Student Works From our Course, Part II

In the previous post about the course, I shared a few works by our great students at Aalto University. They were all from the first assignment, Improve Wikipedia!

The second assignment was Visualizing Democracy. Every student would pick a facet of the democratic process or a related phenomenon in his or her home country and produce a visualization. The idea was to go for a deep analysis so that the end result wouldn’t be a simple graphic of a party’s membership roster, for instance. We gave the option to make a poster, animation or an interactive visualization. I won’t show all of the works here due to technical limitations, but here are a few examples of what the students came up with.
(click images to enlarge)


India is a huge country and the scale of misappropriated funds is equally massive. Prashant Coakley made this chart showing the ten biggest scandals by monetary value.



The Parliamentary Ombudsman is a very Nordic public office that deals with citizens’ grievances with officials. This visualization by Unto Helo shows how many of these claims led to action being taken.



Finland has an exceptionally long history of women in politics. In this poster by Irmeli Iivonen, female Members of Parliament are color-coded based on party affiliation.



Emilia Ahonen designed this ambitious timeline of the rulers of Finland, reaching back to the earliest (somewhat) reliable figures. It ended up being too wide for a regular poster, but the scope was so impressive that we didn’t mind.



The population pyramid is a well-established way to demonstrate the age structure of a population. Jutta Joutjärvi uses it in her poster to show how the Parliament and its member parties and parliamentary groups differ from the age structure of Finland itself. I had thought of the Social Democrats as a party of old men, but apparently this is not true (at least for MPs).



The problematic relationship between the two Koreas is illustrated in this set of timelines by Jinhee Kim. The period labeled with yellow was marked by the Sunshine Policy, an effort by the Republic of Korea to seek cooperation with the Juche regime.



(click on the image to start visualization)
Antti Vuorela created this interactive display that maps the ebb and flow of Finnish politics from 1945 to 2011. In addition to changes in the number of Parliament seats, it shows how parties move between the government and the opposition. None of the major ones are truly perpetual cabinet parties. Antti is refining this further, so I’ll update this entry when the next version is done.

Student Works From our Course, Part I

Some of our readers know that we run an information design course at Aalto University each year. It’s organized by the graphic design department, but enrollment is open to all Aalto students. We typically have a slight majority of graphic designers and a growing number of technology students participating. I think a mixed group such as this is what Aalto’s founding group had in mind. All we need now are a few business students to participate in the next course and we’ll boast one of the most diverse groups in the whole university.

We see lots of interesting student works on the course each year, but apart from outside guests to the review sessions, very few people ever get to see them. Here are some examples that I split into two separate posts according to the assignment.

Improve Wikipedia!

Jonatan, Juuso and I have been involved in the Finnish open knowledge community, a budding movement to engage citizens and officials in a drive to open government databases and increase the amount of information that’s freely accessible to the public. The Open Data Kitchen is part of it, but we also take part in other ways.

I was recently made president of Wikimedia Suomi, a small local chapter of the organization that promotes Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. One of its goals is to get experts and advanced students to participate in editing Wiki articles. Getting text contributions is usually no problem, but the quality of information graphics is far behind that of the articles themselves. We thought we’d help by giving the students in our course an assignment to design new visualizations or to redesign existing ones. To narrow the scope a little, all the articles they’d work on would be related to economics.

Showing how the Gross Domestic Product and national population figures line up in European countries. Countries that are relatively poor have population stacks that flow over the GDP bar. Work by Karoliina Liimatainen, Aalto University School of Science and Technology.



A diagram by Anssi Kokkonen illustrating the way money is released into the economy.


Sasa Kerkos designed a simplified diagram of the Atlantic slave trade.


The Big Mac Index is a popular and intuitive tool for many things. For one, it gives you an idea if a currency is over- or undervalued. This visualization shows how many burgers you get if you spend a hundred bucks. Work by Antti Vuorela, Aalto University School of Science and Technology. (click to enlarge)


A simplified map of the legendary Silk Road. Work by Jutta Joutjärvi.


An experimental way to visualize the Gini coefficient (a measure of income disparity) and GDP per capita. Work by Vahid Mortezaei.

Presentation: What is visualization?

In Finnish: Suomennamme tämän artikkelin myöhemmin blogia varten, tässä se on englanninkielisenä siinä muodossa kuin se esitettiin aiemmin tänään PICNIC-festivaalilla. 

We were asked to do a short (20 min.) presentation about what visualization is and why it matters for Open Data Breakfast at PICNIC Amsterdam. You can download this presentation as a pdf here, annotated with the text of the presentation as comments, or if you prefer, read the full text below.

edit (September 27th 2011): The same presentation was given at the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge workshop at Aalto Design Factory yesterday, where it was recorded and is now viewable online:

Jatka lukemista ”Presentation: What is visualization?”

We are at PICNIC Amsterdam this week

I’m writing in English this time around. This week we are at PICNIC Amsterdam festival hosting the “Open Data Kitchen” visualization workshop with Forum Virium Helsinki, We Love Open Data and stadi.TV. We will also be giving a thematic introduction to what visualization is and why it matters at the “Open Data Breakfast” session Friday morning at Hangar B. We’ll be posting some of the visualizations and other stuff we make during the week to the blog later on. edit 28.9.2011: See the Open Data Kitchen blog for more.

The Open Data Kitchen is located at the seafront next to the PICNIC Club and the VIP/Press area. Come say hi if you’re around, and maybe ask some questions we can try to find to answers to!