Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings have become many things at once: firm update on the realities of the crisis. Instruction manual. Rubric of leadership. Occasional dose of unexpected humor.
And even if you don’t live in New York, you’ve probably heard about his co-star: his trusty PowerPoint slide deck, decked out in New York’s blues (Pantone 288C and 3005C, respectively) and Proxima Nova and Arial, per New York state’s graphic standards.
Cuomo has a history with public PowerPoints. As The New York Times wrote of his 82-slide gubernatorial debut back in 2011, “If Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address on Wednesday is any guide, he could be remembered one day for elevating that overused tool of middle managers and college professors to the exalted place in public life once reserved for soaring oratory.”
Though clip art occasionally makes an appearance, aesthetically, they’re not all that bad—but Pentagram data maestro Giorgia Lupi, Sarah Kay Miller and Phillip Cox experimented to see how design might make them even more effective.
As Pentagram writes, “Even with their appreciation for the governor’s approach, the designers saw the potential to improve the visualizations of his slide deck to more effectively and vividly communicate these important statistics. They wanted to inject more nuance, context and humanity into the governor’s various graphs and charts, without sacrificing the exactitude the public has come to depend on.”
Lupi and her team began by identifying what makes the presentations so effective: legibility and simplicity. The issue is that in the quest for simplicity, some critical information—and valuable insights—are easily overlooked.
They sought to bring these additional data sets and facts to life, and also redesigned three key recurring elements of the press conferences: the bar graph of hospitalizations, the death toll, and the rate of infection diagram. Moreover, “The designers also created a new visualization for COVID-19 tests given versus positive diagnoses. As testing becomes more prevalent across the state, they wanted to imagine what this graph should look like.”
Ultimately, “the designers believe this work is a meaningful starting point for more successful data visualizations. … They hope this project begins a conversation about the role of information design in crises such as these, and will continue to iterate on this work as more feedback is collected from the field.”
Here are the results of their experiments thus far: