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Unlike traditional information visualization, ambient information visualizations reside in the environment of the user rather than on the screen of a desktop computer. Currently, most dynamic information that is displayed in public places consists of text and numbers. We argue that information visualization can be employed to make such dynamic data more useful and appealing. However, visualizations intended for non-desktop spaces will have to both provide valuable information and present an attractive addition to the environment - they must strike a balance between aesthetical appeal and usefulness. To explore this, we designed a real-time visualization of bus departure times and deployed it in a public space, with about 300 potential users. To make the presentation more visually appealing, we took inspiration from a modern abstract artist. The visualization was designed in two passes. First, we did a preliminary version that was presented to and discussed with prospective users. Based on their input, we did a final design. We discuss the lessons learned in designing this and previous ambient information visualizations, including how visual art can be used as a design constraint, and how the choice of information and the placement of the display affect the visualization.
Date of Conference: 21-21 Oct. 2003