Examining a sustainability infographic

Design as Directing Users

Analyses based on this infographic: http://www.newscientist.com/data/images/archive/2605/26051202.jpg

• Color coordinates the three main areas of the page, which illustrates the interconnectivity of the information. Also noted that population is set off in a different color scheme.

• There is a visual break so you see that there are three main pieces of information to review.

• The white circle in the center of the graphic draws the eye first, then the longer of the radiating lines draw the eye to the other information areas on the graphic. (royal blue — to the title in the upper left, teal and green — to the population graphic in the lower right, gold stands out and draws the eye up toward the cluster of pie charts in the top right corner)

• The relative size of the individual pie charts corresponds to the amount of recycled materials. 8 of the 19 materials are not recycled at all. (Perhaps their scattered placement down the right side is meant to make the reader slow down and absorb each fact individually when moving through, rather than to show relationship to each other?)

Design as Rhetoric & Distortion

• The graphic seems to be missing a main title. Without this, the reader must work to discern the overall theme and goal of the display.

• Circle widths represent years, decades and centuries, moving out on the circle. This distorts the difference in longevity of some elements.

• Because it doesn’t have a corresponding graphic, the “If Demand Grows” information seems to be less important.

• It seems as though the impact of the American consumer’s role in depleting these resources is minimized by *not* comparing American per capita consumption to that of the rest of the world. We only see our own figures, which are interesting — but not frightening — because there’s nothing to compare them to except the levels of the other materials we consume.

• Interesting that the radial structure of the “central” graphic implies a meeting of ends, rather than a more temporally accurate spatial representation of the staggering of resources disappearing. For instance, the lower estimate for time remaining of indium is 4 years, while the upper estimate for aluminum is 1027 years. Yet, the graphic, which uses coterminous bar graphs (almost a kind of video game-like resource meter) to show quantity remaining (in a somewhat logarithmic scale).

• The sleek and simple quantification of resources almost removes the consequences of acquiring and disposing the material. These ignored consequences range from environmental to the political

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