• April 9, 2015
  • Josh

At Graphicacy, our clients approach us with information-rich topics that general audiences need to understand.

Aristotle believed that the most informative and persuasive experiences combine logos (facts), pathos (emotion) and ethos (credibility). We apply these principles by presenting data in an artistic way. With our interactives, we also allow users to test the data for themselves, or make the data more personal.

Although we specialize in bringing data and design together, we can also work on each end of this spectrum, from arts to charts, depending on the needs of our client and their audience.

I’d like to introduce some new projects we’ve worked on: the Center for American Progress, Afterschool Alliance, and Couple 3 Films.


Center for American Progress

Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the renowned Harlem Children’s Zone, once said, “All I ever wanted to do was save MY kids. Over the years, ‘MY’ just got larger and larger.” This quote resonated with me as we embarked on a new interactive project with the Center for American Progress (CAP). CAP wanted to make their 40-page report more easily understood for audiences who might not prioritize reading the original research, densely packed in the report pages.  In the report, the authors show the economic benefits of closing an academic achievement gap in US schools, which parallels soaring income inequality in US families. The academic achievement gap appears on an international exam that students take at the age of 15. On average, children from black and hispanic families score far below their white peers in math and science exams.

Researchers have shown that this exam is quite practical in nature, and measures skills fundamental for success in the workforce. By making sure we have policies that enable all children to have the resources at home to succeed at school, we’ll ensure future economic success. Research shows that the achievement gap in children begins to open well before the first day of school. Children who grow up with economic disadvantages often lack basic resources such as health care. They live in stressful home environments, and they are not as prepared to thrive in school as their more privileged peers. In a big-picture view, that means that our workforce, which will have many more people of color in it by 2050, will lack the skills it needs to thrive in the future economy.

When we first read the report and analyzed its data, the World Cup was taking place in Brazil. My colleagues and I were rooting for Team USA. Since soccer is popular amongst children in the US, I imagined all of the children in the US on the same youth soccer team. Some children would have many hours of practice and resources to help them achieve on the field, while others would lack access to the same extra practice and resources. To compete on the world stage, we wouldn’t train our Team USA with such unequal dedication. Why would we bring up our nation’s children that way?

To communicate this message, we created an experience that weaves together storytelling forms, allowing readers to understand the story step-by-step, and from multiple angles. This is a proven method of instructional design. The reader can view an explainer video about the topic, and then explore more detailed interactives, one of which leverages “the game of life” metaphor in a surprising yet concrete way. You’ll notice one interactive introduces a metaphor of falling marbles, colliding against milestones. The marbles land, simulating  childrens’ test scores in America today. I’ll be detailing our thought process here more in my next blog post.

Afterschool Alliance

For the Afterschool Alliance, we created a dashboard that allows readers to find and share information about afterschool programs in the US.  A heat map visualizes a nationwide survey of 30,000 people involved with afterschool programs. The dashboard, “America After 3 pm,” helps answer many questions like, “What are our children doing after school?” At the same time, the dashboard lives with data, updated with new special reports as they  arrive.

The user can see a nationwide view and compare survey results in a natural way that’s impossible to do in the original survey spreadsheets, and then delve into fact sheets about each state. Users can download printed fact sheets on each state as well. Client feedback has been great, and we’ll continue to improve the richness of the information and experience as we move forward.

These days, I believe visual approaches to complex information, which are useful and friendly, align with the needs of social media. A single tweet about our dashboard from the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, reached 1.2 million people.


Couple 3 Films

With filmmaker Noah Hutton and artist Charles  Floyd,  we helped create a film poster for “Deep Time.” This film, at once documentary and artistic, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Consider the poster art an homage to classic information graphics, evoking National Geographic Magazine. In “Deep Time,” core samples of terrain in North Dakota unearth an epic story of earth’s history. In the context of deep time, surprising voyagers in Earth’s history converge. Ancient epics like the Odyssey and Iliad may as well have happened yesterday.