During the first Alberta ATB Datathon in Edmonton, Alex Todorovic, Justin Quaintance and I created an interactive anthropomorphic unit visualization iPad app of mental health statistics over the course of 48 hours. The app used a simulated population based on data collected by the government of Canada to playfully display the state of mental wellbeing across the country and was designed to to reduce feelings of isolation amongst individuals experiencing mental health related symptoms. At the Datathon, this project was awarded the Peoples Choice award for its fun and quirky approach to data visualization and was featured on ATB’s official Instagram story.
Our idea for the datathon initially was sparked by the question, “What would the demographics of Alberta look like if it had only 1000 people?”. In this early mockup I created (above), we see each individual dot representing a person in the province, with various filtering options on the left side of the screen. At the top, a person using the app could also adjust number of individual units displayed in the visualization.
After some more design iterations, we opted to use an anthropomorphic style of units for the project, and expanded the statistics to display other provinces and territories in Canada as well. Inspired by Miis found on Nintendo Wii, after creating a personal avatar, the person using the app could then join the population of data and see how they compare to others. We felt this design choice made the visualization more personal and could perhaps reduce feelings of isolation.
The Final App
Our custom visualization view was powered by SpriteKit with a programatically generated set of unique avatar styles. Avatars on screen walk into clusters as grouping options are selected from above and follow a phyllotaxis layout pattern. ResearchKit was also used for the quick creation of surveys.