Visualizing Complex Data: COVID-19 & More

Paolo Ciuccarelli & Paul Kahn, Northeastern University

Through the web, apps, sensors, and more we’re able to generate data sets so large and complex that it’s challenging to analyze them for decision making. As data continues to dominate our lives, the importance of organizing and presenting data in a way that’s actionable is of the utmost importance.

We’re bombarded by data, especially during a global pandemic. The scale is hard to fathom. The same is true for data streams related to society, economy, and the environment. If we want to improve our lives, make businesses more competitive, and solve climate change we need to utilize datasets so large, they’re beyond humans’ ability to comprehend. Without visualization, data of this size is just noise. Enter data visualization. We see these visualizations online, in newspapers and magazines, in reports, and on TV — they help us understand what’s happening.

Join us for Design Museum LIVE with two data visualization experts. Paolo Ciuccarelli is the Director of the Center for Design at Northeastern University. His research focuses on the design transformations that help make sense of data and information to improve decision-making processes, especially with non-experts stakeholders and for controversial complex social issues where he’s also experimenting on the role of rhetorics and visual poetry for deeper engagement. And Paul Kahn, a Lecturer in Experience Design at Northeastern. Paul specializes in solving large information problems, shaping and designing collections of digital information to improve user experience.

Together they will share the principles and approaches behind successful data visualizations through theory and relevant examples. They’ll also dive into data visualizations related to COVID-19. The pandemic is touching every part of our interconnected world. Its impact is being felt in all parts of our lives. An enormous number of visualizations designed to communicate, understand, analyze, and predict a constantly changing situation are appearing on the Internet every day, created by our biomedical community, governments, non-governmental organizations, news media, and the independent data visualization community at large. Paul will share the on-going building of COVIC (COVID-19 Online VIsualization Collection), an open-source research collection containing hundreds of visualization about the pandemic from around the world, classifying each according to type of visualization and intended message. He will share lessons already learned from this project.

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Paolo Ciuccarelli is Professor of Design at Northeastern after twenty years at Politecnico di Milano in Italy. At Politecnico he coordinated the Communication Design program (BSc and MSc), has been member of the board at the PhD in Design and he founded the DensityDesign Research Lab, an award winning laboratory for data visualization and information design. He also works in developing tools and methods to understanding the evolution of the design discipline in the frame of a meta-design approach.

Prior to joining Northeastern University, Paul Kahn spent a decade working in the design community of Paris, France, where he created the first agency in France focused on information architecture, and returned to the US in 2012 to join Mad*Pow, a purpose-driven, strategic design consultancy. Before that he led Dynamic Diagrams in Providence, RI. He is constantly looking for the difference that makes a difference, the threshold of acceptance, the patterns that connect people to the information they need.

Jul 21 • 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Video Webinar

Webinar, Instructions

All times are Eastern Time.

Paolo Ciuccarelli
Northeastern University

Paul Kahn
Northeastern University

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What To Expect

11:30amET • We’ll open the event

Sign on early to check your audio and chat with us — we’ll open the webinar or live stream 30 minutes before the presentation begins so everyone can get settled in and ready.

12:00pmET • Presentation begins

We’ll kick things off with news from the Design Museum and share what’s upcoming, then our keynote presenter or moderator will launch into the day’s presentation.

12:45pmET • Questions & Answers

Sometimes our presenters will take questions throughout, but we’ll always leave time towards then end for your questions, submitted via the chat box — and we’ll get to as many as possible.

1:00pmET • LIVE event ends

We’ll send a short survey to get your feedback on the event, and we’ll follow up with any additional info from the presentation — then we hope to see you at the next LIVE event!


Design Museum LIVE is our ongoing series of virtual events featuring talks and conversations with design thought leaders around the world. We’re bringing together a global community around design impact using interactive live streams and webinars to share design stories, demonstrations, and actionable knowledge. Join us twice per month as we bring the Design Museum directly to your screen, online for all to participate in and enjoy!