Back in October I entered and infographic challenge on a whim. With no graphic design experience it was a humbling experience. It made me appreciate the curating process involved in refining large amounts of data and complex research into simple, aesthetic images (my design turned out very busy). I learned a lot about the emerging field of data visualizations, including the discovery of a vast online community of data visualizers often with a community commons feel (see visualizing.org). There are also a vast number a tools available online (for free), that are fun to play around with, though I have to say they will suck up an embarrassing number of your idle hours. You have been warned, here are just a few:
- For infographics: Easel.ly, Visual.ly, Piktochart, Infogr.am
- For charts: amCharts, Hohli, Google, Creately (flow charts), icharts, gliffy, make sweet
- For more advanced data visualizations: Tableau, R-project, STATsilk and CartoDB, IBM’s Many-Eyes, SIMILE wigets (free, opensource tools for visualization from MIT)
- Some more: Google’s Public Data, Wordle, tagxedo (create word clouds), Gapminder (great for population time-lapses), Icon Arhive (self explanatory and free!), Pixlr (free photo editor), vizualize.me (online aesthetic resume), Intel’s whataboutme? (visualize your internet life), dipity (visual timelines), InFoto (android app that helps you turn your phone’s photos into a graphic or Photostats for iPhone), Chartbit (for easy mapping), pearltrees (visual way to organize information/ very visual blogging service), TheBrain (for organizing your thought patterns), a nice collection of tools
I did most of the work on my design in Inkscape, which is an open source, user friendly graphic vector software (a lot like Indesign, but it’s free and much less powerful). Data for this contest came from Kids Count and I also used the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health.
Also of note, I was reading a Paul Tough’s fascinating new book at the time so my visual and accompanying description turned into a mash of his thesis on “soft measures” of intelligence in schools and pervasive issues of poverty in this country. Just thought it was about time to share. Oh, and it was also fun to see that someone found my work interesting. Here it is:
Across the board children living in poverty in the US experience the largest disparities from school achievement to quality of health and health care, and these gaps have consistently increased since the 1960’s. In the 1960’s Kennedy, and later Johnson, declared the “War on Poverty”. Since then many non-profits, social workers and activists fed up with the limited success of the movement transitioned their efforts to “Education Reform”. Today, education reformers largely work to address issues of poverty. While the channeling of energy into schools is an important component in an effort to eliminate disparities in our poorest neighborhoods, it loses sight of the larger context and underlying causes of poverty. Further, a focus on fighting poverty through schools not only ignores the big picture and root causes, it compartmentalizes interventions and resources. I created this infographic to bring attention back to poverty and the multifaceted, permeating affects of growing up in an impoverished environment. As the data clearly show, poverty among our nation’s children is still the issue of our time. With this image I tried to capture the spirit of systems thinking to illustrate the complexity and ubiquity inherent in issues surrounding poverty and thus demonstrate the necessity for multidimensional interventions. I hope the graphic also brings attention the limited data available, at the national level, on early childhood and the home. This is important as research has consistently shown that the future success of children starts in the home and neighborhood environment, which reinforces achievement in school and compounds with quality teachers and learning environments. A safe and supportive home and community environment is the strongest predictor of future health and well-being of a child. The state of poverty in our families and neighborhoods permeates to other systems, crosses generations and is inextricably tied to our children’s success. Hope you enjoy.