Freeing the US from its culture of detention by Voilà:
Professor Alison Siegler, and her team at the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic of the University of Chicago conducted an extensive examination of federal pretrial detention. What they found when examining 343 cases in 4 federal district courts revealed serious violations at each stage of the process. This discovery set in motion an effort involving Voilà: to bring these critical insights to the forefront of public discourse, engaging judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and advocates in the necessary dialogue for change.
An important feature of this research is the emergence of systemic patterns in parallel with the importance of every individual story. This posed a design challenge: how to effectively tie these patterns with intimate personal narratives, while also doing justice to the meticulous work done by Professor Siegler and her team?
Voilà: approached this project with an integrated view of information design: everything from the typography to the colour palette and of course the data visualization should reinforce the findings. Nothing could be generic. Three key principles guided us on this journey:
Understanding the Findings | We invested time unpacking the raw data to make sense of the connections between subpopulations and their larger context. Through this new level of understanding, we were able to offer an original perspective through the use of nested waffle charts. These charts uphold individual significance while simultaneously exposing systemic failures that span stakeholders and stages. But introducing a new type of chart can be intimidating for an audience. To ensure that the message remained accessible, we followed our second principle:
Clarity and Accessibility | In the initial design stages, we made a critical choice: an impactful color palette of black, white, and red. This dramatic palette, fitting for the topic, proved universally discernible and facilitated swift visual scanning. Inclusive annotations and a visual legend clarified chart interpretations. Recognizing that different contexts demanded different presentations of the same information, we incorporated bars and Big Numbers for a straightforward alternative when the focus was on simplicity over complexity. The table of content also received the information design treatment, with a clear hierarchy of information highlighting the four recommendations and the systematic approach of the research.
Strong visual metaphors and a unique identity | Right from the cover page itself, the visual elements conveying the ideas of justice and injustice, detention and prison, tragedy and urgency are found throughout the report. The colour palette, the jail bars conveyed through thick gridlines, the vicious circle shown as a chain, or the notion of detention manifested in the design of our nested waffle charts.
The decision to categorize this project as "Humanitarian" was driven by this project’s focus on human welfare and the advancement of social reforms as well as our belief in the imperative to scrutinize the assumption that humanitarian work always happens from the Global North to the Global South. As the research advocates, the time has come to take a closer look at our own institutions and collectively address their systemic flaws.