Boundless Distortion

After reading the leaked news about Boundless Informant, reportedly the NSA’s ultra-awesome personal data portal, the most disappointing thing for me was finding out that they’re using a Mercator projection as their global view.

Even though most of us grew up with Mercator-flattened maps of the Earth in our classrooms, which I later learned to be a more distorted view than I can recall anyone ever telling us in the classroom. For example, it makes Australia appear quite small, and not nearly three times the size of Greenland, which it is. I didn’t expect the NSA to go all Gall-Peters, but the Army invented a much more accurate projection system in the 1940s, so why not use it?

Life is a constant struggle through cognitive biases of one kind or another. If no thought was given to how a depiction of the world might affect the biases of people using that system, then there is likely a world of bias echoing through the rest of their investigative interface. And if some people gave a lot of thought to how to depict the world and they chose Mercator’s distortions, that’s also interesting.

Apple, UX

Less Representational


Given the move in iOS 7 to less representational and a more abstract, simplified aesthetic, I was surprised at one development. I took a screenshot on an iOS 6 device to compare against what I saw in an iOS 7 screenshot, and the alert notifier — the tiny little clock-that-doesn’t-tell-time in the upper-right that lets you know you have a daily alarm armed and ready — in the newer version is only more clock-like, having acquired little knobs along its top.

Presumably these little knobs are meant to be alarm bells, relating the icon explicitly to the alarm and not the clock, but I find it an unnecessary distraction to have my eyes tickled by those little bumps every time I see them, versus the simplicity of the clock-that’s-not-actually-a-clock.

Still, it’s one of the only places I’ve seen so far in iOS 7 where the design did not move more toward the abstract.