posted by Paolo Ciuccarelli
Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Macroscopes and Visualization (again): a circular path

The Macroscope | Joël de Rosnay

Three years ago (almost), I discovered an interesting comment about the Places and Spaces: Mapping Science exhibition (2006 edition), curated  by Katy Börner (Indiana University, Director of the InfoVis Lab), and I found particularly interesting the quotation of John Thackara (author of In the Bubble: Designing for a complex world. 2005. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), talking about Macroscopes. In fact that metaphor is, in my opinion quite compelling if you want to talk about the quest for the ‘big picture’ (that actually is often our aim at DensityDesign).

So I investigated a bit and I found a previous book by our colleague (and friend of Thackara) Ezio Manzini (1989. The Materials of Invention: Materials and Design. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press) where the concept of the macroscope is used: «The quality of the mental image, which is the point of departure for the problem setting, and the overall map of the possible, whence one can progressively derive more detailed maps upon which to trace the path of the problem solving, originate with the macroscope», and finally I went back to the book of Joël de Rosnay (…), where the author hope for new tools to face the complexity of the world: «Microscope, telescope: these words evoke the great scientific penetrations of the infinitely small and the infinitely great […] Today we are confronted with another infinite: the infinitely complex. We are confounded by the number and variety of elements, of relationships, of interactions and combinations on which the functions of large systems depend. We are only the cells, or the cogs; we are put off by the interdependence and the dynamism of the systems, which transform them at the very moment we study them. We must be able to understand them better in order to guide them better. […] Now a new tool is needed by all those who would try to understand and direct effectively their action in this world, whether they are responsible for major decisions in politics, in science, and in industry or are ordinary people as we are. I shall call this instrument the macroscope (from macro, great, and skopein, to observe).»

Then we started using the idea of macroscope in our presentations (TEDx Italy 2009 – 11:00 – and Better Software 2010) and in some of our papers (itAIS 2010).

Now is quite interesting and even more motivating to see on one of the very recent paper from Katy Börner (2011. Plug-and-Play Macroscopes. Communications of the ACM. Vol. 54(3), 60-69, ACM Press) the concept and the metaphor of macroscope taken (again) into consideration!

posted by Veronica Clarin
Monday, April 4th, 2011

Digital cartography of international design

Today we show you the first result of the Digital cartography of international design project, developed using digital methods of research. This first exploration provides a general insight into the world of design, showing related actors and issues emerging from the research on the web.

The generic query “design” on produces 26 valid results out of the first 50. These selected results come from well founded sources and highlight different issues and themes related to design, providing a categorical description of design through entries in menus, tags and sections in the websites. The sources are mostly blogs, design firms, portals, communities and ezines, while the number of universities, non-profit organizations and museums is limited. In particular the first results for universities and design firms are after the 20th position in the ranking on

read more…

posted by Michele Graffieti
Friday, April 1st, 2011

Brain houses: three intérieurs stories

How about some new tangled world to lose yourself in? Come on, it’s spring and visual narratives are also made for that purpose.

DensityDesign proudly offers you this chance.
This time we’d like to do it, showing you what we did for Domus magazine. It’s a visualization called ‘Brain houses‘ and it is the intricate story of three “interiéurs” and their three auteurs.

Hope it will stir up your… brains.

Related project

Brain houses: three ‘intérieurs’ stories
posted by Veronica Clarin
Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Personal perspectives

Here you can find the videos made by students for the last exercise of this year’s DensityDesign lab course. Enjoy!

posted by Veronica Clarin
Monday, February 28th, 2011

Digital methods for communication design

The results of the second exercise of the DensityDesign lab course are online!

posted by Michele Graffieti
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

The ‘how-to’ trend: Greenpeace + DensityDesign

In a time when everybody seems to consider themselves suitable in telling everybody ‘how to’ do something, how to visualize this, how to visualize that, we cannot be less.
But, guess what? We are so much more self-confident than our colleagues around the world that first we give you the evidence that our ‘how-to’ guide is useful, and then we’ll explain you the method.

We’re very proud to present you our contribution in the latest Greenpeace campaign against FADs and purse seining.

Click here for the article on and a higher resolution version.

In less than three weeks they already persuaded TESCO (which was the worst tuna fisher in Greenpeace target list) to change their fishing methods.
This list of UK ‘bad guys’ in tuna fishing is made by six: 5 more to persuade.
As we are the most self-confident ‘how-to’ visualizer of the planet, we are sure our work will carry on helping Greenpeace to persuade all the others bad fisher.
Make your bet and stay tuned for the real how-to. We’ll post it here the next few days and it’ll look like the one we did from Boston, when we were invited to present our Map of the Future at Northeastern University: if you missed it or you want to refresh your memory, here you are.

posted by Luca Masud
Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Six Stories about Uncertainty | Open Day 2011!

The lack of certainty is a distinctive feature of our contemporary society: the variable economic trends, the unstable work dynamics, the commodification of job and the environmental issues are only few agents of uncertainty.

This current condition is enhanced by uncertain knowledge of the phenomena listed above: is there such thing as the economic crisis? Is the environment really in danger? Are fixed-term contracts synonymous with precariousness or flexibility? Are public schools and university at risk?

This year students tried to answer these question and will present their findings in a open to public presentation (a party-like one!) at the Politecnico di Milano.

You’re invited to come and share this day with us!

24th February 2011, 11:30 AM

CT48 – Building N
Bovisa Campus

Politecnico di Milano
Via Durando 10, 20158 Milan


posted by Michele Graffieti
Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Computer Arts interview

Today we publish an interview we made some time ago. Donato and I were asked about two projects (listed below) and, more generally, about our design approach and research laboratory. It appeared on Computer Arts Magazine, issue #141 and the interview was conducted by Julia Sagar, production editor for ‘Computer Arts Projects’.
Enjoy the read.

Oh and, by the way, happy new year to everyone, trusted followers.
read more…

posted by Luca Masud
Saturday, December 11th, 2010

DensityDesign is hiring!

DensityDesign is looking for a versatile developer with experience in data mining and interactive software prototyping to work on our research projects and tools development.
Check the opportunities section of our website to see the full collaboration description!

posted by Luca Masud
Friday, November 19th, 2010

Insecurity and its features

This year’s DensityDesign lab course at Politecnico di Milano focuses on the insecurity theme as a social dimension.

The lack of certainty is in fact a distinctive feature of our contemporary society: the variable economic trends, the unstable work dynamics, the commodification of job and the environmental issues are only few agents of uncertainty.

The educational purpose is to teach how to observe, understand and let others see what we have understood. The aim of the project is to facilitate policy makers and citizens in making more conscious decisions.

The first exercise of the course focused on the visualization of statistical data from official sources (e.g. ISTAT, the Italian National Institute of Statistics). The students (which were divided in groups and given a sub-theme each) had to both visualize this data and to create a system map which represents actor, relations and flows. You can see the results of their work on flickr!

All hope abandon ye who enter here | Personal Security