Saturday, February 7, 2015

Inspiration Is For The Birds!

"Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work."  ~ Chuck Close

I love that quote from artist Chuck Close, and firmly believe that the way to get better at anything is to just do it -- a lot!

Despite that, I often come across things that fill me, if not with inspiration exactly, then certainly with great admiration, and spur me on to make my work better.

Often these things draw from nature, and that's certainly the case for the two bird-related examples below:

The first is an app called Merlin, produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that allows you to identify birds through a few simple steps.

Merlin encompasses everything you could want in an app --- clean design, intuitive interfaces, and the capacity to dig deeper into information that interests you.  Merlin could easily serve as a model to designers and content developers everywhere for making scientific content more accessible.

Just answer five simple questions about a bird you are trying to identify, and Merlin will come up with a list of possible matches. The app customizes your list to the species you are most likely to have seen at your location and time of year.

Highly recommended!

The second noteworthy recent find is the website creating a digital version of John J. Audubon's Birds of America.  The Audubon website draws  from an 1840 “First Octavo Edition” of Audubon's complete seven volume text, and also presents the images and original text descriptions. Bird species can be found listed alphabetically, or categorized by family.  Audubon's drawings of some species' anatomical features are also included in a separate Figures section.  
There are also very high-resolution scans of the original plates. (Some of them are over 14MB in size!) These beautiful images are of such high quality that you can zoom in and see the amazing detail in Audubon's watercolors.

The website serves as another great example for ways of presenting powerful original materials through the thoughtful (and accessible!) use of digital tools.

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