Pocket India is a re-design of a previous project about displaying a variety of types of data concerning a country. The previous project, developed under the studio environment at Northeastern University’s Information Design & Visualization program, was a large-format print poster. The re-design sought to alter the size of the poster, improve and add to the content to develop the concept, and focus the aesthetic into a cohesive product.
The Previous Product
The Updated, Re-Designed Product
The Re-Design addresses the following issues/considerations:
- Format/Size: With such a large format ( 21″ x 40″ ) is the typography and visual form accessible? Does the format use its size effectively? What does the size of the poster imply in terms of audience?
- Clarify Audience: Who is looking at this information? What is their frame of reference and familiarity of India? What questions are they going to consider first when introduced to the topic?
- Enable Visual Comparisons: Does the visual forms enable comparisons and yield information?
- Aesthetic Decisions: What tone does graphic design set? Does the various modules feel cohesive? What traditional forms can altered/amended to improve memorability?
With those topics in mind, the re-design went through many iterations.
Format: Smaller, Folding
The issue with the previous large poster is that it invites visibility when it is hung on a wall. This action creates a physical space in which the content can be consumed publicly and/or socially. The design, as it was, did not accomplish that. The folding layout was utilized to create an intimacy with act of reading the content, much like researching in an encyclopedia or using a personal computer. The size while unfolded (smaller than a tabloid sheet) created significantly less space, which lead to a redesign of layout.
The fold-pattern dictated some layout decisions. The un-folding process now acts as a release of information, which allows the user to always take in the title and subtitle first, before getting to the more complex images, such as the map.
Audience: The American
The nature of some of the content (such as GDP or population density) is that it can be difficult to comprehend. To narrow the audience, the inclusion of the United States’ data could act as a gauge for more complex topics. Comparison by land area and Exchange Rate are two instances in which comparing to the US allows the re-defined audience to better grasp scale and lifestyle.
Based off some casual conversations about India with fellow Americans, I determined the content initially considered for the studio project was insufficient to answering common questions: What is life in India like? How much is in poverty? Where is the Taj Mahal? These causal interviews led to the decision to a more inclusive and researched content. The following is a detail on the northwest corner of India:
Newly included data sets answer some of the most common “first questions” of India. The political geography is included, enumerating the States and Union Territories, as well as including their nomenclature on the map. The Disputed Land Data set provides a reminder that borders are complex and ever-changing. The picture call-outs on the map show some photo-recognizable landmarks, such as the Lotus Temple and Taj Mahal.
One of the positive side effects of a smaller format is that visual comparisons (such as between bars in a bar graph, or cities on a map) are physically much closer together. The ability to compare forms from a visual cognition standpoint guided the development of the backside of the new project: the comparisons of neighboring countries. Now, the reader can see all neighboring countries’ information and compare it to India’s, as well as gauge its significance to their understanding of the United States’ information.
This detail of the backside compares India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and China on the subjects of Geography and Population. To promote sound visual comparisons, a variety of visual metaphors were considered for each statistic.
For example, the percent of a country’s claimed area that is land versus water was shown as a hollowed bar. (The blue bar and dashed-green rectangle to the right of the country’s shape.) Here, visual comparisons are treated with a traditional visual rendering.
- The form uses a object (rectangle) that is hollowed out, in which a statistic “fills” it. The visual metaphor for a percentage is promoted by the use of a hollowed rectangle background instead of a filled rectangle.
- The layout aligns the bars, so that a vertical scan can compare length’s of bars. If you put all of the bars next to each other, you’d have a traditional bar graph.
- The color choices match the commonplace schema that most maps adhere to (blue is water, green is land).
The Case for Non-Traditional Forms
Non-traditional forms have a place in information graphics. Though not as visually sound predictors of accurate estimates, more “unique” forms have the unsurprising consequence of increased memorability. Where and when to use unique forms should consider the audience’s established models of certain concepts.
For example, length of border with India was rendered around the outside of the country’s actual shape, rather than in a traditional bar chart. While visual comparisons are more difficult, the objecthood of these boundaries exist within most user’s minds, namely from viewing maps. The user is primed to consider the country borders as a geographical object by seeing the map on the previous page. By echoing the map’s form the meaning of the information is reinforced, but the inclusion of a label is necessary for a more detailed comparison.
The previous iteration of the information graphics chose a 5-color scheme that was ultimately arbitrary. The re-designed folding layout utilizes the a 3-color scheme that is based off of the present flag of India.
The flag, and its symbolic explaination, was included in the first un-folding section of the new layout to establish the meaning behind the following color scheme. In addition to unifying the visual style, the colors were used to promote identification of statistics (orange often refers to India-based data) and metaphor associations (blue for water, green for money, etc.), where possible.
The process redefining a concept begins with modeling. To establish the folding parameters and the approximate dimensions for each graphic, paper prototypes were made, iterated on, and continuously printed to grasp the experiential qualities of a folded piece of graphic design. Here are some snapshots of the development of the graphics for a folded format.