There probably aren’t many people who would say they have the hots for information design. But the data-rich PowerPoints that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shows off at his daily coronavirus briefings have developed a serious fan base—including Pentagram partner and information designer Giorgia Lupi. Now Lupi, along with project coordinator Phil Cox and data visualization designer Sarah Kay Miller, are redesigning his PowerPoints to look (and work) even better.
Lupi and her team had been watching Cuomo’s daily briefings and were encouraged by the starring role they gave to charts and tables. But as an information designer, Lupi also saw opportunities to make the charts even better—more data-rich, allowing for uncertainty, and adding more context, nuance, and humanity. Amid rampant misinformation and confusing data visualizations, this was an opportunity for Lupi and her team to use their craft in the name of public service. So they took a crack at Cuomo’s visualizations themselves.
Lupi and her team redesigned three core visualizations that make a daily appearance in Cuomo’s briefings. They added nuance to a bar graph of total hospitalizations by overlayering each day’s total with subsets of information. They gave a human touch to data depicting lives lost by showing them with hand-drawn dots. And they added context to the New York infection rate by comparing it to that of Wuhan, China.
Lupi and her team also created a new bar chart showing testing rates over time, compared with the percentage that results in positive diagnoses and New York state’s population overall. The charts indicate uncertainty with hazy gradients (like the pinkish gray representing unknown positive test cases in the graph that compares against New York’s population). It’s to account for the fact that even though numbers are black and white, data often isn’t. Ultimately, Lupi says, the exercise isn’t about replacing Cuomo’s charts, but about finding ways to layer in new changes that amplify what he is saying.
Of course, design is about working within constraints—whether from a design briefing, budget, or resources. The budgetary constraints of government are well-known, and probably why those PowerPoints look like they’re (endearingly) from 2011. But experts across disciplines are looking for ways to help, too—including Pentagram.
“This is an exercise that, we hope, can be of support in any way,” Lupi says. “If not, it’s showing the potential for people to understand more. How can we use this moment to become more data-literate as a society?” Lupi tells me she’d love to work with Cuomo’s team on their daily data visualizations—for free. (Call her, seriously). They even have a portfolio ready.