Data Mural Process

Our story-finding and visual design process for the Food for Free mural was an interesting contrast to my ongoing data design process for an upcoming environmental health community meeting.

I’m currently in the process of designing data shirts for individuals who participated in an environmental health study and contributing to the overall data story that will be told at a community meeting in the next few weeks.  There are a few notable differences I’ve seen between our processes:

(1) The environmental health process is much slower than the Food for Free design process.  I’d attribute this to the acceleration of the Food for Free process and the complexity of the environmental health data.  much much larger.  The data cleaning and data culling step has been months in the making for the environmental health data.

(2) The environmental health process involves more independent individual work, with occasional reports to the group and group brainstorming sessions.  The balance in the Food for Free process was the reverse: we worked occasionally as individuals, but more often in small groups or as a whole class.

(3) The Food for Free story is more narrative based than the environmental health data story which is more exploratory.  Again, this is partially a function of the data and aims–for the environmental health data we are providing personalized data to each individual while keeping the foundational design static.  The limits the space for individualized storytelling.  But, the community messaging section of the environmental health reportback is more narrative based like the Food for Free story.

(4) The environmental health artifacts land more in the “science” than “story” aesthetic.

There are also a few similarities:

(1) Neither process directly involves “users” (e.g. study participants or Food for Free recipients) for sustained periods of time.  Some user testing was done for the environmental health artifacts, but users were not part of the design team.

(2) Both the mural and the data shirts are static non-interactive single frame designs.  Some of this is a function of the chosen medium (e.g. interactivity is more challenging with physical, not digital, objects).  A second part of the environmental health reportback involves online materials that include many of the components mentioned in Segel (consistent visual platform, multi-messaging, details on demand…)


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