Could use some eyes on this chart

27 Jan 2010 - 4:26pm
4 years ago
16 replies
860 reads
tdellaringa
2006

I've been working on this chart for awhile that has to do with my
comic. It supposed to explain some large events that happened in the
story via time travel. I could really use some more sets of eyes on
this thing, because it's driving me crazy!

It's also an exercise in information design for me, so it's not
just for fun. It's my first real attempt at info design in fact.

Anyway, I'd like to see if people can make heads or tails of it
without any explanation from me. I would love any comments, pro or
con. The info I'd give you is that the story takes place on Mars,
"Geborga" are Martian scientists and John and Lian are astronauts
that arrive later.

The design - colors, fonts, I still consider somewhat rough. I'm
trying to get the layout nailed first.

See it here:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/48702/timeline.jpg

Comments

27 Jan 2010 - 4:45pm
Rob Tannen
2006

Tom - I found the chart, with a few moments of review and reading, was
very clear. The one element that was not is the circular path where
the alternate timeline starts. Why is this not a straight line to a
new path, versus a circular path that seems to suggest travel in both
directions?

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27 Jan 2010 - 5:13pm
Jarrod Lombardo
2008

The new timeline starting at 0 instead of -40 is confusing. Also, as
Rob said, the circular path is unclear.

Since all of the other triangles on the paths correspond to specific
dated events, maybe you should remove the five on the new timeline
that don't correspond to specific events.

--Jarrod

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27 Jan 2010 - 5:55pm
Daniel Zollman
2009

I think the chart is clear, except that it doesn't specify whether
the numbers represent days, months, years, etc.

Also, is there any reason why someone would want to look at the chart
in order to track a particular character? The text expains everything,
but there are no visual clues as to the path of each individual
character.

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27 Jan 2010 - 6:09pm
tdellaringa
2006

Thanks for the responses! I realize I made a couple mistakes when I
changed some things in the alternate timeline. I wasn't sure if the
circle would confuse people or not, it seems half and half.

I'm open to suggestions as to what my help indicate a break from the
old and a creation of a new timeline in that spot. I could have just
made a straight line, I suppose. Here's what maybe people are not
getting:

0 - Travel Origin is where the Geborga start going back. They go back
40 years to -40. They make a change, and the new universe spawns.
That's the reason for the negative numbers - although I can see how
that might not make sense reading it top down.

They spend 24 years in the alternate universe, at which time things
work out, but they are starting to suffer weird effects. They need to
get back. They think jumping ahead 16 years will put them back at
year 0 again - travel origin. And things will be all fixed and they
are back where they started.

Instead they are yanked back to their "own" universe. Because the
universes are rushing away from each other though, time dilated (or
whatever) and they went WAY into the future of their old universe,
landing 432 years ahead.

So maybe if I had dates instead of /- figures - at least in the
original, that might help? (Numbers do represent years Dan.)

It would be nice if somehow you could kind of follow one path through
the chart, but it's hard to figure how to accomplish that. The tricky
part is the "lost" years from 0 - 432 in the original. I can see how
that is confusing to what is going on.

@Dan - I have to explain this at a high level in the comic. I'm not
sure if I am going to break this down and draw it to do that or what.

I suppose I could make various versions based on which character you
tracked. That might help things. Thoughts?

Thanks for the great feedback, this is a pretty difficult thing to
get my mind around.

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27 Jan 2010 - 6:14pm
tdellaringa
2006

Thanks for the great feedback Sabine. I agree a Legend would help. I guess I
kind of wanted to avoid that if possible, maybe as others suggested, a
single character path might help.

Some comments below:

On Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 4:56 PM, sabine morrow <designsalsa at gmail.com>wrote:

>
> 1. In the original universe, the starting point is time 0 (zero). You can
> move back in time and what appears to be forward in time. But what is
> confusing is that at +15 you describe "Geborga travel *back* in time to
> build...". It would be intuitive to think "+15" is moving ahead in time, not
> backward.
>

Maybe I should just use dates - that might be easier?

> 4. The travelor moves ahead in time in the alternate universe and some
> event happens and I end up back in the original moving ahead in time. They
> return to the original but there is gap from where they left the original
> and ended up in the alternative to where they are back in the original. A
> time warp?
>

They try to go back to year 0, they get sucked back to their original
universe, far ahead of their target date, where they find their world
ruined. The alternate universe continues, but without them.

>
> 5. What is the time spread? According to your chart, because alternate path
> is on diagonal, I would think time accelerates in the alternate like is
> shown in the original - you go from +19 to +432. Maybe the original path
> should be on diagonal and the alternate path is completely vertical to
> indicate the jump forward in time with the travelors jump back into their
> original universe.
>

Because they are moving away from each other, time is distorted and when
they return, that accounts for all the added time. The gap from 19-432 is
the "time distortion."

>
> 6. In sum, travelors go back in time, and end up in alternate universe but
> they don't realize it. They try to come back to their time zerom, which
> triggers their acceleration forward into their original universe? Not sure
> that is what you intended. But at +24 in the alternate, the caption
> discusses +16 years but that does not match up across the grid to the
> original. It would definately help to have legend explaining the
> calibrations - what they are in each universe and how they relate from one
> universe to another.
>

24 + 16 = 40. They are trying to get "back" to 40 years total. I realize
that is not clear though.

> 7. As regards design, try using more visual cues - different font for
> alternate universe, color code the time calibrations to show at exactly at
> what point the travelor crossed from one universe to another. Font is a
> little plane. Maybe use boxy, tech font for this futuristic, sci-fi theme?
>

I will definitely try and add more visual cues and I iterate this.

Thanks for the feedback I will post back an updated version!

Tom

27 Jan 2010 - 9:01pm
Joshua Muskovitz
2008

I really like it, but wan to echo some confusion.

It seems like the orange line should go up and curve back down, but
should not include a loop there, unless they are actually circling in
time there (the notes don't imply this).

It think the confusion about the numbering is that they aren't
absolute values, but rather relative to the time travelers
themselves. The numbers represent their own perception of the passing
of time. This is why the zero point where they begin their time travel
matches to their arrival 40 units in the past. (There is an
implication here that the time travel is instantaneous for them. Is
this correct?)

Another point of confusion comes from the fact that the timelines are
not scaled linearly, and so correlations between the lines at
horizontal points are inaccurate. (more in next post.)

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27 Jan 2010 - 9:05pm
tdellaringa
2006

On Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 6:13 PM, Jonathan Rez <jonathan at rez.com.au> wrote:

> Tom hi,
>
> My two cents' worth...
>
> > Ground rule: Add a title to the page/chart
> > Flip the chart, so that negative values are towards the bottom of the
> page, not the top.
> > Minute detail. because you are using the minus symbol, it may be good to
> avoid dashes, for example in "0 - Travel Origin"
> > Triangles along the path infer one way, but you're describing a going
> back in time scenario.

Revisiting the diagram (but not deleting my last comment) it reads like once
> I'm on the orange line I'm in the alternate timeline, but what you'e saying
> is that I'm in the alternate timeline once I reach -40. In addition, is the
> duration of going back in time the same as moving forward, or are they
> jumping back in time? According to the current visualisation it's the same.
> If it is a time jump then a different line style should be used, eg: thin,
> dotted (green, as we're not yet in the alternate time space) or gradient
> from white to green to indicate fast motion.
>

I guess they start at 0 being on the orange timeline, and in hindsight that
reads oddly - they are going back but not yet on the alternate. Good points.
The idea of having the time jump be visually distinct is a good one I think.

> > To make it more coherent it would help if points in the parallel time
> space were horizontally aligned with points in the original time space, i.e.
> a base line time grid where +19 is parallel to +19
> > And while it's a big challenge, see if you can make distances reflect
> time span rather points in key points in the story.
>

I don't think I'll have the room for that. I planned on indicating breaks
where big gaps are.

> > If the new time space start at zero, the current diagram shows they are
> loosing 40 years between the time they start the new time space and the time
> they reconnect to the original time space.
>
> See rough draft attached....
>
> As you say, this is information design – why are you posting this to IXDA?
>

Good input, thanks. Posted here because I knew I'd get good feedback, and I
did :)

27 Jan 2010 - 9:08pm
Joshua Muskovitz
2008

In the original green timeline, the distance from -40 to -25 (15
units) seems to correspond to 0 to 3 in the new orange timeline.

As I said, I like it. I wasn't even a little confused about the 408
unit jump, but I read a lot of time-travel related stories. Even so,
if it didn't cost them any personal time to travel back 40 units in
their original timeline, it should be made clear that they return to
432 when they are only aged 24, right? So they are returned to their
own timeline, but way in the future, but without serious personal
aging. Right?

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27 Jan 2010 - 9:46pm
Alan James Salmoni
2008

Tom,

What's this graph about? (i.e., where's the title?) I'm probably
being presumptuous but I like graphs to be stand-alone things that
don't need reference to information outside. Is it in the document
that the graph is embedded in? If so apologies.

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27 Jan 2010 - 5:26pm
jakecressman
2009

Cool stuff, but I couldn't figure it out.

Here are some notes:

-Timelines are usually horizontal. Forward in time is left to right.
You may want to stick to convention when explaining something out of
the ordinary.

-Are the numbers in years? They need a label.

-The two timelines should be easier to compare. Try aligning the
increments of one time line with the increments of the other. Thus,
you could see how events on one are different from events on the
other.

Thanks for showing this!!!

-Jake

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28 Jan 2010 - 8:43am
tdellaringa
2006

If anyone knows how to remove a post in a thread - Jonathan didn't
want his email on the site. I can't seem to do it.

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29 Jan 2010 - 12:11pm
oliamwright
2010

I left some comments about it here http://tinyurl.com/ybu2kqn

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1 Feb 2010 - 4:39pm
tdellaringa
2006

Thanks for the comments I haven't responded to yet. I'm working on
revising it with many of these things in mind.

@Oliamwright - can't see any comments at that link :(

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2 Feb 2010 - 5:51pm
tdellaringa
2006

Took a lot of your comments into account, as well as some of my own
thoughts. I tried to vastly simplify things. Here is an update, be
glad to hear any thoughts.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/48702/timeline2.jpg

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2 Feb 2010 - 6:35pm
tdellaringa
2006

On Tue, Feb 2, 2010 at 5:12 PM, J. A. Fitzpatrick <jafitz at gmail.com> wrote:

> My only real confusion point in the original version was lining up the jump
> back to the original timeline, and the new version fixes that completely.
>
> Personally, I think the legend is confusing rather than helpful. Otherwise,
> it looks great :)
>
> Cheers,
>
> Jean-Anne
>

Great, thanks Jean-Anne! I only threw the legend in there because it was
suggested, but I tend to agree. I don't think it really helps.

2 Feb 2010 - 7:17pm
Adam Korman
2004

This orientation and numbering is much easier to follow, but a few
things still stand out for me:

1. Using timelines implies that the dates are laid out to some sort of
scale, but they aren't. For example, the distance between 1642 and
1646 (4 years) is about the same distance as between 1646 and 2059
(419 years). So, it looks like the placement of dates on the timelines
is driven by the text layout of the associated descriptions. Instead,
I think you need to first lay out the dates on the timeline in a way
that makes sense without the descriptions (which doesn't have to be
exactly to scale), then find a way to add the text descriptions within
that framework.

2. That the alternate timeline is at an angle suggests that time is
progressing at a different rates on the two lines, but it seems that's
not the case, since 1627 lines up vertically. Either it needs to be
clearer that time is progressing at different rates, or just use
parallel lines.

3. It seems the dotted line for the "targeted return" should drop down
to the original timeline.

Regards, Adam

On Feb 2, 2010, at 2:51 PM, Tom DellAringa wrote:

> Took a lot of your comments into account, as well as some of my own
> thoughts. I tried to vastly simplify things. Here is an update, be
> glad to hear any thoughts.
>
> http://dl.dropbox.com/u/48702/timeline2.jpg

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