For my Information Design class at Simon Fraser University, our class was to design information graphics that explained the effects of Vancouver's Ecological Footprint.
This project was in collaboration with the Vancouver Office of Sustainability, who gave us the resources and information to create our designs. My creation is an infographic that shows Vancouver's Ecological Footprint for the transportation sector in 2015.
For this project, the Vancouver Office of Sustainability provided documents that outlined Vancouver's Ecological Footprint for the following sectors: Food, Transportation, Buildings, Consumables and Waste. My class was asked to design an information graphic that would better explain what an Ecological Footprint is and emphasize the impact it has. Before I started to design, it was vital that I did some research and determine what was lacking in the original graph [shown below].
Information and graphs provided by the Vancouver Office of Sustainability
I. Collecting Information
To start the research process, I started by answering questions provided by my lecturer, Andrew Hawryshkewich, such as:
What is the purpose of the information?
Who is the audience?
How does the form of the content affect the message?
What information is being provided and what is relevant?
Why would or wouldn't a general audience care about this information?
How could the information be made more understandable?
By answering these questions I determined this message was aimed towards citizens of Vancouver who need to use transportation to get to school, work, etc. It could also likely be directed at Translink, to encourage them to lower transit fair prices and increase the number of transit systems to encourage using transit vs. personal vehicles. This information can also be directed towards bike rental companies, such as Mobi, to encourage people to use their services.
I feel this chart is likely not understood by a general audience because the colour scheme is lacking differentiation between categories, such as the graphs use of several shades of green. The graph also includes several sections that are under "0%" which may confuse the viewer as to why this is relevant information. Lastly, terms such as "GHA" are left undefined and therefore, is not adding value to the overall impact of the graph.
I determined the information could be more understood by the audience if the less relevant information was left out, such as "Materials" operating at 0 GHA. In addition, the graph could be more impactful if terms such as an "Ecological Footprint" was defined in a way that could be understood by those with a lack of knowledge on the subject. Lastly, my main goal was to create information graphics to highlight key information, encourage an easier understanding of the subject and emphasize the impact of the issue.
II. Understanding the User
Process & Tools
To kickstart the ideation process for my infographic, I started by creating 20+ thumbnail sketches. By doing so, I was able to test different layouts and the use of different elements, without worrying about too much detail. From here, I created 3 higher fidelity sketches that included more elements such as headers, subheaders and percentages.
Higher fidelity sketch of the final concept.
After deciding on a final concept, I started to create my first prototypes in Illustrator. I was happy with how I used icons to visually represent each category, however, felt there were some inconsistencies with showing the information. In the next section, I will discuss these challenges and how I solved them.
After completing my first mockup, I ran into some design challenges in terms of accurately representing the proportion of each footprint category.
First prototype made in Illustrator.
In the prototype above, I felt there was a lack of differentiation in proportion between the percentages below the icon as well as in the represented icons for each category. For example, the truck icon and the bus icon closely depict 6% and 10%, however, the factory is much larger in size although only 4% higher. As well, I felt the percentages were shown in a way that felt they were all on the same level and lacking hierarchy.
I decided to re-work the sizes of my icons as well as displaying the percentages in a way that showed the differentiation it was lacking. From here, I was able to create my final infographic.
Solution & Reflection
I was able to solve my design challenges first by re-working my icons. I made the factory icon smaller to be closer in size to the bus icon. I additionally added an airport icon below the plane to make it appear higher and larger in size, and also added more cars to the last icon to dramatize the effect that private vehicles have on the ecological footprint.
I additionally added bars above the percentage to show the hierarchy it was lacking. I feel that this infographic is more accurate in its represented information, but also is now more easily understood by the viewer. Overall, I think this infographic helps people understand the impact that their ecological footprint has on Vancouver. By using easily understood icons for context, relevant and simple information about ecological footprints and the incorporation of a graph, I feel people can more easily understand the information and realize the effects.