Visualizing the Economic Stimulus

The Washington Post recently created an essential visualization of the stimulus bill before Congress. Granted, it was created before the trimming that just occurred in the House, but it’s illuminating nonetheless (see a portion below).

From a design standpoint, The Post is playing catch-up with The New York Times, which has been a leader in creating information graphics and adapting them to the Web. You can see remarkable examples of the genre here and here and here and here.

Meanwhile, information graphics are all the rage among young graphic designers these days, and for good reason: The discipline—involving cartographers, statisticians, computer programmers, and graphic designers—creates public debate on a level graphic design rarely does. As Manuel Lima, the founder of the information graphics website Visual Complexity, once told me, “One of the big challenges we face now is dealing with all the data around us, and finding ways to make it useful.”

The grand master of the field is, of course, is Yale professor emeritus Edward Tufte, the man the Times called, “the da Vinci of Data.” He’s the guy who documented how NASA’s use of Microsoft’s Power Point led, in many ways, to the Challenger disaster. His first book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, is a must-read for aspiring information graphic designers, and is a staple on many interactive design course reading lists.