The New Mediators header image 1

Figuring Diagrams

The aesthetic for the New Mediators was not so much planned as it was figured out, literally. I spent the summer of 2008 as a fellow practicing in New York with UNICEF’s Innovation & Development team. While there, I began creating diagrams for my own personal understanding of some pretty complicated media systems we were developing. At a meeting I was asked to present the diagram, and we proceeded to have a discussion over it. We began using the diagrams at subsequent meetings, and I was soon asked to create system diagrams for other projects.

Creating these diagrams was an interesting process, unlike any project I had before. Not only was my goal to communicate how an unbuilt system was supposed to work, but to also figure out what exactly the system was. The diagrams served to make the teams’s often crazy ideas understandable, and were useful as the only tangible aspect of these systems which hadn’t yet be built. I felt that I was onto something when the technical project manager informed me that the diagrams had helped him significantly with the system architecture.


Upon returning to Los Angeles, I gave myself a daily exercise: spend 30 minutes creating an illustration. I did this for several days before deciding to record the drawing. Using screen capture software, I began recording myself in Photoshop and Illustrator. Some days later, I decided to watch the drawing from the previous day, but found the experience frustrating. After time-lapsing the recording into a 90-second clip, I watched and was captivated. Not only was it entertaining to watch illustration process, it was actually more interesting than the finished illustration.

It occurred to me that the video of the drawing being drawn was a more compelling “object” than the drawing itself. I named the series Process as Drawing, shifting the focus to the act of illustration, where the finished drawing is merely a byproduct. At this point, the manner in which I illustrated took on a new importance, for not only did the shapes and lines communicate their regular qualities: size, color, proximity, repetition, etc., but they also took on temporal qualities: the order in which they were drawn, the amount of time drawing them (slowly and carefully or quick and rough), the tools used, mistakes made, etc. This very self-aware process also afforded the opportunity to build relationships between different design elements over the process of the illustration. For example, three circles drawn in a bean pod at the beginning could eventually be dragged away form each other to form the heads of three men, creating a relationship among the men in a way unique to the recorded medium.

This idea of finding use in the process is also explored in the piece Tangible Interactions »

While researching for the Crisis of Credit, I found myself approaching new financial concepts by trying to transform them into symbols. Looking through the lens of symbols can be a powerful, if not overly reductive, way to approach new material. A profound understanding is needed in order to distill a concept into a symbol. I believe that the design language explored in the New Mediators has the potential to be used as a facilitative thinking device. The first step in theis direction is the Stimulus: Unpacked project. Additionally, my process for understanding the credit crisis began to resemble a form of narrative analysis.

The Stimulus: Unpacked »

Designing Narratives »