GDES-200 fall 2018 (David Ramos, American University Design) · office hours

photo of Navy Yard

Consider ways of telling stories about quantitative information, examining data about the Anacostia River. This semester, we will look at how DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project affected water quality.

Create a graphic that examines changes in the Anacostia’s health over the last several years. You must incorporate time-series data about CSO (combined sewer overflow) volumes, and data about either stream flow or rainfall, along with three other pieces of information. (This content requirement is broadly framed.) You can draw from the datasets provided on this sheet, or you can find your own sources.

Show your data in the form of charts, diagrams, maps, or (visually rewarding) tables. Your document should include a headline and a few sentences of introductory text. For each element, provide titles, labels, values and desciptions, and notes about sources.


See information design examples that combine different types or scales of data.

Phases of work

  1. Read about the river and the water quality issues, and arrive at a story you’d like to examine.
  2. Look at the data that illuminate that story (we’ll be using Workbench in class, though a spreadsheet or statistical program might also suffice), and plot those data so that you understand them. Decide how you’d like to organize your data—think about time (hourly, quarterly, monthly, yearly, one point in time?), units, and geography.
  3. Sketch out your final layout. Decide on the size and position of text and graphical elements.
  4. Prepare rough visualizations in an analytical tool.
  5. Bring those rough visualizations into Illustrator and improve their readability and visual clarity.
  6. Lay out the final document in InDesign. Print and export to PDF.

We will have desk critiques, small-group critiques, and all-class critiques throughout this process. At every stage, if you can imagine two or three alternatives, try all of them.


photo of river bank with birds


CSO operations


USGS Stream Gauge Data

Stream gauges are instruments set along the banks of watercourses. They measure parameters like water level, discharge (total amount of water passing the gauge, imputed from other data), dissolved oxygen, and water temperature.

Gauges of interest:

Tip: for monthly summaries, under “available data for this site,” choose “Time-series: Monthly statistics.” Summaries will not be available for dates within about the last year.

Water quality

Spatial data

Presented here in PDF format. You can edit PDFs, which are vector graphics, in Illustrator.

photo of fuel dock


CSOs and water quality

Other issues