Tag Archives: information design

What does Barcelona look like? – Los Ojos del Mundo

One of the few annoying features of my iPhone is the question it asks every time I want to use its camera: “Camera would like to use your current location. ‘Don’t allow’ / ‘Ok'”. Being a bit of a surveillance paranoid I routinely ‘Don’t allow’, but thanks to the hundreds of thousands of people who do, and mostly, thanks to those who upload their pictures to Flickr and tag them, the researchers at MIT SENSEable City Lab have come up with a fantastic piece of data visualisation. In collaboration with Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the Barcelona Disseny Hub, they have developed Los Ojos del Mundo, with two projects based on pictures taken by both tourists and locals in Barcelona: Spaces of Diversity maps Britons weaving their path in Barcelona; and Spaces of Activity tracks photos from Barcelona with tags related to ‘partying’.

So, what do tourists go for? No surprises there:

Britons who visited Barcelona in Fall 2007 stayed on the beaten paths delimited by the city’s main elements such as Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia,  with Passeig de Gracia and Rambla acting as artery. The photos also confirm their pleasure for football (Camp Nou) parties (Forum) and the mediteranean sea (Barceloneta).

And what about partying?

tags related to “partying” in Summer 2007 shows that Barcelona confines its fun to the old town (Ciutat Vella) known for its high density of tourists, the bohemian distric of Gracia and the Forum area and its music festivals.

Spaces of activity (where are the parties?) from senseable on Vimeo.


Saving the Signs

Fundación Signes is promoting a campaign to save old shop signs that are at risk of disappearing. They are encouraging people to send pictures and note the exact locations, and have started building an online collection which already has some beautiful examples. It’s a great initiative and a particularly urgent one in cities like Barcelona, whose obsession with urban face-lifts and modernisation is creating an increasingly sterile environment. My recurrent nightmare, after a few months back in Barcelona, is that very soon there won’t even be a stretch of pavement left that is older than a decade or so. What this city needs is a Campaign for the Preservation of Grime and Urban Patina.

Another wonderful ongoing online project is José Antonio Millán’s Abecedario Industrial y del Comercio, which showcases hundreds of images of letters taken from commercial signs around Spain (mostly in Catalunya). Millán’s selection showcases the best – and worst!- of anonymous design’s creative drive, highlighting letters that try to represent the objects and services advertised. A fantastic overview of outsider typography.

La Vanguardia offers open online access to its archives


Instances of the word 'diseño' in La Vanguardia, 1881-2008

Barcelona’s major broadsheet newspaper, La Vanguardia, has opened up its archives (Hemeroteca) and now offers free online access. The full content ranges from 1881 onwards, can be searched by keyword, topic or date and downloaded as .pdf files.

As an interesting feature to note, the results interface offers a detailed interactive visual timeline of the number of occurences of the search word throughout La Vanguardia’s archives. A search for ‘diseño’ (design), for instance, reveals a striking development in the use of the word.

Its first noticeable appearances coincide with the 1920s / 1930s and the rise of Spanish modernism, and diseappear by 1936, at the start of the Civil War. The 1950s see a very slow, small but steady return of the word, whit its use growing noticeably from the mid 1960s. Between 1976, the start of the Spanish political transition, and 1989, the surge in the appearance of ‘design’ in the newspaper is extraordinary, from 1,194 instances in 1976, to 4,670 in 1989. After a short trough, usage peaks by the late 1990s, with 5,597 appearances in 1999.  Perhaps most surprisingly, there is a very sharp drop from 2000, and current levels of usage in 2008 are only equivalent to those of 1986, the height of the Barcelona design boom.

As I’ve suggested in La Barcelona del diseño, design and the city had a special relationship between the late 1970s and the late 1990s, which seems to have now lost some of its historical relevance.

And here is some eye candy from the archives:


Advertisement for clothes and underwear manufactured with synthetic fibers. May 1952.


Advertisement for Muebles Malda, one of Barcelona's furniture retailers. June 1966.


'We can't all use the same furniture'. Advertisement for Muebles La Favorita, one of Barcelona's furniture retailers. October 1973.


The FAD Industrial Design Delta Prizes of 1976. Images of designs by Miguel Mila, Jose Bonet and Studio Per.


January 1977. Barcelona Design Centre (BCD) moves to larger premises.


Colour supplement, July 1992: ‘The Games of the imagination. The Olympic project becomes the inspiration for the design of hundreds of objects’. In the main picture, Andre Ricard, designer of the olympic torch.

Speaking of Barcelona

Yale information designer Edward Tufte introduced us all, many years ago, to the joys of graphically stunning data visualisation. Now IBM’s beta software Many Eyes is available online for anyone to use, offering various alternatives for the graphic organisation of data. One of its most appealing features is the text visualisation option, which crunches through a text file and turns it into word clouds or tree structures, according to the number of instances any given word appears in the text. The ‘Wordle’ (see picture above) and ‘Cloud’ visualisations are informative and pretty, but the ‘Tree’ structure allows for specific word searches within a text and then presents a schematic visualisation of its structural use throughout the text.

I have uploaded two files of recent speeches by Barcelona’s Mayor Jordi Hereu, curious to see what the official vision of the city actually looks like. Not surprisingly, words such as ‘social’, ‘public’, ‘services’, ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘creativity’ loom large.

Most of the visualisations are interactive, you can visit the page here and play around with them – searches for specific words in the Word Tree are especially rewarding.