Research for the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning. Task 51. Information Design for Effective Decision Making and Communication

Information design has been defined as the practice of systematically presenting data -- and sometimes visually displaying quantitative data -- to maximize its value and accessibility to the reader. Examples include displaying complex road-condition information in a visually intuitive format like a color-coded map; breaking highway maintenance expenditures down into a per-car basis, as Washington State does; and using design techniques to ensure that a chart's content -- rather than its design -- is highlighted. Such practices are valuable in effectively communicating with top decision makers and with the public, and for making performance measures and other data speak to top managers and front-line workers. Managers at many transportation agencies are looking to bring new chief executive officers (CEOs) up-to-speed as rapidly as possible, explain the value of their organization's efforts and the wisdom of their choices to their legislatures, and ensure that they're using the data they have to maximize the public's substantive investment in transportation assets. Information design is a powerful tool for accomplishing these objectives. Transportation agencies have no shortage of data. They collect information on highway conditions, operations, and construction and maintenance activities. They have information on soil conditions, wetlands, drainage, flood planes, land use, neighboring communities and applicable regulations, and area weather patterns. Sometimes they layer pieces of these data in GIS; sometimes they slice and combine them in decision-support systems; both of these help transform data into information. But how effective are the products created by these efforts? Certainly, they are far more effective than they were a generation ago. But are they demonstrating this information in ways that are most likely to make the important information jump out, without distortion, and that are helpful and intuitive to technical experts, decision makers, and the general public? Are we getting the most out of our investments in GIS and decision-support systems and the vast efforts that go into populating their databases? The field of information design, pioneered by Yale Statistics and Graphic Design Professor Emeritus Edward Tufte, offers transportation agencies a powerful and practical set of ideas for ensuring that information is presented in a clear and effective format. But there is widespread concern that transportation agencies' use of this field is inconsistent and that available resources are difficult to locate. This is especially true where these agencies are attempting to initiate performance reporting to support management, policy decisions, and public understanding and support for transportation needs and priorities. The objective of this study is to provide guidance to transportation agencies on employing effective information design.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $75000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-36, Task

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 225
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    McCready, Ronald

  • Performing Organizations:

    ICF Consulting, Incorporated

    101 Lucas Valley Road
    San Rafael, CA  United States  94903-1791
  • Start Date: 20041216
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20060131
  • Source Data: RiP Project 11664

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01557242
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Cooperative Highway Research Program
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-36, Task
  • Files: RIP
  • Created Date: Mar 19 2015 1:01AM