Data Visualization critique

What story does it tell?

The data visualisation titled ‘The depth of the problem’, is an inspired representation of a deep sea search for a missing Malaysian airliner that was discovered from the sound of the commercial aircraft’s underwater locator beacon. The example was produced as a result of the wreckages discovery by the Australian vessel, Ocean Shield, and the extent of the crews recovery attempt.

How does it tell it?

The story is told through an infographic that displays the depth in which the Malaysian airliners wreckage had sunk down to based on the Ocean Shield’s pinger locator data projections. Told through the a series of contemporary and historical milestones, the data representation emphasises the extreme lengths recovery crews would have to go through had they recovered the missing Malaysian airline.

Does it allow for different levels of interrogation that can be seen or used on the part of the reader? eg can they drill down to discover more detail?

The visualisation relies on comparative analysis to interpret the extent of the wreckage’s depth. The significance of each depth milestone is used by the reader to better understand the situation. There is very little in terms of hidden meanings or underlying messages in the datas representation but there is definitely room for further study if the reader desires. For example embedded within the infographic are a few interesting facts that refer to historical events, world records and deep sea marine life, all of which have great research potential. Unknown to the reader is whether the Malaysian airline was actually retrieved which is something that can be further explored.

Are you able to create multiple stories from it? If so what are they?

The comparative and cascading nature of the infographic suggests a journey into the deep both in past and present. The infographic holds historical value in its almost timeline like approach and reference to historical events whilst still maintaining contemporary value as a measuring tool.

What can you say about the visual design- layout, colour, typography visualisation style?

The visual approach takes on a flat design and a monochromatic colour scheme. Shades of blue represent the sky and the ocean and illustrate depth based on the darkness of the shade. The exception of the colour yellow within the infographics limited colour palette acts as a directional tool that signifies the focal point. Simple silhouettes creates excellent contrast that provide clarity in distinguishing background and foreground elements and text readability. The visualisations elongated nature and portrait orientation compliments the data in relation to depth.

What improvements would you suggest?

If I had to improve the infographic I would suggest incorporating more milestones to emphasise the sheer scale of the journey and compressing the graphic height-wise to improve view-ability. Arguably however, these features as they stand enhance the experience in both respects. Fewer milestones force the viewer to draw their eye further down and the elongated nature maintains the illusion of depth. Story-wise the information could be enhanced to mention what happened in the retrieval attempts, i.e., was the wreckage actually found?

Link: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/world/the-depth-of-the-problem/931/

Group members: Timothy Coloma, Adam Bills and Sebastian Delapaz.

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