The credit crisis. Only in its wake have we come to understand it. Few recognized it for the tremendous collapse that it was. Most were “shocked,” to use former FED Chairman Alan Greenspan’s reaction, at how a relatively small problem in the American sub-prime mortgage market spiraled dramatically across the increasingly-connected world economy.
The Crisis of Credit Visualized distills the economic crisis into a short and simple story by giving it form. It is example work for the New Mediators, and a demonstration of how research, information design, and expository writing come together to model a complex situation and communicate it to others. The piece works as an expository visual essay that sets up a visual language, which it then layers and remixes to help the audience comprehend a wide range of related ideas from leverage to sub-prime mortgages. Complex concepts like these are attached to simple graphic forms, like a box or bomb. Once the association between the concept (abstract) and the form (representational) is established, the graphics can then be assembled in a narrative. The narrative goes on to draw clear relationships between the graphics, setting up a framework into which the concepts can be inserted and understood.
The apparent need for such a visual synthesis can be demonstrated by the response the Crisis of Credit Visualized has received. Since its web publication on February 18, 2009 the Crisis of Credit Visualized has been viewed over 2 million times across hundreds of blogs, generating thousands of comments, unfolding deep discussion of this topic. Online media sources such as Forbes.com, Reuters Financial Blog, Boing Boing, and NPR Planet Money commented on the simplicity of the explanation and the value of its holistic approach.
Using online video as a means for communication has several affordances. The ability to become “viral” is inherent within the technology. Online video is easily approachable and allows viewers to access the information on their own time. Additionally, the medium allows for thought leaders and journalists to display the video with their own preface, analysis, or criticism, acting as a personal referral or opinion on the topic. The video can be continually introduced, with every introduction contributing to the “global” conversation. Social media tools integrated into WordPress, Twitter, Delicious, and Digg among others, are beginning to track and aggregate this global conversation, providing a tremendous service to the author or interested viewer.
While manifested here as an animated diagram, the New Mediators’ design language can be translated into other media, like the printed versions below, or an interactive application described in the Future Implications section.