consist of 13 talks by 14 speakers on topics ranging from social entrepreneurship to the origins of pride and success.

TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

For Immediate Release
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ARLINGTON, MA (U.S.) – February 7, 2014 - Online Budget Visualization Tool, Designed by Involution Studios with Town of Arlington, MA Offers Financial Transparency to Taxpayers

Arlington Visual Budget has been selected as a winner of the 2014 iF Communication Design award.

Since its introduction in 2004, the iF Communication Design award has been among the top national and international awards. Designs from advertising agencies, communication designers and their clients, manufacturers, designers, architects and interior architects face the jury judgment.

More than 1,000 entries were assessed according to criteria such as target audience-specific communication and content, design quality and creativity, customer relevance, cost effectiveness, originality and innovation. Of the 311 iF Communication Design award winners, Arlington Visual Budget was among only 20 that received the iF gold award in recognition for an outstanding work of communication design. They will be announced on 28 February 2014 during the awards ceremony in Munich (Germany).

In the fall of 2013, Involution Studios of Arlington, MA, along with the Town of Arlington and Finance Committee members Annie Lacourt and Alan Jones, conceptualized a web application that provides an easier way to communicate complex municipal financial information. Involution donated all development services for this project, the first known municipal budget visual representation of its kind.

The initiative exemplifies the nation’s commitment to the international Open Government Partnership (OGP), a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance. President Obama has challenged agencies to “harness new technologies” and “solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public” and emphasizes a “bottom-up” philosophy that taps citizen expertise to make government smarter and more responsive to private sector demands.

AVB screen
AVB provides the next generation of accessibility in financial information that enables citizens to see, engage, and discuss.

The Visual Budget system converts the town’s revenues and expenditures to simple graphics and charts that describe Arlington’s finances. It also provides definitions for complex budgeting terminology, and includes a tool where residents can input their yearly property tax bill and find out exactly how the town spends their tax dollars. Taxpayers can learn about town revenues, expenses, and funds displayed in both graphical and tabular formats. What’s more, the system enables users to provide feedback and ideas, an essential component of empowering citizens with both information and a greater voice in decision-making.

Town Management Analyst Michael Bouton said he was happy to work with Involution’s creative team on the project. “It was a blank canvas,” Bouton said. “We came in with an idea and the conceptualization of it was them.” Involution designers Roger Zhu and Ivan Dilernia donated their time, and the company has made the code for the project available online for other town governments to use. An Arlington resident, Involution’s Creative Director Juhan Sonin was excited about the collaboration, saying “It’s a part of our civic responsibility as designers to get involved in the design of policy.”

Read what the Sunlight Foundation says about how the Arlington Visual Budget will be used in 2014.

About Involution Studios
Involution designs and builds exceptional software for innovative and visionary companies. We deploy small and experienced teams to create applications that are highly usable and appropriately beautiful. Our client list includes Apple, AstraZeneca, McAfee, Microsoft, Oracle, PayPal, Shutterfly, and Yahoo. For more information please contact info@goinvo.com or +1 617 803 7043.

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