Design + data = accessible urban policy

I’m a big fan of GOOD magazine (or at least their website) for its ability to make policy topics engaging and relevant and its cross-disciplinary approach to tackling challenges in cities, education, the environment, etc. etc. They devote quite a bit of content to design, and my news feed highlighted a recent bit they did on a new initiative undertaken by AIGA (the design world’s professional association). Called Design for Good, this engages graphic designers in efforts to use their talents to improve outcomes in their communities.

At the end of the day, what good is policy research if it’s not easily understood by stakeholders? The visual display of information can help overcome the accessibility gap. Moreover, it’s easy to see how the marriage of policy and design will become almost essential to effective communication: for one, we’re increasingly used to getting our information in snapshots (see: this blog), so it would follow that the best way to compete with ever-shortening attention spans is to make data look cool. Finally, the proliferation of infographics makes Excel-generated charts and graphs look tired and antiquated. (Infographics:Wii as Excel charts:Atari.)

Aligned with AIGA’s efforts is GOOD’s recent challenge to designers to redesign the report card. Think about how effectively this could show parents not just where their kids stand, but how their kids compare to their peers in the classroom, district, and maybe even students statewide. It would be interesting to see if making student-level data more accessible and digestible will result in a higher level of parental empowerment and engagement.

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