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The Impact of Human Activity on European Biodiversity and Economy

Evidence-based visualization that provides policymakers with reliable foundation, empowering them towards action-focused decision making  

Project Overview 

The loss of biodiversity in Europe has been highlighted for decades. Our client: a group of European scientists, want to use data visualization to urge EU policy makers to act in terms of modifying current policy or enacting new policy to save the biodiversity in Europe. Based on the available data, we designed a dashboard that particularly emphasizes the impact of one major threat to biodiversity: overuse of pesticide, and how it impacts the whole biodiversity of Europe, the economy loss of EU and, ultimately, EU's 2020 goal. The dashboard is expected to bias EU policymakers toward action.

This is a three-week course project of Interactive Design Studio. My role in this team project: data selection, data analysis, story narrative, dashboard wireframing, dashboard UI design, dashboard animation. 


To identify the design problem space, we conduct extensive research on: 

  • While we understand our client's needs, what the target users of the dashboard: EU policy makers, care about?

  • The data demonstrates the reason, the current situation and the key trends of the loss of biodiversity in Europe.

Understanding the user

"What are EU policy makers' needs?"

The data of biodiversity indicators that we looked at 

Those that are highlighted are the key indicators used in our biodiversity dashboard

  • Air pollution levels

  • Pesticide use

  • Natura 2000 zone (areas designed to be official protected zones by the EU)

  • Species impacted by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

  • Areas of urbanization

  • Countries with the highest number of bee extinctions in the past decade

  • The prevalence of varroa mites

  • Irregular farm land use

  • Temperature

  • Signs of emerging economies

  • Crop production

  • GDP of specific countries in Europe

  • Signs of migration

Problem Identified 
  • The gap between the EU policymakers’ perceived and the real impact of the biodiversity loss on the GDP loss


Perceived: indirectly influence the economy

Real: directly affect the GDP numbers

  • The gap between the EU policymakers’ perceived and the real reason for the low effect of EU’s pesticide control policies

Perceived: EU policy inaction

Real: poor implementation at national level


Brainstorming And Sketch

  • Created the narrative of the data visualization based on our research 

  • Explore and find the best way to visualize the narrative 

In our research, ​we identified six key indicators of the Europe 2020 goal, and the causation relations among these six indicators according to the real data. This data-driven narrative is the core information we want to deliver to the user: EU policy makers, through our dashboard design.

When we were sketching the data visualization, we constantly asked ourselves three questions:

1. Is this the most effective and concise way to visualize the data of this type of indicator? 

2. Does the UI design holistically correspond to the narrative? 

3. Does the design contain rich information for the user to interpret and tap on the user's motivation to act?

User Testing: Validate Our Assumptions Of The Design

Iteration Of The Design 

Final Design 

Zoom In the details

The time line is designed to help the user relates the existing impact and the trajectory of the biodiversity and economy loss to the time frame of Europe 2020 Goal.

According to our research, the overuse of the pesticide in Italy, Germany, Hungary and France is one of the root reasons for the biodiversity loss in Europe. We highlighted these four countries and show when the pesticide consumption of these four countries passed the threshold and the speed of their trajectories until 2020.

As the bee colonies are disappearing because of the overuse of the pesticide, the biodiversity extinction is getting worse in some areas of the eastern and the southern Europe. The area and the pausing frequency of the warning circles are changing according to the data along the time.    

The crop production declines due to the significant biodiversity loss and the decreasing soil capability caused by the overuse of the pesticide. On the contrary, the air pollutant concentrations are increasingly high, and the air pollution problem persists. 

One of the key objectives of Europe 2020 Goal is to increase the area of the farmable land. Monitoring and mediating the negative environmental consequences of land use while sustaining the production of essential resources is a major priority for EU policy-makers. The data shows European farmable land area is shrinking agains the 2020 goal.

Agriculture depends directly on weather and biodiversity conditions. The data predicted the total EU GDP losses caused by the agricultural loss would accumulatively reach 6922.54 billion of Euros by 2020. The numbers of the economy loss are increasing along the time line.

Final Design With Animation

What I learned


Contextual inquiry is very important for dashboard design

We didn't get a chance to contextual inquiry research with EU policy makers since this is the course project. However, as we are doing research about the user, we found it is important to know when and how the targeted EU policy makers are using the dashboard in their real work. For example, do the users have a huge displayer in their office and does that the first thing they look at when they arrive their office every morning? Or they often access the dashboard through their mobile devices? it is important for the designer to know this and design within the contexts.


Create the concise and logical layout

The audience's cognitive load will affect their comprehension of the dashboard. Instead of cramming as many details as possible into the dashboard in an effort to provide a fuller picture, the designer should focus on the key information and make the visualization easy to understand.  The placement of the visualization should be based on the logical relations among those information, like causation. This way, the user doesn't have to constantly change their mental gears by jumping back and forth between the data.


Balance between engaging and simple 

Designers have a tendency to make things looks creative, pretty and fun. But the design should always work to make the information easy to comprehend. In this project, we added the animations to visualize the dynamic trajectories of the impact. But we found that while the animations looks fun, they can be misleading and confusing. For example, if multiple animations work simultaneously, the users would not know where is the starting point and distracted. So we spent lots of time to discuss when and how the animations should work without sacrificing the simplicity.

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