It is usually my practice to limit my image posting here to those things which I find pleasing and which I assume you might find pleasing as well. This is only natural. We all like pretty pictures. Today, however, it is my intention to post some decidedly ugly images, images which are so ugly, in fact, that they might correctly be called “the ugliest” images in existence. Don’t fret, they are not close-up proctological photos used for diagnostic purposes. Images of that nature are not meant to be pretty, but rather functional, and in the satisfying of that function do have a certain merit; No, the images I am about to show you were created by human hands to fulfill a purpose (like said proctological images) but to simultaneously be aesthetically pleasing as well. The ultimate statement on their awfulness is that they fail miserably on both counts, which is to say their ugliness is so great that it actually hinders their intended functionality. That is the definition of failure in design I’d say. Brace yourself…

“Best as I can surmise there are only two possibilities– meteorological hubris or graphical incompetency. Perhaps a combination of both.”

Aye. I think this is mostly it. Oh, and the spectacular - and inexcusable - tolerance most people seem to have for this sort of thing. It is just as easy to make an informative, attracive graphic; easier perhaps.

I am particularly impressed with how The Weather Channel goes that extra mile in what I can only assume is a deliberate – and hostile – choice to play relentlessly horrible music.

posted on 10.08 at 07:10 PMJane

Thank you. Sweet Jesus, I hope somebody listens.

For more terrible examples of unreadable graphics, try watching ‘Squawk Box’ any morning on MSNBC. Talk about an exercise in unnecessary elements. I have a fantasy where E. Tufte walks on-set and and performs an intellectual piledriver on the entire cast and crew.

posted on 10.08 at 07:14 PM.

Oh, and I don’t know if you alluded to this specifcially, but I particularly loathe the “fly-through” weather graphics. -Where you start out in, say, South Carolina, cruising at about 5000 ft through craptastic cloud and rain graphics until you finally reach New York, hovering in what I suspect must be a rather turbulent and disarming way.
I won’t speak for the rest of the world—but I typically experience weather from the ground.

posted on 10.08 at 07:23 PM.

And what’s with the completely RIDICULOUS names for the radar systems?


Live (LIVE!) DOPPLER 9000!


It is like desperately, tragically bad science fiction. If I were a weather forecaster, I would have to call my system the Illudium Pew-36 Explosive Space Weather Modulator VIPER STORM FORCE 9000!!!!

(Yes, all of the exclamation marks would be necessary and trademarked.)

posted on 10.08 at 07:46 PMJane

Dear old Mother Nature—so sweet, yet always ready to enact her vengeance. I fully expect to hear Kent Brockman’s phrase “Class Three Kill Storm” uttered, free of irony, on the news one day.

posted on 10.08 at 08:06 PM.

Clearly, the only thing between us and Vengeful Mother Nature is this elite meteorological force. Thank god they’re here for us.

Also thank god they don’t play any of this up by using headlines like “Mother Nature’s Wrath” and “Katrina’s Fury” because that would be over the top and undercut the serious work they’re trying to do.

Do they, I wonder, collpse in giggles during commercials?

posted on 10.08 at 08:37 PMJane

There’s a great system of weather infographics done by, of all things, the local newspaper in my old college town.  From what I gather, the system is all database-driven, and the meteorologists need only fill in the data.  Check it out:

posted on 10.08 at 09:12 PMmatt

The BBC knows how to do this sort of thing:

posted on 10.09 at 04:09 AMsimon

@matt & simon: I guess I neglected to mention in the main body of the screed that Television weather graphics professionals would do well to take a page from some of the web based weather services. In my estimation they do a far superior job, as you both point out.

posted on 10.09 at 08:52 AMjmorrison

Oh come now. Hypercolourized vibrating spasms of televisuometeorology are the only laboratory tested mechanisms by which the weather can be burnt successfully onto your remaining frontal lobe cells (the others are saved for our sponsors). The weather alone is facile and boring but with new improved technodribble you get the megasensualized feel of modern holisticaweather 2.0 to jackstart you into your day.

(Very well written piece nonetheless JM)

posted on 10.09 at 12:23 PMpeacay

That red/white one second from the top seems to be raining fish. That’s what we need: a Fortean Weather Channel. Or a Surrealist Weather Channel. Who doesn’t want to be warned when the chance of mimes is 70%?

By the way, the music is pretty much all Mellow Jazz. Imagine the kind of graphics you’d get on a hardcore punk weather channel? We’re talking flashing opposite colors, high-speed scrolling text, headlines pasted together from magazine cutouts, and and and and and scary, vampiric ragamuffin weather people in front of big maps of AmeriKKKa angrily forecasting a clampdown by the Man.

I’d watch the hell out of that.

posted on 10.09 at 04:43 PM.

I like how your poop illustration are slightly different shades of brown. Hey, that’s nature.

posted on 10.11 at 10:28

As Simon says, the good old BBC has got it right, but this was only after an outcry from the great British public when it dared to change its graphics.
What puzzled me was, on a recent trip to Florida, the ‘Doppler 9000 with live Viper’ shown on some local weather channel (the name escapes me), showed… nothing, zilch, zero… except for a whirling line. The accompanying muzak was worse than the graphic.

posted on 05.02 at 04:45 AM.

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