Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand | Audio

Episode 65: Cones of Uncertainty

The forecast cone used by meteorologists to show the possible path of a hurricane is also known as the cone of uncertainty. Like the twitchy gauge from 2016 election, it combines "precision with uncertainty in a maddening way," Michael says.

Jessica responds:

Design gives the illusion that you've created order out of chaos. And it is an illusion.... It's almost like design as a kind of national therapy at this moment of emotional, psychological, perceptual, unpredictable unrest in so many dimensions of what's going on. I don't know that we are deserving of the role of reassuring the public in this way, with curves and cones.

Also mentioned this week:
  • NPR, National Weather Service Adds New Colors
  • Scientific American, Visualizing Uncertain Weather
  • Investigative Reporters and Editors, Visualizing and Understanding Uncertainty
  • Alberto Cairo, In visualization, captions are as important as graphics themselves
  • Will Oremus, Slate, In Hurricane Forecasts, "Cone of Uncertainty" Is Surrounded by Haze of Confusion (2012)
  • On the Media, Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: U.S. Storm Edition
  • Joshua Stewart, San Diego Union-Tribune, Plaque honoring Confederate president quietly removed from Horton Plaza Park in San Diego
  • Erin Blakemore, The Atlantic, The Lost Dream of a Superhighway to Honor the Confederacy
  • Andy Newman and Vivian Wang, New York Times, Calhoun Who? Yale Drops Name of Slavery Advocate for Computer Pioneer
  • London Design Festival medals: Margaret Calvert winsMargaret Calvert wins Lifetime Achievement Award
  • More on Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinnear from the London Design Museum, British Road Sign Project, Wired
  • Alexander Todorov, Face Value
  • Alexander Todorov, Social Perception Lab

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    Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand Jessica Helfand, a founding editor of Design Observer, is an award-winning graphic designer and writer. A former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Eye and Communications Arts magazine, she is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale and a recent laureate of the Art Director’s Hall of Fame. Jessica received both her BA and MFA from Yale University where she has taught since 1994. In 2013, she won the AIGA medal.

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