I’m a sucker for good design. You might not guess it when you see me; I’m often a bit disheveled, not nearly as stylish as I’d like, slightly sweaty and wind-blown, fresh off my bike. But a simple graphic or crisp image can inspire me to think and speak more concisely. Fortunately for us all, there are other people who appreciate good design and are good at producing it. It’s not just these works’ innate beauty, but their ability to turn complex data into useful information that makes them so powerful.
The US Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration recently held a student data visualization contest. Students from the US were tasked with combining data visually from various sources to make compelling policy statements. The two winning graphics were recently announced: Infrastructure Financing Policy Simulation and Visualization Model and Bicycle Commuting Trends in the United States.
GOOD.is has been a master of infographics in my opinion, producing both printed-page and interactive graphics covering a plethora of topics for broad consumption. The winning student graphics don’t quite match the level of attention to aesthetic detail as GOOD’s, but still they are useful. Most importantly, the contest makes the statement that the Federal government is invested in promoting design; that it recognizes that often it’s not what you say but how you say it that matters for influencing decision-makers.
In my experience, the ability to take complex data and churn it into simple information is a rare and valuable skill. Students and professionals pursuing development should seek opportunities to practice it.
- Terra Curtis