Perpetually investigating the intersection of the human experience & technology.

Data Visualization for Environmental Policy


Data Visualization for Environmental Policy


March 2017- April 2017

Team Size:

4 people


Experience Designer


data visualization, dashboard creation, research, UX design

How could environmental policy be impacted by data?

For this project my team investigated the Canadian tar sandsand the larger environmental impact of the extraction and processing of the oil. We created a dashboard including various data visualizations that could be used by a politician to get a high-level overview of the financial benefits of the oil sands vs. the negative impact on the environment.


We wanted to understand first and foremost before any building what all is being impacted by the oil sands and the extent to which is actually does benefit Canada. We approached this research from many perspective, and we saw primarily impact on the air, water, and wildlife. At the same time, we could not ignore the extent to which the oil sands created jobs, and this was something that needed to be considered in any data visualization.


We chose to utilize indicators relative to the environmental impact of the oil sand extraction and processing, but also the economic benefit, as we can understand why a politician would need this information to inform policy changes.


We took some time to ideate with sketches prior to digitizing. This sketch shows a direct comparison between cost and benefit in a single dashboard that shows change over time. In between each area chart is a gauge for the extent to which we are experiencing one more than another (more cost or more benefit). 


This is one of our digitized mockups that we further iterated on as we narrowed down visualizations to use in the dashboard. This area chart look at the breakdown of employment in Canada by industry.


Here is one of our dashboards that we generated as we iterated through our visualizations. You'll notice different visualizations added as well as certain features manipulated. Visualizations included area charts, bar charts, line charts, treemaps, and spider charts


We believe this dashboard would be incredibly useful for politicians who must make informed decisions, weighing both the pros and the cons relative to this natural fixture of Canada. The Canadian oil sands will not go away anytime soon, but politicians need to plan for a day when they will no longer be a source of employment. They need to make sure that the air and water are still clean enough for the residents and the wildlife.