The Challenge

AIGA’s design census asked all designers in its organization to answer a series of questions: some demographic, some more quirky like how many cups of coffee one may drink in a day. Our team: Faith Kaufman, Steven Ji, Deborah Lee, Albert Yang and I was challenged to take this set of data and develop a visualization of a particular set. Of this data coming from designers of all different backgrounds, we were interested in the responses describing “the future of design in three words”. This type of qualitative data is difficult to understand out-of-context, and could be interpreted in many different ways. We set out to visualize these words that describe “the future” across each industry represented in the AIGA census.

Discovering the Algorithm

Our challenge was twofold: digesting these subjective words describing the ambiguous “future”, and creating a visual system to communicate these responses. My role in this project leaned heavily in the design of the algorithm we used to digest these terms. The term ‘algorithm’ is used to approach this problem because we needed a set of rules or heuristics by which we could start to categorize and analyze these words. We considered many different ways of looking at the responses. We found that a primary distinction needed to be made about what the each word was describing. For example, two entries such as “relational” and “artificial intelligence”, are not even the same part of speech.

The first level of delineation we used was: 1. Design, 2. Designer, 3. Method. As we sorted through the entries we asked whether the word described the quality of the design, the designer, or the method of the design in the futureOnce this organization was done, a second categorization was made to provide a contrast. The “Design” words were sorted by their positivenegative, or neutral direction, using the sentiment algorithm. Among the “Design” words describing the future, we distinguished whether the word related to the individual or the group. Finally, the ‘Method’ was split into thinking or feeling related words.

Designing the Visual Language

Through the two layers of categorizations we wanted to show both quantity, and ratio of these future related words so that a comparison could be drawn between each industry. Each section contrasts of use color, patterns, shape, and typography to visualize word categorization. For example, each word describing the “Designer” of the future was represented as either an “Us” tile (group), or a “Me” tile (individual).

The back of the card provides the summary of that industries’ perspective of the words. One big challenge of this project is dealing with the subjectivity of these words. So we also listed every word that was represented on the back of the card, to reveal the data behind the visual.

As a set, each card represents a different industry, and the pattern on the front codifies the perspective that industry’s designers have of the future. One can compare how each industry sees the designer’s role as centered in either the ‘group’ or ‘individual’, the design process as being based in thinking or feeling, and the product of design as moving in the positive or negative direction.

Design Approach