Information Design, Print, & Interaction
Research, Illustration, Visual Design, & Prototyping
Illustrator, Sketch, & Flinto
September - December 2016 (3 months)
Overcrowding in American prisons has become a prominent issue that has consequentially developed from America’s high incarceration and recidivism rates. However current solutions being implemented to address these problems are ultimately unsustainable as they involve either building more prisons or adding more inmates to already overcapacitated prisons.
The project initially started from a video I saw on my Facebook feed, showing the stark differences between a typical American prison in contrast to Halden prison in Norway. I was in disbelief as to how such a luxurious prison could be possibly effective, but discovered that the Norwegian prison model, a system based off rehabilitating inmates, has a much lower recidivism and higher rehabilitation rate than American prisons do.
Based off these findings, I started to research into other prison models and discovered that Nordic prisons, in general, share similar statistics and values as the Norwegian prisons. Nordic prisons have been such a success that they have reached the point where the lack of inmates has caused prisons to close down. Rather than creating my own prison model or a new system based off the Norwegian model, I chose a real life success model to convince prison administrators that the Norwegian system could act as a plausible solution.
Although there are many factors that differ between American and Norwegian prisons, the prison environment is the biggest difference between the two. Based on this insight, I focused my research on prison architecture, narrowing the structure down into the two key areas inmates spend the majority of their time: the cell and the yard. From there, I broke each structure down in order to understand the key influencing areas, noting the problematic structures within American prisons and the rehabilitating structures in the Norwegian ones — structures that could possibly call forth a solution.
In order to advocate to administration divisions in American prisons, I chose a printed pamphlet and tablet piece to convey the information. The print piece gives users to view a quick overview of the information, whereas the tablet piece allows users to go through the information more in-depth. Both pieces follow a similar format, telling the story in a narrative broken into four parts:
1. Introduction: Brief overview on how architectural design choices may influence inmates' behaviours following their release.
2. Opening: Highlights the overcrowding and recidivism problem in America.
3. Comparison: Presents the Norwegian prison model as the solution to rebase the American model on through a comparison of prison statistics.
4. Solution: Shows the differences between American and Norwegian prison design while showcasing the amount and type of influence design elements have on recidivism and rehabilitation. This section is meant to encourage administrators to choose elements within the Norwegian example to create or modify their own custom prison spaces within their budget ranges.
Through my initial sketches, I explored possible charts and diagrams to format the datasets in easily digestible ways. Since the entire piece highlights the key differences through comparison data, I explored different data visualization sets and layouts to maximize effective communication. Through this process I was able to eliminate ineffective and confusing charts and clearly juxtapose the American and Norwegian models.
This stage allowed me to develop the ideas explored in the sketches to figure out what parts of the design were working and what were not. Through multiple critiques and feedback, I learned how even the simplest visual element can connote different or multiple meanings in a single dataset — meanings that I do not intend to convey.
22 x 36 inches (unfolded)
8 x 11 inches (folded)
Presents side by side comparisons of American and Norwegian cells using symbols and colours to indicate the design factors that contribute to recidivism, on the American side, and the factors that contribute to rehabilitation, on the Norwegian side. The donut chart represents the amount of time inmates stay within these cells.
Shows the prison population size in each state in relation to the different types of prison capacities each state’s institutions were designed to contain. Capacities are indicated in strokes, whereas the current prison population is indicated with a solid red to give a visual representation of how close prisons are to being overcapacitated or how much they are currently overcapacitated by.
American and Norwegian statistics can be compared directly side-by-side. The section outlines the prison models and how it has affected each country’s prison population rate, expenditures, and 5-year recidivism rate.
Expands on the covers by highlighting the structures and factors contributing to recidivism (on the American side) and rehabilitation (on the Norwegian side) which are expanded in the text-boxes. Viewers can compare data vertically (to view the overall problems and solutions in each country) or horizontally (to view problem versus solution).
Moving from print to digital allowed me to expand on the information that wasn’t able to fit solely on the pamphlet. It also allows the user to compare and contrast data in multiple ways. Many touch gestures and animations were integrated to guide the user through the narrative in an easy and intuitive way.
The printed pamphlet itself acted as a refined frame for me to base my tablet piece on. I wanted the information to flow in a similar way and I didn’t want the differences between the two to be so drastic that the two did not correlate with one another, so I played with ways that I could expand on the information that I had to sacrifice in the pamphlet piece due to the lack of space. Although the tablet is much smaller than the pamphlet since I had to contain the content in single screens, easy and intuitive user interactions to hide and reveal information was a key factor in the designing process.
Rather than displaying the factors that can lead to recidivism in relation to prison architecture, the introduction highlights the key differences between the two cells. The digital piece starts with an animation of the hidden cells so that the users can go more in depth inside when the cross-sections are revealed.
To navigate through the piece, the user can click through the different sections with ease with the hamburger menu. A bar indicates to the user where they are and how much content they have left.
The amount of information on the printed piece’s bubble graph was overwhelming, so translating to digital allowed me to make use of tap interactions to conceal and reveal information. Data is sorted by individual state and overcapacity type, which the user can toggle between. On the individual state page, users can tap the varying states on the map to reveal the current custody population in relation to the three capacity types, whereas on the overcapacity type page, the user can see an overview of overcapacitated states depending on the type of capacity filter chosen.
The section in the printed piece was formatted as a side-by-side comparison due to its unique fold, however since the interactive piece allowed for direct overlays and methods to isolate data, I overlaid the statistics on Norway and America to allow for the user to make direct comparisons through toggled data.
Whereas the large poster allowed the user to compare the info in four different ways with the four quadrants — Norway, America, the cells, and the yards, the small size of the tablet made the section challenging to translate from print to digital. Motion graphics were used to organize the data, breaking the screen in four quadrants using tap interactions to direct the user to one of the four comparisons.
To take this piece forward, I would like to expand on the interactions in the interactive piece so that users can compare more data sets and manipulate it to view it in multiple ways. The 4 quadrant solution breakdown currently is static, but I would like the user to be able to tap problematic areas of the American cell and have the possible solution design from the Norwegian cell highlighted. It would also display a recidivism to rehabilitation bar that can be increased or reduced when user adds or subtracts design components from the cells to demonstrate the structure’s progress towards rehabilitation or recidivism. I thought that it would also be interesting if the user could toggle the data depending on the types of factors leading to recidivism or rehabilitation and by intensity type so that users can read the data on the areas that concern them the most.
Editorial & Art Direction
Mobile App, Product Design