Visualizing the Health Care Debate

The power of effective design is often discussed in the context of “product design” but my friend Dan Roam (and  Dr. Tony Jones MD) showed this week how it can be used to potentially save lives. Okay maybe that’s a stretch, but his latest sketches on visualizing the health care debate will definitely help avoid confusion—which regardless of where you stand on health care, I’d still like believe will lead out nation to a better outcome than if we all just relied on scare tactics.

Napkin Set #1 – How we are stuck in the middle between doctors and insurance companies. I love how Dan bends the scale in the drawing.

Napkin Set #2 – Explains how this is really all about insurance reform (not health care) and that it’s us that will pay for it. It also drives home the point that insurance companies (and I’d add oil companies) are two industries that have done well thru the recession. Hmm…

Napkin #3 – An overview of the actual proposals (with names) being discussed in Congress. I love how slide 7 shows with size, visuals, and color the types of plans being discussed.

Napkin #4 – Explains how each of us will be affected by the proposals. I guess in the end, it’s gonna cost more and it’s just a matter of how we want to pay for it and what forces should be at work to improve quality/economics.

I got far more out of these handful of sketches than I did out of the White House Reality Check, HealthReform.gov, Time Mag Cover Story, or even the many stories on NPR combined. All of them seem to cover more the nature of the debate than the actual proposals themselves. While I can’t fault the radio coverage for being more visual… the mainstream media, the Whitehouse, and Congress would be wise to enlist visual thinking on this health care debate. Otherwise the status quo (skyrocketing health care costs AND < 100% coverage) is likely all we’ll end up with as Congress won’t be able to act.

UPDATE: Dan compiled all four sets into on presentation of napkins.

Back of the Napkin

Back of the Napkin Book CoverI’ve mentioned Dan Roam’s visual thinking approach here before and you haven’t heard of him you should check him out. Congratulations to Dan on releasing his first book: The Back of the Napkin (available March 13th). He shared a pre-release copy with me in the fall and I must say it is going to be a seminal book in the visual thinking space.

At a high level he’s created a number of frameworks for approaching visualizations (e.g. sketches, charts). Here’s one that I find particularly useful in my day-to-day work:

  1. Look – Collect and scan your data. Decide what problem you’re trying to solve.
  2. See – Find patterns in the data (Who? What? When? How? Why?)
  3. Imagine – Describe your data by capturing it your “mind’s eye”.
  4. Show – Select the right framework (e.g. Measurement? Time line?)

Dan’s getting a lot of coverage in the press. Here’s some:

Designers… Move to California!

A couple year’s back I commented about the booming job market for interaction designers in the Bay Area. As I try and build out my design team, I’m now acutely aware that the job market is not only as hot as it was in late 2005, it’s actually hotter.

Expansion of Interaction Design Positions in the Bay Area (500)

As you can tell from the above chart, the demand for Interaction Designers has actually reached an all time high since I started tracking this in 2003 at 113 open positions in March 2007. The shear number of open positions means that the supply is unable to meet the demand—causing designers to move between companies but no real progress.

Therefore if you’re a great designer and have always wanted to move to California, let me know… or contact any of the many firms seeking people like you. As a design community, I’d love to meet this demand and show the world what can be accomplished.

Update 4/19: David on Signal vs. Noise spotted a similar rise in competition for talent. His take on it is based on the rise of Recruiting Spam, which I frankly am also growing annoyed with as well.

The next Edward Tufte?

Dan Roam visited eBay on Thursday to give a workshop on Visual Thinking. I thought I might learn how to produce better charts and diagrams but instead I got a whole new way to think about problems and visualizations. He gave countless examples of how you can discover great data often buried within a 40 page powerpoint deck and share it in a simple visual way.

Not only is Dan Roam perhaps the best visualizer of a generation but he’s reflected on how he approaches his work so that others can repeat it. Here’s how he approaches it:

  1. Look – Collect and scan your data. Decide what problem you’re trying to solve.
  2. See – Find patterns in the data (Who? What? When? How? Why?)
  3. Imagine – Describe your data by capturing it your “mind’s eye”.
  4. Show – Select the right framework (e.g. Measurement? Time line?)

Dan discusses the importance of identifying patterns in your data and then finding ways to communicate those patterns to others. As I’m finding in other business literature no matter what the field effective pattern recognition and communication seems to separate the best from the average.

Examples:

  • Measurement: Comparing using Harvey Balls is a classic approach. Focus on simplicity (simple 2d colors vs. fancy 3d charts) to put the data front an center.
  • Flow chart: Dan’s got a great example of Walmart Sustainability on his blog.

If you’d like to learn more about visual thinking check out Dan’s blog and stay tuned for the release of his book The Back of the Napkin. Finally, I highly recommend his training workshop. I took the 1/2 day visual thinking workshop and left wanting more.

Update:

Booming UI Design Market in Bay Area

As I mentioned the other day, I’ve noticed anecdotally noticed that companies are having a difficult time filling their UI and UER positions. So I decided to see if there was any quantifiable evidence which would confirm what I already suspect (if the barrage of recruiting VMs I get is any clue).

I realized that the weekly BayCHI Job Bank email that I’ve received the past few years would be a great place to start. In graphing the jobs located in the Bay Area, you’ll notice an interesting trend (see graph below).

Bay Area Job Expansion (2005)

You’ll see that there is a sustained demand for UI Designers and User Experience Researchers that over the past year has gone unmet, creating scarcity.

Assuming this market is efficient we should see two things happen: increased wages offered by firms seeking to attract talent and over the long term an increase in supply (new employees enter the regional market).

Once again, I believe the firms over the next few years that can attract and retain top talent will be successful in achieving their business goals.

Update 4/25/07: I’m hiring, check my current open positions 

Technorati: , , , ,

Noguchi Filing System and Information Stacks

This morning I spotted a reference to the Noguchi Filing System on CNET which got me to thinking.

First in case you haven’t heard of this system, it prescribes that rather than a file-folder system for organizing desk papers you simply create a folder for each day and put it on the shelf (actually on the left side, as in a horizontal “stack”). The idea being that people will remember the approach. date even if they forget how it was classified. Using a folder “pops” the folder to the top of the stack (in this case the left side).

I’ve noticed that several products on the web are implementing this system for organization, for example GMail. Items come into the stack at the top and only when they are active (replied to) do they bubble back up to the top. Perhaps this method for organizing paper could work even better in an electronic world as it could be easily augmented thru a search mechanism.

Noguchi Filing System and Information Stacks

This morning I spotted a reference to the Noguchi Filing System on CNET which got me to thinking.

First in case you haven’t heard of this system, it prescribes that rather than a file-folder system for organizing desk papers you simply create a folder for each day and put it on the shelf (actually on the left side, as in a horizontal “stack”). The idea being that people will remember the approach. date even if they forget how it was classified. Using a folder “pops” the folder to the top of the stack (in this case the left side).

I’ve noticed that several products on the web are implementing this system for organization, for example GMail. Items come into the stack at the top and only when they are active (replied to) do they bubble back up to the top. Perhaps this method for organizing paper could work even better in an electronic world as it could be easily augmented thru a search mechanism.