Excellence in information design meets arts event listings at the New York Times

The New York Times has an entire department devoted to information design and data visualization. So it’s no surprise to find new examples of excellent design work almost daily on their web site.

Whether it’s election results, sales, Olympic times, carbon emissions, or [you name it] – the Times knows how to turn data into insight. And their creations are often works of art as well as analysis. See this overview of their 2012 output if you need some inspiration.

Event listings – and theatre shows in particular – is a personal information design interest of mine. All too often, simply answering the audience member’s simple question “What’s on?” proves much too hard. Either the interface is unbeautiful, or too technical, or larded to the gills with muffler sale offers, discount tanning coupons, etc.

Usually what’s missing is not the data, it’s “the last millimeter”: a simple and attractive user interface on your screen that gives life to the data. That is what makes all the difference.

Clunky web sites that repel rather than attract potential audience members have real world impacts. When it’s harder than it should be to see what’s on, fewer people turn out. These sites also look bad – inadvertently implying the shows advertised are similarly ill-conceived.

It doesn’t have to be this way. And leave it to the NYT to come up with yet another brilliantly simple yet comprehensive way to navigate the full theatre listings of a big international city – and thus remind us how easy this nut should be to crack.

Take a spin on their beautiful interface and see what you think.

The good…

It should be this easy to see what's on.
It should be this easy to see what’s on.

…the bad…

A traditional event listing grid that alienates the user after about 30 seconds.
A traditional event listing grid that alienates the user after about 30 seconds. A lot of the same data that the NYT view has, but without the all important high gloss finish of the last millimeter. What a difference…

…and the ugly.

Truly horrifying.
Truly horrifying.