Skip to main content

Understanding Data – A Design Exploration of Graphic File Representation

Master thesis by Dorothée Stietz

Bild mit verschiedenen Dateien in unterschiedlichen Dateiformaten. Die Dateinnamen lauten zum Beispiel "icon1.jpg" oder "iconset.psd".
Organisational Unit:

The master thesis "Understanding Data" deals with the design of graphic file representation.

30 years after the introduction of the personal computer, we operate with an almost unchanged file representation, in the form of an objectified document sheet. Once integrated as part of the desktop metaphor for office workers, this graphic thought aid is now an outdated, unnecessary rudiment, and its objectified metaphor raises more information visualisation problems than it is capable of solving.

My work seeks and explores alternative visualisation possibilities, uncovering the potential of file meta-information to visualise files.

While conventional file visualisation does not reveal any information about the file content other than the file type, visualisation using file meta-information creates individual, characteristic as well as easily comparable file representations.

The explored meta-information includes file size, processing time, work activity, file age and some more. In my work, these attributes were considered both in isolation and in combination and implemented with the help of static and interactive information visualisations.

The result is an explorative collection of simple as well as avant-garde design approaches that show the visualisation possibilities and can be seen as a pool of ideas. The resulting solutions offer the potential to be transferred into interface solutions in a next step.

Project participants

Project management

Boris Müller

Prof. Boris Müller

Professor für Interaction Design

Project management


Dorothée Stietz