Week 3 ends tonight and can I tell you this week got serious. Quiet forums, only one reading and no quiz might give us all a feeling that this week was easy breezy, but the truth (for me atleast) is that there was mayhem backstage. We had monster of an assignment and rest assured, it made me think and exercise my mind to crazy limits.
This week we were given a task to conceptualise the design for an interactive graphic based on this. The link was accompanied with this report. 5 days to skim through the report, understand and ponder over and sketch our assignment finally began to daunt me a little. Let me take this opportunity to say that the varying levels in the current representation of graphic done by guardian datablog doesn’t really work (but they have some great work too). Since the levels of ‘country’ and ‘organisaiton’ don’t have a common baseline you cannot tell their actual values.
Being a designer I often chose or have been lucky to work on topics that are interesting and not very data heavy (with the exception of Hollywood challenge in IIB). This assignment challenged the notion of doing convenient visualisations. The reality of dealing with relevant topics and enormous data can be attributed to this week’s assignment. One more thing I learnt was to strategically skim through BIG! reports to get relevant information from it. Now, back to the assignment:
From past weeks and this week I would like to list down a few points that resonate with me, everytime I approach any graphic now.
- What does the user want to know?
- What shape should the design take? Apt?
- Balance between form and function.
- If it’s an interactive graphic, does it have a summary layer, an option to filter details and details on demand.
With these points in mind, I began to target the problem. On skimming through the report, I came across a section that spoke about the different levels (namely activity, organisation and country) at which the different indicators work. I read few pages around this section and understood the story behind the data better. To sum it up quickly for you: there are 72 donors and with a new system the donors have 43 indicators at three level (activity, country and organization). Depending on whether the indicator was scored in those levels by our donors, their performance was measured.
SUMMARY LAYER | On top, a level that gives the summary of the story. The story on a broad level is ‘How transparent are the donors?’. There is an option to toggle between 2011-2012 to see how the percentage of transparency changed since last year. Point to be noted is that while the end result is still in percentage, the method to measure this result has changed since 2011.
DONOR | It drops down a list of continents for the users to select from. Users might be interested in knowing the performance of donors in their country or continent. 72 is a big amount to present in a list and it would be inconvenient to choose from 72 choices, so it makes sense to do a little homework and group them into continents.
BOTTOM SECTION | Clicking any of the bars would initiate the second level of information. At the bottom, each donor is explained in more detail. The break up of the donor’s performance in the three level is seen here. You can also see the current rank and the ‘step up’ or ‘step down’ of the donors’ ranking since last year.
There was a general feeling in the classroom and I also agree that some users might feel the need to know the amount of money spent at these levels. So, presuming that we can find that data, I accommodated that in the left bottom part of graph.
There are 72 donors for this list, the number is overwhelming and according to my learning from Lecture 2 by William Cleaveland and Robert McGill I decided to make the data set adopt visual shape of bar graphs. They are most intuitive and understandable for variables of this count.
The feedback for the rollover action on the bars at the bottom can give information like ‘the number of indicators scored at each level’.
One question I had was if I should give an option to compare another donor with the one you’ve selected? I am still not fully convinced about it, therefore you can’t see it on the sketch. Too many donors to choose from and why compare only 2? I am still thinking about this one.
While I thought about this assignment for one week, some of you might wonder is this the best way? The truth of the matter is that firstly, this is a course for conceptualising and processing rather than the form. Secondly,(I’m learning it now) it is important to let go the ‘moh’ (greed) of decorating graphics before perfecting its communication (this is not easy)
I don’t know if my submission shows it , but a good amount of brain wrecking went behind this shape. I am in no way saying that its the only option or the best option, but don’t judge the story by the looks of the graphic.