January 1, 2010

The Most Important Number: A Project of Curiosity Researched, Written and Visualized by Design Firm Tandemodus


It’s great to discover people who engage interests and turn them into creative projects outside of their client work. These are projects that take on a piece of subject matter and explore it to whatever degree. One such project is “The Most Important Number” which is part of an aptly title series called “Curiosities.” The poster-publication was initiated and made by Tandemodus, a “small, client-focused” design firm. Here are thoughts by Andy Eltzroth, one of the firm’s Founders and its Strategy Director, about the project that began with simple observations which segued into a more substantial exploration:

Can you please tell a little bit about yourself?
Partner for Chicago based strategic design firm Tandemodus. We help our clients communicate ideas through conception, design, and production of brand and identity programs, print, digital and other forms of visual communication.

From your publication’s Preface, Project 23.5 “originated as a simple documentation idea and grew into much more.” Why do you think documenting is important? And how was the connection made between documenting nature with “The Most Important Number” 23.5?
We love of our unique view of downtown Chicago. We thought it would be an interesting exercise to document the change of the season from our office, tracking the color change and loss of the leaves, as well as the interesting weather patterns that the lake can cause. We work with content and data daily and wondered what type of insight this data might provide us. It was designer Adam Katz who started tracking additional information such as temperature and compared it to historical weather data. On several occasions we discussed the best way to display the data and communicate this compelling story. That story and connection became clear when initial research on seasonal change brought to light the number 23.5. His simple curiosity and research uncovered a topic that was completely new and fascinating to us.

Besides using a Nikon D70 mounted on a tripod for documenting nature, what other tools and materials were used to work on the idea and make it grow?
The internet was the primary tool used to expand the concept. The design exploration was fairly quick, the majority of the time was spent collecting supporting data for the 23.5 concept and tying it all together.

What was the most rewarding part of making Project 23.5?
The idea of self initiating a project and seeing it take shape the way it did. Having the project elected for for 365: AIGA Year In Design was exciting as well, always nice to be recognized by your peers.

Was there a part of the work that was particularly trying and how did you deal with it?
Pairing down the data and overall content into a cohesive and interesting presentation, always a challenge but something we truly enjoy and in many cases seek.

What is your advice to nurture curiosity and turn it into a project?
A big part of what we do as graphic designers is research, explore and most importantly experiment. So my advice would be to do just that, start by gathering information and content on a topic that interest you and see where it takes you. Compelling content results in great design no matter the topic.

Your publication “The Most Important Number” is the first volume of a series called Curiosities. Any future topics you’re planning to pursue on the theme of Curiosities?
Yes, unfortunately busy schedules and a lack of time gets in the way of our curiosities. Two topics we have discussed include a study on 140 character narratives from twitter that evaluate the current soundbite culture. The other titled “The Critical Mile,” which tracks time, cost and mental health from utilizing public transportation versus driving, pretty interesting thus far, just not enough data.

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Image of Project 23.5’s front cover (photolog), 17.75 x 23.75 in., courtesy of Tandemodus.