“The ACT 2012 Election: It’s Anyone’s Guess” Data Visualisation Design Rationale

By Kierah Forsyth

In the brief I wrote for myself, I outlined my desire to develop a concept for a data visualisation that would be an easy to understand and a useful tool for everyday life. With the local election being a current concern for people of the Canberra region, I decided to analyse the wealth on information that was available for it, and find a way to represent this data in a way that would help voters to understand what each party would do for them on election. After wide research and analysis of the data, this “How Many Jelly Beans in the Jar?” concept is my answer to the design problem I set forward for myself.

The concept was developed from a need to be very carefully selective about the amount and type of data that I included in the concept. Too much information and it would overwhelm the viewer, to little and it would confuse them. I to approach from and angle that communicated the most essential information clearly and quickly.

What I decided upon was to show, side by side, how much money each of the three major parties had promised to spend if they were elected, and in which areas they would spend it. This not only collates a large amount of data that is often siphoned out over several months of marketing, but most importantly, gives voters an easy way to see where their tax dollars will be going, which is arguably the paramount concern for any voter. I opted out of including independent candidates in this analysis, as their individual views were too disparate to quantify, and as such the same data was not available – the major parties, those with the pulling power to be elected into government, took precedence in this case.

To show this visually, I wanted to take a simple idea that anyone could relate to – a seemingly simple child’s guessing game – and apply it this seemingly complex data – budget spend, to show that both are much easier to understand with some careful organisation.

In my analysis of the data, I utilised an article from the Canberra Times which broke down each party’s spending promises from the previous three months of campaigning (which I cross-checked with other sources), totalled each area, then divided into a percentage. I then applied this to the visual, colour-coding each jelly-bean shape to represent an area – Health is red, Roads and Transport is green, etc. - and appropriately coloured each bean accordingly, with one jelly bean representing one million dollars.

I added tags to identify each party, with a breakdown of the specific amounts in the side bar for reference, and a legend running along the bottom of the composition to show each colour. As I coloured the area’s in a rainbow progression, I opted to keep the rest of the composition relatively muted, an not to overwhelm the eye. I used tones of grey, and white throughout, and chose Helvetica Neue in various weights for it’s clean, modern look. I used various weight’s to establish the hierarchy of information, from bold to light.

Overall, I am happy with my concept. I chose data that was relevant to the target audience, and visually represented it in a way that they could easily relate to. I balanced the use of colour and tone to guide the viewer’s eye through the piece, and chose a style of type and line that kept the concept clean and modern. By viewing this data visualisation, ACT voters should quickly and easily be able to see and understand where there tax dollars would be heading as determined by each of the major political parties.  

The 2012 ACT Election: It’s Anyone’s Guess. Data Visualisation by Kierah Forsyth, 2012.
Click here to view and download a full sized version!Disclaimer: Logos used in this piece have been used for educational purposes only, no copyright infringement is intended. Sources: Labor ACT The Canberra Liberals The ACT Greens

The 2012 ACT Election: It’s Anyone’s Guess. Data Visualisation by Kierah Forsyth, 2012.

Click here to view and download a full sized version!

Disclaimer: Logos used in this piece have been used for educational purposes only, no copyright infringement is intended. Sources: Labor ACT The Canberra Liberals The ACT Greens

The People’s Map of the Northside, By Kierah Forsyth


Going into this task, I was really interested in all the time, effort, and thought that had been put into the initial project – that a group of people had come together to celebrate their community, and that the people they did it for responded by getting involved themselves. This was truly a project of love, by the people, for the people.

With all this ‘love’ however, came a very extensive group of information to try and visually display in a way that was not only understood, but enjoyed. I wanted to keep as many of the map points in tact as possible, because they all meant something to the people that nominated them. The solution to this could have been creating a web or phone application, but I felt this format had become a “go to” option for the modern map user. So I decided to represent these “old school” community values by going back to basics, with a physical map, that was simple and easy to read, but with a modern twist, that made it not only visually interesting to interact with, but fun too.

My solution was this “Analogue Layered Map” - A simple envelope style frame, with the map displayed inside and seen through a cut out window. The points were then categorised, numbered, and plotted on their own separate, colour coded filters, which where printed onto transparency paper, with a car frame for stability. This would enable all the points to be visible, atop the original map, once all five filters had been inserted inside the frame. The points are identified by matching it to it’s corresponding number on the back of the frame. The filters can be viewed all together, one at a time, or in a combination of a few, however, and whatever, the viewer wishes to look up.

To categorise the 100+ points, I first split them into five key categories – Red was Quintessentially Capital- for the specified ‘required’ points, which showed important landmarks and institutions of Canberra. Purple was Eat. Drink. Meet. and showed the local residences nominated favourite places to dine and meet. Yellow was Community Essentials, and shows important local locations that keep the area ticking day to day – from local shops and schools to library’s and historic buildings. Blue showed Sporting and Activities, and green showed Parks and Nature. I also trimmed a few of the points to keep it to a succinct 99 - mostly duplicates, or smaller features of bigger location’s already featured.

Visually, I wanted to keep the design bright and fun, but also ensure it enhanced the communication of the map, not hindered it. I keep the frame to a medium navy, to keep the focus of the inner map section, with an off white and warm red for the body and accent text. I chose a fun but still readable typeface called Lobster for the title and subheadings, kept it simple with Helvetica Neue Light for the body text on the back of the frame and on the descriptions on each filter frame, and used Arial Black for it’s bold weight for the numbered points.

Overall, I’m fairly happy with how my concept came together once it was constructed. I achieved what I set out to achieve, and in my personal use of it, as well as when testing it’s functionality on others, I’ve found it’s pretty easy to use and understand. I envisage this map would be great as an interactive piece to display at the arts and community centres, to display in local businesses, or to add as a supplement to the local community newspaper.

There are some parts I would change or modify, in order to make it easier to use. The points and the map turned out to be far too ‘zoomed out’ – making the scale all wrong, and the very small points hard to read and decipher from one another in some areas. In working with the transparency paper, I also would have made the colouring of the points more vivid, so as to stand out more. This especially applies to the yellow points, which unfortunately can hardly be seen only light map. The yellow category might work better as a muted orange, to increase readability overall. I would also label the map a bit more – when creating the map, I simplified it only to streets and land areas, as I figured the target audience was already familiar with the area. However, adding label’s might have helped clarify it for those that were unfamiliar with the area.

I found this task highly rewarding, not only to broaden my understanding of how to visually display large sets of information clearly, but also for the personal challenge I achieved in approaching this task from an ‘outside of the box’ angle, and still producing a piece that I am proud of.

The People’s Map of the Northside, By Kierah Forsyth - The Final Map

The People’s Map of the Northside, By Kierah Forsyth - The Filters

The People’s Map of Canberra, By Kierah Forsyth - The Frame


Hey there! This is my blog. It serves as an online visual diary and digital portfolio as I look into and learn about the role information graphics play in today’s society.

To check out my reasearch so far, click on one of the project pages ^ up there ^.

Watch this space to see the final works I develop from the research!