A framework began to emerge that used Lynch's physical wayfinding properites in a digital setting. Words like landmarks, routes, and nodes began to relate to information and the ways it which it could be organised. We fed the framework various topics to see how the definitions held up against a variety of contexts.
1. Information Landscape: an area containing nodes connected by routes; 2. Node: a piece of information; 3. Routes: the links between nodes; 4. Superlink: a personalised route between nodes; 5. Landmark: a universally recognisable reference point that orients the user within the information landscape; 6. Radius: a defined range of information around a node; 7. Layers: secondary categories that extend the information landscape.
At this stage we were starting to get bogged down with the theory of the whole thing and felt that physical models would help to make the conceptual framework more accessible, both for us and our partners.
Another way we began to move away from theory and into practice was mockups. Up until this point we had resisted marrying the system to a particular medium, but all signs pointed to it being an application.
With our partners happy with the framework, we moved on add interactivity to the design, and create a prototype populated with information from the Hoffman Centre.
One of the more enduring interactions we developed was a riff on Vannevar Bush's 'memex' device, where people would have the ability to save nodes of information as they explored a topic. Then, you could explore the topic chronologically – as you previously explored it – or, the nodes would organise themselves into a landscape view, and you could explore the topic according to the relationship of its constituent parts.
This organisation relies on the same function we devised to display information on Molecule's search results – force-directed graph drawing. Here, the system measures the similarity nodes based on the percentage match of keywords (tags) associated with each one, and plots them in 2D space accordingly.
A final touch we added was some branding to give the design a consistent, product-like feel; I came up with a name – Molecule – and logo design. This tied in with a narrative we had been following – each node or point of information is a standalone atom, and through exploring and arranging atoms in a particular configuration you create a molecule, each one unique to the person creating it.