the works of justin edmund

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visually Interaction Design August 2010

What do the things you share say about you?

There are many image bookmarking services on the web today. Typically, they're geared towards creative people and allow them to share the cool images they find on the internet with friends. In many instances, the user can just submit a link to a JPEG and be done. What happens if someone finds that link and wants to find the creator to look at more of their work, or read the blog entry that featured the image? In most cases, the user has to either put on their hunting boots or move on.

visually is a media bookmarking tool that helps people save interesting visual content on the internet. It also has a heavy focus on information and attribution. The goal of the project is to help people keep track of content they love, and at the same time, begin to collect visual trends by gathering information about how people perceive and process visual information. By doing so, visually hopes to become an avenue for discovering the unique visual cultures of people and places around the world.

visually is built upon the idea of "visual cultures." The term describes the visual tendencies of a group of people. There is strong reason to believe that visual culture differs not only from social circle-to-social circle, but also from geographic location to geographic location. It could be influenced by the social, political, and economic happenings in the geographic location of a user. Are the kinds of images and video that people look at and save in Shanghai different from the things that people look at in New York City? While research in this field has been done before by Komar and Melamid, it was in a time that predated the popularization of the internet. visually is an information aggregation platform to allow research of this phenomenon.

visually is also built around the idea of "information recycling." By collecting data about the visual things that people like, the system should be able to process this and give the user back valuable information. The information that results is two-fold: information about the user's social circle, and information about the user's visual culture.

visually was in sparse development from 2008 to 2010. It began as a summer project to build myself a personal ffffound, but quickly grew into a product that many friends wanted to use. It was eventually opened to Carnegie Mellon University students and had an invite system for people to invite their friends. Shortly afterwards, I started fresh with a new build with a new design.

There has been an extensive research and branding phase. In the summer of 2010, the product was rebranded for the redesign. Previously using Helvetica Neue, the brand typeface has changed to Silas Dilworth's Breuer Text, an elegant and universal sans-serif with a hint of character. visually is intentionally devoid of color so that the interface does not distract the user from the focus of the site: visual content.

The process of making visually has been just as important as the code. The application has gone through several iterations and I've learned a lot just from going back and looking at the process. It has helped me keep track of my goals with the project, as well as come up with new directions for the future.

visually is no longer in active development, but you can view the content at http://vi.sual.ly/.