This past year, AIGA and Google sent out a census to designers across the world. We used this data to create a visualization comparing the lives of freelance designers to salaried designers. We also conducted our own census, sent to CMU Design alumni, to understand their journeys through design after graduation.
View visualization prototype here →
On this project, I worked with Carolyn Zhou, Sharon Yu, Tiffany Jiang, and Raphael Weikart. We thought an interesting aspect of the data was the differences it revealed between freelance designers and in-house/agency designers. In light of increasing talk about the benefits and increasing popularity of the "freelancing economy" in the workforce, we wanted to create a visualization that explores what it's like being a freelancer.
We spent the first week or two combing through the data, cross-referencing data points to understand which parameters would be meaningful to show. Ultimately, we decided to have the overarching organization focused on top cities in the US, because different cities had very different cultures of working. Not unexpectedly, the cities with most designers overall were New York and San Francisco. But Los Angeles, which is the 6th most popular city overall for designers, was actually the second most popular for freelancers.
We were inspired to send out our own design census to CMU Design alumni to understand how their education and experiences at CMU have affected their career paths.
In creating our questions, we knew we'd have access to far fewer data points than the AIGA Census did, so we went for questions that would provide us with more long-form and rich, story-driven answers. We received 33 responses from design alumni currently in Pittsburgh. Data set is available here.
• Which classes or skills learned at CMU have been particularly valuable to your current work?
• What was your most formative summer experience during school?
• How has your experience in college influenced your career choice?
• What were deciding factors in choosing your current (or most recent) job?
• What is your job title, and where do you currently work?
• What’s the best piece of advice you received from a Design faculty member while at CMU?
Once we collected and examined our answers, we decided that the most meaningful way to present the data to users is to visualize connections between the different answers to help people get a sense of how Carnegie Mellon designers are connected as well as the ways in which they diverge.
This went on to inform the medium; we considered several possibilities, including an interactive web-based visualization. We decided to pursue a more tangible direction, with wooden cubes representing each person who answered the census. The faces of each cube would correspond to the six questions we asked. Each time a new face is turned over, nodes with related answers are lit up to reveal people with similar paths.
We prototyped a tangible + interactive experience for people to explore alumni's career paths. The video was created to show how someone might go through this experience. The animations were created with After Effects scripts to match the visual system on the cube faces.