LAVA: A Design Language for Visual Analytics

Monday, May 8, 2017 - 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm

While the technical, business, and social environments surrounding the field of visual analytics are changing dramatically, the presentation and consumption of visual analytic content has remained relatively unchanged. Despite the influences of social media & collaboration, mobile computing, big and wide data availability, broadband internet, rich/responsive/standardized Web UI capabilities, and the performance increases from in-memory & columnar databases, visual analytic displays continue to rely upon free-standing charts, static dashboards, professional-grade “data discovery” tools, or expensive and finicky consumption solutions custom-developed for particular business purposes.

In his role as Chief Product Designer for Analytics at SAP, John Armitage led the effort to design a radically simple, massively scalable, and universally relevant method for presenting and consuming multi-dimensional business data using graphical visualization. Codenamed LAVA, the result was a foundational design language – an overarching scheme or style that guides the design of a complement of products or architectural settings – for use across the SAP business software suite. It was a chance to re-envision how we consume quantitative information, informed by the new realities of the 21st century. Its goal was to design a general purpose, navigable and manipulable quantitative environment, with a consumer-grade user experience, and little to no design or maintenance effort.

John will present LAVA in the form of its product design prototypes. An example of the Design Thinking approach to product innovation, LAVA’s development was led by a series of UI prototypes, and informed by periodic customer reviews and usability tests. John published his detailed account of the project’s journey, context, and results in the book Bringing Numbers to Life: LAVA and Design-Led Innovation in Visual Analytics. The book’s contents are available free via the Interaction Design Foundation.

Digital Product Designer and Design Practice Leader

John Armitage is a strategic digital product designer and design practice leader. Since entering the software industry in the early '90s, he has performed principal designer and team/practice leadership roles in various consulting and development organizations.

Since 2002 he has worked in the enterprise software arena, with user experience design teams at Peoplesoft, BusinessObjects, SAP, and Host Analytics. In six years at SAP, John designed new product and business concepts related to cloud computing, social media, collaboration, business networks, and visual analytics.

His 2016 book, "Bringing Numbers to Life: LAVA and Design-Led Innovation in Visual Analytics", portrays the results and design process of the LAVA visual analytic design language project conducted at software providers BusinessObjects and SAP from 2004-2014.

He studied liberal arts, graphic design, and business at Miami University in Ohio, and earned his MFA in graphic design from Rhode Island School of Design.