As a group of four communication design students at Carnegie Mellon University, one of our biggest pet peeves is the fact that design often gets misunderstood. Our print piece and interactive web piece are both attempts to overcome the stereotypes that are associated with design. We think every designer can relate to having to try to explain to a family member, a friend, or an outsider what design is and it’s importance.

There’s a constant struggle of having to assert the idea that design isn’t just fun, drawing in a sketchbook and fighting for a seat at the table to help create something meaningful. For us, in a community that values pushing ourselves and this competition of who works harder, we’re often dismissed for our work because of this preconceived notion that our work isn’t as difficult, time consuming or requiring much thought.

That being said, we wanted to poke fun at the idea that we always seem to have to back up our career choices and it’s a constant argument with outsiders that design is REAL and involves just as much hard work as any other job. In that vein, we created a narrative that was presented as an “argument” of some sort between an outsider and a designer.


Spring Semester, 2019

Medium + skills: Interactive web piece (HTML/CSS), p5.js, print, comprehending high quantity data into interactive + visually appealing data visualization

Duration: 5 weeks

Group Members: 

  • Concept development
  • Writing all of the copy for both print + web
  • Creating a visual system foundation
  • Analyzing data from sections we chose
  • Creating visuals + direction for print piece spreads
  • Cheering on my team mates (woo!)

Dimensions: 6″ x 8″ spreads, unfolds into 16″ x 24″ poster


Our goal being to give people a different taste of design and to understand that questions asking us if design is a plausible career are quite frankly, kind of rude and unsettling. This leads to a more sassy back and forth in tone between the outsider and the designer, but all in good fun. Using over 13,000 participants responses to the 2017 AIGA Census, we visualized that data to simultaneously support our narrative.

Naturally, we wanted to be visually appealing with our data, but also use the data as a back up of this argumentative concept we had. The AIGA Census is important because not only does it give designers, aspiring designers, etc. a better gauge of the industry, but it also gives a chance for designers to reflect. We want people to understand design in a way that exudes the same respect and importance that a lot of other industries get. Anyone can make things, but to make meaningful things takes a lot more than visual appeal.


The interactive web piece features a narrative, written in a q&a style, that the user can read through and then play around with the data visualization chart created.


Full run through of our web component or interact with the web piece here (best viewed on 1440 x 900 screen)


There were features that we wanted to be a part of the web piece, but we weren’t able to code them based on time and ability constraints. We mocked up a version of it in After-Effects to show what we would’ve liked it to look like and how it would’ve functioned.


The AIGA Census has over 13,000 participants, which is incredibly intimidating to look at. We downloaded the raw data and looked at everything through an excel sheet first. We all individually pulled out categories that we were interested in and then touched base to see which overlapping ones we had. We eventually settled on 14 categories (that can be seen through our web + print piece). After this step, we put the quantitative numbers into pie charts just for us to digest easier and keep organized.


Writing the copy for this project was really fun because I was able to set a tone for the entire piece while still weaving the data into it. I enjoyed writing in the voice of a designer trying to explain my career choice and my practice because it felt very personal and definitely like a conversation I’ve had many times before.

I think the most difficult part about writing copy was trying to keep every section relatively short and sweet. It was difficult to make broad assumptions without doing any further research because it didn’t seem right to make mass assumptions on why certain trends were happening.

Overall, I’m quite happy I was put in charge of this task because I think my writing style and tone matched our concept quite well. It felt like a great chance to create some repertoire and to further humanize this data.

If you’re interested in seeing AIGA’s own depiction of the design census and looking deeper at the data check it out


Working together in a group is always an interesting dynamic just because of differing opinions, priorities, aesthetics, etc. However, I think our group dynamic was very in-sync. I think going into the group, we all knew our strengths and weaknesses, and therefore, were able to fill in gaps and also take charge of certain areas. This created a really aware group and made it so we all felt comfortable asking for help, clarification and being honest when giving crit to one another.

In addition, I think it gave me a better grasp of how quickly you have to pivot your ideas and how important it is to have back up plans. I am a firm believer in trying to make things work as best as you can, but during this project, we faced many forks in the road that involved back-tracking, reflection, re-evaulation and prompted us to maybe change our path a bit. It was definitely a huge learning experience in that sense because it made me always try to think two steps ahead and try to find quick fixes for problems we were facing, while still satisfying everyone’s vision and respecting everyone’s opinions.

In terms of looking at AIGA Census data, I think it was a nice way to get a better grasp of how real designers are in the industry. Often at school, we’re stuck in this bubble that only opens us up to certain aspects so it was great to see what people weighed as important aspects of the future, how many times they’ve shifted their focus, etc. However, it again raises the point that design is not a very diverse field in both gender and ethnicity. It’s been nice to see this slowly shift and take a change, but makes me realize that for us, designers, to effectively wield our power, we will need to up our diversity in order to get new perspectives and better understandings of how to tailor our designs to suit the needs and appeals of different groups.