Where Does Inspiration Come From?

As a kid, I used to fantasize about being able to transport myself anywhere with a blink and a nod like Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie or to clean my room with the wiggle of my nose like Samantha on Bewitched or to someday have Uhura's job from Star Trek.

Yes, it did seem like Uhura was a glorified switchboard operator (an un-glorified, mind-numbingly boring job that I did eventually do), but mostly I was fascinated by the computer screens all around her.

Since that time, I've continued to pay attention to the computer screens in Sci-Fi movies (never could get too excited about the panels in Star Wars) and the ones on Star Trek have gotten more and more intricate and beautiful over the years.

It seems I'm not the only one fascinated by Sci-Fi computer screens. There's websites dedicated to this strange fetish.

I was recently blown away by the computer screens in Guardians of the Galaxy (great '70s music from my youth as well). I was particularly tickled by the seemingly mashed together glass screens on Yondu's spaceship, never mind that I fell in love with his skin color. Not too many men can pull off that color and still be pretty-as-an-angel-manly.

Check out the whole project by Territory Studio.

You have to scroll through the different dashboards on the site - some are stunningly beautiful and intricate, using colors I would never have thought would work. But mostly it's the placement of items, the balance and detail that are fascinating. Pay particular attention to the space without elements. Why is it empty? (Yes, someday there will be a quiz on this.)

Recently, I came across a cool project by Audi.  It's a brochure that you get when you buy the car and by sliding your smart phone over the chips on the brochure, your phone will display information about your vehicle.

I recommend watching the video, it's amazing.

I've done some dashboard work for automotive manufacturers and learned about how computerized our vehicles have become.  Not just the GPS information, but the number of sensors and volume of information collected is amazing.

I've had numerous friends and family members show me the dashboards that they are able to view while inside the car, but I know there's a lot more information that isn't shared.  Wouldn't it be cool if you could have a dashboard about your driving experience/behaviour collected from all those sensors? Not necessarily one you would use while in the car, but one that you could check out on your pc or tablet.

So....   I built a concept dashboard based on a bit of my experience from a dashboard for a client, a bit from my love of spaceship screens, a bit from the Audi project, and a bit from the information that I think I'd be interested in knowing.

This just scratches the surface of the type of info I'd like to be able to interact with, but making realistic mock data is a huge pile of work. Probably the most important piece would be MPG, and I think that would warrant a whole dashboard to itself - as well as a connection to weather data. For that I would use a land map rather than the hexmap (thanks to Brittany Fong, aka DataBender and Matt Chambers, aka SirVizALot who've made hexmapping an art project).

Inspiration is a truly personal thing; what floats my boat may not work for you. Your sources do not have to be in the 'data viz' or dashboard world. Pay attention to other design sources or image layouts, use of color, font, logic, etc. These things all translate to training your eye and pushing yourself out of your rut (we all get in ruts - ever notice how many people have the same hair style they had in high school?).

Have fun!