If you’ve been following the latest updates on COVID-19, be it maps tracking testing and infection rates or New York governor Cuomo’s briefings, you’re mentally exhausted. These data visualizations are necessary for staying informed, and yet they’re so relentlessly negative, they can be hard to process.
To cope, you can either take another trip to the fridge for some boxed wine, or you can take a few minutes to check out Happy Data. It’s a website and data viz project launched by the graphic design and branding firm Pentagram. And as the title suggests, Happy Data spotlights data around COVID-19 that will perk you up—from our unprecedentedly clean air to the incredible efforts of healthcare workers and volunteers.
“We don’t want to do the Pollyanna project,” says Pentagram partner Giorgia Lupi, who spearheaded the project alongside her team. “But at the same time, it’s a moment when collectively, as a population, for our mental health, we need to know there’s some positivity in the world.”
Lupi is known for approaching data in a humanistic way, and you can see her fingerprints all over the project. Each Happy Data entry starts with a photo looking out the window from someone’s home. Statistics are drawn into the scene atop the glass as if by Sharpie. But it’s all done digitally, using a casual font developed from Lupi’s own handwriting.
In one instance, Lupi’s view of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn is transformed into a bar chart. Gold coins tower like skyscrapers over the landscape. Each tower represents the donations of an NBA franchise. In another, the blue sky over an apartment complex in Milan is transformed into an area graph, which tracks the decreasing particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in the air from January through March.
“We’re all cooped up, longing for an outside world that feels like a dream,” Lupi says. “So the concept of drawing tiny bits of data sets on our windows . . . it just felt like a powerful concept to explore.”
Happy Data only has a small handful of images up so far, but Lupi says that Pentagram will continue releasing more visualizations over time. And if you’d like your own view to get a Happy Data makeover, Pentagram is taking submissions for photos on their site.