Projects Investigations Resume About Home

Dressed in Data: Green Housing Study

with Phoebe Cai, Amber Guo, Silent Spring Institute, and Harvard University

Dressed in Data develops new ways for people to experience information. Here, we created personalized data shirts for Boston participants in the Green Housing Study, which measured chemical levels in homes with a child with asthma.

We created three initial shirt designs that displayed the amount of phthalates (nine chemicals) found in dust. Some designs were closely related to traditional graphs (line-circle) while others were more abstracted (skull). The line-circle design was ultimately selected based on user testing of designs in the study neighborhood. User preference was split between the line-circle and face design and all users believed the line-circle design was the easiest to understand.

The line-circle design is based on a traditional bar graph. Each line represents one phthalate measured in the participant's dust. The height of the line indicates the relative amount of the phthalate found compared to other people in the study (i.e. the participant's percentile). A red (high), yellow (middle), or green (low) circle on top of the line indicates the participant's tertile for that chemical. Chemicals are sorted in descending order of percentile to provide visual clarity.

The shirts also include meta-information to aid user comprehension. A shirt tag lists sources and health effects of phthalates. A duck-shaped QR code on the sleeve links to detailed information on the study and the chemicals, as well as providing an opportunity to contact researchers.

Participants received their personalized shirt, along with a traditional paper-based report of their results, at community meetings. Follow-up interviews will assess participants' experiences with this new method of reporting.