Project progress report 01. Economic statistic & Communication Design

Elective affinities between Economic Statistic & Communication Design
Economic statistic concerns understanding complex, multidimensional, ambiguous and dynamic phenomena building formal representations (models) based on statistical data. Communication Design addresses complex phenomena to interact with them building multi-dimensional visual representations based (in some cases) on statistical data.

The DensityDesign Lab approach, partially modified despite past editions, tries to foster this alliance in order to explore socio-economic phenomena that present both representational and visual problems. In fact they could be:
– complex;
– multidimensional;
– dynamic and evolutionary;
– not numerically measurable if not qualitatively;
– ambiguous and fuzzy;
– not dichotomous;
– of great impact on people and society.

The goal is to contribute to the construction of representation and visualization model respecting and preserving the inner structure of the analyzed phenomena, allowing users to know (see) them as a whole. This is not primarily a design issue, but an epistemological one; the aspect of visual representation and communication is only one part of a bigger topic. The broader aim is helping in build a cognitive process that integrates and combines different disciplines and skills.

The theme: poverty and social exclusion – conditions
Exclusion is a socio-economic status where people are placed on the margins of society, because of their economic, psychological, physical, cultural conditions.
To evaluate its forms and intensity requires models that consider a multitude of dimensions: the determination of poverty status cannot be reduced to simple and single indicator.
The study of poverty should be multidimensional being related to material deprivation, where the non-availability of certain goods, the lack of access to specific services establish a state of social discomfort.

Limits of representations
Traditional tools used for communicating the official data, about social issue, seem to be inconsistent with the characteristics of the phenomena:
– they produce only analytical views;
– the phenomena is over simplified and all the aspects that are blurred and ambiguous are neglected;
– an over-simplification often contains half truths;
– they do not express the approximations and uncertainties inherent to the data elaboration.

It is clear that, the more this kind of phenomena become subject of communication, the more the user should be aware of how the information is treated. We are not pretending everyone to be an expert in economics and statistics; we must build communication processes able to bring the user closer to what he wants to know.
The representation of socio-economic problem is not reducible to a problem or purely algorithmic technology, but not because of the quantity of data: complexity, multi-dimensionality and ambiguity are difficulty reduce into algorithmic computations.

This research area requires developing new visual grammars and communication tools that do not superimpose artistic or vaguely appealing elements over the representation of the phenomena, but should be able to build narratives deeply consistent with its inner structure. Visualization artifacts, diagram and maps, have to respect the robustness of scientific approach on phenomena while remaining consistent with the structure of cognitive and logic capability of the observer.

The first exercise conducted by DensityDesign students is seeking to intervene in this context: starting from 2006 official data (provided by the Istat) they build visualization about the poverty in Italy.


  1. 1. Italies and Poverty / Italie e povertà « Zoescope Says:

    […] There is not only one Italy, but many Italies affected by poverty in different ways.  Density Design is surely contributing to the construction of representation and visualization models for a […]

  2. 2. Sankey Diagrams » Blog Archive » Visualizing Social Conditions Says:

    […] Design has kindly granted permission to show these visualizations here. Read the summary (Project progress report 01. Economic statistic & Communication Design) and learn about their other projects on the Density Design blog. I am adding them to the blogroll […]

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