The AIGA Design Census

Data Visualization of Design Industries + The Future of Design

Faith Kaufman
Feb 28, 2017 · 28 min read

Looking at data collected in the AIGA Design Census, my team of me, Deborah Lee, Rufeng Ji, Albert Yang, and Jessica Headrick created a series of cards using patterns as a form of visualization. As a team, we explored color, patterns, typography, and forms of data representation.

In the AIGA Design Census, every designer chose 3 words to describe what they perceive the future of design to be. We took the first 50 entries from each industry and compared the 150 words (3 words x 50 designers per industry.) From there, we categorized the words into whether they pertain to Designer, Method, or Product. There is a second level of categorization from there that specifies the meaning of the entry: Designer (Group or Individual?), Method(Thinking or Feeling?), Product (Positive, Negative, or Neutral?) On each card, 1/150 of the grid represents one word. By looking at our cards, you will see our final visualizations and be able to compare between the different industries’ views of the future.

This project accompanies a second project with the same team that visualized results of a CMU Design Census. Please click here to see that project.

Final Cards + Deck

02.21.2017 | Beginning the Project

We spent the class period together looking at the Aiga Design Census:!/ and around the web for inspiration. Most helpful was looking at the gallery of projects found on the AIGA site.

Discussion Points

We are dealing a bit with stereotypes and generalizations. We talked about creating characters or personas.

We talked about the “future of design.” What if we made it a battle of design/meeting of the minds of different industries. Maybe this could help young designers determine their path.

We want to have different “layers” of the data.

At one point, we considered looking at the work/life balance stuff, with a focus on life. But, when speaking to Q, our professor, he pointed out that the data about life gathered from the survey is very superficial. It’s just questions like “Do you like coffee?”

We want to have a narrative going through the data, because this will make it more interesting to the viewer.

Q mentioned that we could make it cards that show how for a certain type of designer, this is what the nature and structure of their portfolio website is.

In the end, we all felt most interested in looking at how the mindset of design (future words to describe design data) is different by industry.

Where to Go Next

We’re looking now at what people in each industry value, and felt most inclined toward making something generative. Since we have to do a second piece, we seem to be toying with either print or digital.

We agreed as a team to do some independent sifting through the data.

02.23.2017 | Independent Research

This is the spreadsheet of data that we created in prep for our meeting.


02.24.2017 | Concept & Style Meeting

Team meeting #1


We have decided that we will be creating generative patterns based off of our data on how people see the future of design.

Therefore the data that we will be using is:

  1. Words about the Future of Design
  2. Information about Years Professional and Industry
  3. We will use their location to distribute the positioning of each entry, thus giving us interesting visual distributions of the data on each card. The positioning would relate to where the locations are on a map. However, it would not look like a map.
sketch on the board


We created a pinterest board to get on the same page regarding our visual language:

Here are a few I’ve pulled from the board:

Visual Inspiration

As you can see, we’re looking at pattern and shape, but ours will be determined by the data.

02.25.2017 | Concept & Style — Sending to Q


We were first interested in creating “personas” of designers who responded to the census, as we talked about last class. However, we further defined our approach by looking at three categories that will visualize their view of the future of design: 1) Industry, 2) Age, and 3) Location. We plan to categorize the “words to describe the future of design”, from the census into more tangible groups. Then, assign these words abstract visuals which will be building blocks for the visualization for the future of each group (industry and age group). Ultimately, we want to use a card deck and a web tool as our two mediums. For the card deck, each card will reflect a different industry and age group through abstracted visualizations of the “words of the future”. A map of the relative location that the responses will act as the grid for our abstract visuals. Ultimately, we want to compare and contrast the “view” of the future that designers in different industries and age groups have. The web tool will be another way for an audience to explore this relationship. Using the map as a grid, the visual representation of the “words of the future of design” will draw themselves on, depending on what conditions are applied.

Our whiteboard sketches are attached. For our visual direction, we are creating a pinterest board for the final abstract “futures” composition (but we are still developing this):

Thank you!

Jessie, Faith, Steven, Albert, Deborah

02.27.2017 | The Algorithm

What we are doing for our project is:

  1. Grouping people based off of their industry.
  2. From there, we make 3 different cards for each industry, based off of age groups (how long working).
  3. We age groups are made up of entries of people’s location and words to describe the future of design.

You can see the breakdown sketched out here:

The breakdown

Upon meeting, we immediately dove into creating an algorithm to determine ways that we might categorize the words to describe the future of design, under Jessie’s lead. The reason we are doing this is so that we can assign/encode more meaning into these words to make them more semantically significant.

We took a random sampling of entries from each of the categories to look at the words they had entered so that we could come up with a system of categorizing.

Sampling of words

From there we came up with ideas for how to categorize:

  • method vs. presentation
  • group vs. individual

Having a “this or that” approach opened us to the possibility of creating a further way of categorizing the people. For example, since every entry has 3 words to describe the future of design, we assign each word M or P (Method or Presentation). If 2 of their 3 words are M, for example, then they are M type. (This is similar to the Myers Briggs personality test form of labeling.) And we would do this for 3 levels of categorization. So in our sketch for example, our person was the MGI type.

MGI type

The reason we are coming up with these categorizations is to aide in creating visuals that represent our data in an interesting way. It will determine distinctions from one entry to the next.

Until tomorrow, we agreed to all continue to look further into different forms of categorizing the entries’ words.

02.28.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Categorization by Adjective, Noun, Verb

We met as a team during class to finalize categorization.

What we decided is that we will first categorize based off of whether the word is describing a Design, Designer, or Method. From there, the second round of categorization is breaking it down to (if design)longitudinal or latitudinal , (if Designer) individual or group, (if Method) feeling or thinking. The second round will be 1 graph, 1 binary, and 1 spectrum to aid in creating interesting visuals. We also determined as a group disperse data on the card according to the data of the “graph” of longitudinal and latitudinal, vs according to location like we had talked about in previous meetings.

Categorization notes

Meeting with Q also helped us determine that at this point we are focusing our efforts on the physical medium of the cards. We will also be considering the making of a kit, or some way for people to see how their data relates with the data we are generating from the census.

We also are looking at ways we can be more representational rather than abstract with our visualization. For that reason we are looking a lot at this piece of inspiration:


We spent our class-time starting a spreadsheet pulling 50 entries from each industry and beginning the categorization process.

Tomorrow, we will be continuing with categorizing and beginning visual studies.

03.01.2017 | Visual Exploration

I mostly spent the day searching for inspiration for the visuals. I also began visual studies. Will post tomorrow.

03.02.2017 | Independent Visual Studies

Did lots of visual studies mostly on the abstract side.

Visual Studies

Sent to group but worry they may be too visual.

03.02.2017 | Post Class Reflections

I showed Sharon (not in the group) my sketches and she passed along some helpful inspiration: !! Super helpful inspiration.

Team Meeting

As a team however, we met to discuss direction and found ourselves pretty lost. The iterations I had done were too abstract, and we wanted to take it in a more representational direction. Jessie brought up an idea we had discussed earlier of a kingdom, but I brought up a concern that that might be kinda counter-intuitive. Our project is visualizing the future, and kingdoms are very stuck in the past. We liked the idea of the map visuals though.

We spoke to Q, and debated representational and abstracted visuals for a bit. We decided that somewhere in the middle is interesting, especially since it isn’t often reached in a lot of data visualization work.

Meeting with Q helped us to determine that perhaps splitting the card into 3 sections would be helpful.

3 Divisions on the card.

Q also brought up that we could do a semantic analysis using an algorithm ( instead of our biased longitudinal/latitudinal categorization method.

We split up as a group to think up new ideas.

Class Ideation

We split up to separately come up with ideas.

I came up with the idea/metaphor of a factory. So factory relates to the word industry, and since we’re looking at how industries view the future of design, I thought it would be interesting.

How does this relate?

Our three categories we were working with were Designer, Method, and Design. And so, Designers would be represented with factory workers, method with assembly line / chutes, and design with final product — maybe pixels. Jessie and I then collaborated on how this would be visualized.

Sketches of Factory Idea

Albert came up with an idea of different circles representing the actual industries. For example, the print one would be half-tone.

Jessie’s idea was going into a more academic route with pencils for example.

Steven looked at blend modes and 3d forms.

Deb looked at visuals and colors.

We’re still a bit lost with direction!


We decided to all come in with iterations for tomorrow’s meeting to further our visual direction decisions since we realize we need to make decisions soon.

03.04.2017 | Group Meeting

Prepping for Meeting

So Jessie first passed along some typographic experiments, working with the grid idea I had established in my ideations from before.

Jessie also brought in a great idea of using plus and minus signs for semantic analysis.

Jessie ideas

Deb passed along some great ideas as well. She built off the factory idea and played around with type.

Deb Iterations

I did a quick study of abstracting the type of “me” and “us” [image on left] and then brought it into the card on the right.

Faith Ideas

Steven tried out his blend mode style that he had presented as an option during class.

Steven ideas

Albert thought about a new approach to interacting with the form. Maybe it’s not a card but a way that you can lay the industry over the colored sheet and it blocks out to show percentages.

Albert idea

Group Meeting

We got to some really good discussions since we had all come in with ideas.

In the end seeing the inspiration with the grid [see below] plus Jessie’s iterations made us want to pursue that direction!


Working Together

Jessie and I worked together on Us and Me, bringing in stripes. (this was formerly known as group and individual)


Positive/Negative Iterations by Albert.


Deb came up with ideas for thinking and feeling. (Jessie brought up later that T and F may be misinterpreted as True and False.)

Deb Iterations


Our goal is to have a completed card sent to Q soon.

03.05.2017 | Categorization

Something we brought up at the meeting yesterday is that the first 50 entries for each industry have a lot of unusable word entries. I spent some time finding the first 50 *usable* entries for each industry.

Steven and Albert have committed to sorting out the new entries today into their categories. Deb helped with counting.

We intend to meet tomorrow to finalize our visual direction.

03.06.2017 | Iterations

Jessie sent her explorations:

Jessie Iteration

I passed back this:

Faith Iterations

Deb sent this:

Deb Iterations

03.06.2017 | Group Meeting


  • need to work on clarifying color contrasts in 3 sections
  • type setting for back: draw conclusions, determining all the pieces that we want (Me/Us, Pos/Neg, Heart/Mid, Industry) -> needs to be done (sans serif, encyclopedia entry, museum placard inspired)
  • iterating on H + M and N + O + P
  • bringing to Kinkos on Tuesday
  • deb will upload new workable file

Things to Do Before Tomorrow

Iterate! Try new things! Even if its different from what we already have.

  • typesetting on back (Faith + Deb)
  • +or — (Deb + Steven)
  • h or m (Albert + Jessie)
  • me or us (Jessie)
  • starting copy (Jessie)
  • copy, colors (All of us)
  • counting of the sections and grid (Faith)

03.06.2017 | Independent Work: Typesetting & Grid

Before starting, I noticed a disparity in the counts of the categories! The words weren’t adding up to 150. So, Deb, Steven, and I spent an hour fixing that. The data is now usable.


I began by first establishing a grid for a 4x6 card that could accommodate 150 squares. I was really excited because the dimensions actually worked! 10x15 created square shapes.

I plugged in the data for our print industry and got the following result.

150 grid

We noted that it lacked hierarchy.

I created another version where I played around w scale.

Scale iteration

We wondered if there was too much hierarchy, plus the scaling didn’t really mean anything.

Finally, I created an iteration that took the section with the highest number of result — be that group, individual, positive, negative, neutral, heart/feeling, mind/thinking- and made that section scaled up. This created the best hierarchy.

Highest # in category is made largest.

I tested it out with the data from 3 different cards as a proof of concept.

Proof of concept

I’m wondering about how color would differ between cards so I made a quick mockup of that as well, but these colors are all pretty horrible — Yikes.

Color Iteration

I’ll have to see what the group says about this tomorrow. But I feel most confident about this last iteration.


Deb is getting this started and I’ll help with it tomorrow.

03.07.2017 | Other Group Member’s Iterations

Steven did some iterating on shape representation.

Smiley iterations

Deb did too.

shape iterations

This was her start to the typesetting.


Jessie considered orientation and entry points — which directions to shapes come in from?

left or right?

03.07.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Meeting With Kaleb

  • positive/negative
  • stairs pattern as background — lightbulbs and hearts on top?
  • contrasts of sections
  • 150 grid is most effective… can count most easily (in relation to the color wheel)
  • Hue relationships stay the same, but colors change
  • how to tie in the form — why is it cards??
  • does it have to be linear in format?
  • job fair? stephanie provasek io festival
  • break it out a readable form
  • abstract or representational — make the h and m better?
  • whats the entry point??
  • subtle title?
  • aiga conference — lanyards?
  • ^ designed to heighten the experience…. ?
  • promotional material for context

Group Meeting Minutes

  • exclamation points/question marks
  • Choosing a contrast for each section
  • plus and minus section could be about mass — w pattern that deb created
  • lets try making two cards — the 2 patterns
  • paying attention to foreground/background relation
  • copy will be about conclusions we’ve made from studying the data
  • adding responses behind the copy
  • context of aiga conference as something we would extend … next steps, this is where this would go
  • questions by thursday

Where to Go

  • H and M (Albert, Jessie)
  • grid (jessie)
  • + or — (Deb, Steven)
  • typesetting, color (Faith) — take photos of successful contrasts
  • color (everyone)
  • content (jessie, tonight)
  • questions for next section (faith will start doc)


We worked on colors, back of cards, and wondered whether a diagonal grid would work.

03.08.2017 | Group Meeting

Working Together

Deb was able to get the diagonal grid idea to work. We also iterated on the back of cards and did some test prints.

Splitting Up Work

notes with our plan

03.09.2017 | Printing for Soft Deadline

Finishing Up

Jessie, Steven, and Deb worked on filling the grid and adjusting colors for print.

color testing

Albert and I worked on the back of cards and key card.

Working on Backs of Cards


Editing Colors

Jessie did some test prints and cleaned up colors!

Here is how the prints of the fronts of the cards that went in!

Card fronts
Another shot of the cards

Crit From Q

Overall he thinks the patterns are too packed and wants us to consider margins and negative space more. he said we “don’t need complex elements to show variation” he thinks that there is also more room for variation. For example, maybe the square backgrounds stay in place, and only the icons get bigger? He suggested sectioning off areas with colors. The backs of the cards aren’t yet playful enough. He suggested also only having one color for the borders which would be used for all of the industries. The reason is that if the card patterns are communicating effectively, we wouldn’t need the colored borders as a crutch for distinguishing the industries as different.

While with him, he suggested deconstructing the pattern like this to the primary layers.

Q likes the idea of putting this into the context of an AIGA conference, but once us to iterate further on the pattern.

Next Steps

We’re heading off to spring break now so we’re gonna deliberate more on this as a team!

03.16.2017 | Simplification + Variation

What Was Said on Thursday

As a reminder, this is the critique that we received from Q on Thursday:

Overall he thinks the patterns are too packed and wants us to consider margins and negative space more. he said we “don’t need complex elements to show variation” he thinks that there is also more room for variation. For example, maybe the square backgrounds stay in place, and only the icons get bigger? He suggested sectioning off areas with colors. The backs of the cards aren’t yet playful enough. He suggested also only having one color for the borders which would be used for all of the industries. The reason is that if the card patterns are communicating effectively, we wouldn’t need the colored borders as a crutch for distinguishing the industries as different.

How to Move Forward

  • simplicity
  • variation


Deb, Steven, and I iterated, taking in mind the feedback from Q:

Trying to get more variety.
Shape Iterations
Sectioning of Sections and Icons

03.20.2017 | Group Meeting

Heart maps to three things: color, feeling, and something else.


  • Do we want to redo visuals? Or start something new? Should we keep iterating?
  • We need to get on the same page about what we want to fix?
  • How to make it more playful on back of cards? Small changes like fonts and such.
  • Scaling to show variation and tone stuff could help.

What is the Identity System — Context

  • AIGA conference
  • Confluence Fair
  • Handshake?
  • South by Southwest
  • Design Lottery

We still need to think about this.

Goals By End of Week

  • clean up visuals by thursday
  • finish identity system over weekend -> clarify what we want to do for 2.2

By Tomorrow

  • Iterate (top priority is still to see three distinguished sections) but play with form. We’re not starting over so keep in mind what goals we have had from the start. If it’s still working, keep it.
  • Grid might be limiting, so break it
  • Reduce one layer? Are icons and type working together?
  • If time, work on backs of cards: typography seems to be a main area we can improve? But let’s see where else we can try.

Things to remember/ What we have established: iterating w forms we have, distinguishing categories — the three main ones but also distinguishing within the categories, rearranging shapes but keep in mind they have 150 shapes (vessel!). Let’s build on the foundation we already have.

03.21.2017 | Independent Explorations


Checkerboards and Overlays

Tone + Shape

Tone + Large Shaped Grid Split Diagonally

02.21.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Meeting With Q

Demographic information for survey

  • graduate or undergraduate
  • Degree
  • Location

Back of cards

  • more info about what they’re looking at
  • too many type styles -> maybe stick to 3


  • make contrast of sections stronger
  • stick w squares not triangles
  • looking at maps for help: Joost Grooten, especially

Meeting With Kaleb

  • likes map ideas
  • you’re giving too many cues — consider entry points
  • try to be more literal -> icons work
  • storytelling element? faces? maps? landscape?
  • think about if it breaks the grid? typography for example?

Where to Go Next

  • Steven, Faith, and Deb: Front of Cards
  • Albert: Back of Cards
  • Jessie: Moving onto the survey part

03.22.2017 | Dividing and Conquering

Albert — Back of Cards

Design Sprint With Deb

We iterated on the fronts of cards.

When icons span categories
Joost Grooten Inspired

03.22.2017 | Finishing Up Front of Cards


We cleaned up all the icons to have the lines.

Iterating on the Front of Card Icons

Worked on the backs of cards to have less typographic styles but we are worried that we have lost hierarchy.

Backs of Cards

Filling Grid // Adjusting Colors


03.23.2017 | Touchups + Printing

First we finished up editing colors and finalizing the back of cards! Then we started printing.

Printing Process

Cutting Out the Prints
Attaching the Cards With Spray Adhesive


Front of Cards

Front of cards
Front of Cards

Back of Cards

Key Card

Critique From Kaleb

Kaleb said it was working well! He liked how we had been able to take our initial idea but make it more effective.

A few things he mentioned:

  • Can the dot grid become +, -, o, etc. based off of what had the highest percentage?
  • Can you do graphic representation of amounts instead of writing out percentages? Like a clipping mask arc for example.
  • The font (Monda) is working.
  • Do two rounds of the spray adhesive since its not sticking very well.
  • Figure out whether the cards look better with or without the border.

Critique From Q

  • adjust thickness of strokes of smaller sections — maybe taking out one of the lines in the small ones
  • top section isn’t working -> us/me -> has overlapping and direction changes
  • need more color contrast — orange/purple part is working best
  • green is standing out -> swap with a blue background
  • dot grid is too light — also doesn’t think we need to do the +,-, o thing that Kaleb was talking about
  • back of cards -> little text doesn’t need to be purple and underlined, reduce big type size, “product,” “method,” and “designer” doesn’t have to be left-aligned (on key cards)
  • diagonal triangle is too distracting

Next Steps

  • 150 grid for key/title card

03.26.2017 | Group Meeting

We discussed the survey and our current project.

Where to Go Next

  • Jessie: Us/Me Typographic Studies
  • Steven and Deborah: Color Contrast
  • Faith: Years to Survey, Can we have New York? Or at least not California
  • Albert + Faith: Typography on Back of Cards
  • Individually: Research + Come up with ideas for Data Visualizations. Jessie will make a pinterest board

03.27.2017 | Sending for Crit from Q

We sent our iterations we had worked on to Q for feedback.

What We Sent

Fronts of Cards

We explored amount of variation in size of squares/icons, rigid/flowy icons, and diagonal vs. half/half methods of distributing the icons. We also reworked the colors. We extended the top margin of the card.

Card Fronts

Backs of Cards

We explored ways to represent the percentages, distribute the words, and setting of type. In the top card, you will notice we removed the dot-grid because the words are now implying the grid structure by themselves.

Backs of Cards


Q sent us the following feedback:

Feedback from Q

We continued working through the night.


Jessie played with making smaller icons for 1x1 squares. These had a different stroke weight and amount of strokes. Then there are bigger ones of 3x3 or 5x5.

Icon studies


Deb played with colors again.

Color Studies

Backs of Cards-Albert + Steven

Albert and Steven played with type and composition on the backs of cards and key cards.

Type Studies

Compiling/a little of everything — Faith

I brought everything together, changed colors, and edited icons. I also did more iterations on the grid-> I played around with setting 2x2 as the maximum scale and 3x3 as the maximum scale.


The 2x2 and 1x1 scaling communicated quantities most effectively and aesthetically.

1x1 and 2x2

03.28.2017 | Presenting Compiled Cards for Final Crit

As a team, we worked together to finish up making decisions on the cards that we wanted to present in class.


Card Fronts


Card Backs

Key Cards

Key Front + Back


Q told us that as we finish up the project to remember that the essence is in the analysis. It is critical to show process of categorization. Q seemed pleased with our process on the project.

Next Steps

Though we are transitioning into the CMU Design Census project, our plan is to finish up our printing and documentation this weekend.

05.04.2017 | Class Work Time

Compositing Cards

Got a lot of feedback from Q on the margins of the cards! I adjusted the text on the back of the cards. Steven and Albert and I compiled all of the grids.

Final Fronts

Fronts of Cards

Final Backs

Backs of Cards

Final Key

Key Front + Back

05.04.2017 | Card Deck

Card Decks

Originally, I went in this direction.

Line Letters

But, then I moved in this direction before sending for more feedback.

Card Deck Iterations
Card Deck Iterations

Critique From Kaleb

“Happy to see you’re taking another crack at these! Initially I like the filled ones (second iteration) the most, letterform feels most solid that way. Though the box feels a little sparse. What if you inverted the figure/ground? Making the background your patterns and the AIGA a white cutout on top?”

05.06.2017 | Printing Day

Card Deck

Final Deck Design

I changed it so that the sides will be randomly filled with the shapes. I moved the type down and took out the unnecessary description text. It’s unnecessary because the key card explains everything inside.

Final Design


For some reason, it took me forever to figure out the right dimensions to fit the cards.

Iterations on Iteratinos

But, I finally got it. As you can see, when I place the card over, it’s a perfect fit.


The rest of my teammates figured out printing! And also resolved issues that they found with the cards.

Jessie and Steven Adjusting Colors.
Albert Checking the file
Team at work in Smillie

05.08.2017 | Documentation Day !


Arranging the cards
Process Pic in the Photo Studio

Final Images

Data Viz
Deck + Cards
Stack of Cards
Card + Key Card
Cards Laid Out
Front + Back of Cards
A Few Cards

Faith Kaufman

Written by

Design Student at Carnegie Mellon University