Chart Improvement Series: NSA PRISM slides

Normally we post one blog post a week.  Because of the timeliness, this week is different.  We have 2 posts from the same series today and today’s is a bit usual because it comes out of the news instead of SlideShare.  Yup, it’s the famous PRISM slides that The Guardian and The Washington Post leaked late last week.  People have been making 2 major comments about these slides: fear of the content (not something I’m going to comment on, as the daughter of someone who had a huge security clearance), and about how ugly they are (that we will comment on).  So, like in the other chart improvement series entries (success cycle, algo components, and 2×2 matrix), I’ve gone ahead and improved 3 of the PRISM slides and will explain my choices for your benefit.


The first before slide:



Quite cluttered, wouldn’t you say?  The main goal of this page after reading everyone on it, is the infographic on the right.  instead, this page is completely dominated by the titles, logos from companies that the NSA is working with, and the big box on the left side.

My fix:


I almost completely removed the logos on the top, but realized that they meant something.  So, I looked up the corporate level logos for each of those companies mentioned and got the original .eps files for those icons, making sure that they weren’t out of date (like many that the NSA had chosen).  I then put the NSA logos on the bottom, right side near the page number.  The code information was put up on the upper right in bright red, closer to the red in the American flag.  I redrew the conceptual chart demonstrating internet bandwidth capacity, again switching it to the American red.  Made it a little larger, put it on the left side so it’s the first thing seen on the page.  I took that awful awful rounded edge box off of the page and put the descriptive text on the right size.  This way, the focus is on the flow, as intended.  I also changed the font to something cleaner, in this case Helvetica Neue.  Note the title for the page has been given an more obvious hierarchy.

The second slide:


Note the arrow from the left box to the right covering up some of the text.  Same template issues as above.  The light colors used on this page don’t go together at all.

My fix:



Same template fixes.  I changed the boxes around the text so they’re just an outline, no text is covered up.  The boxes are also the same height so the page looks more balanced and clean.   I used typography to parse out the different content in the title for the right column.  There’s a title and a descriptor, which is now in italics.  Bullet points are now red for a slightly more elegant look.

The third slide:



The bubbles being bright yellow are intensely distracting.  It’s hard to concentrate on what the real point to the page is:   when the different tech companies started working with them.  Some years have more than others, that’s not clear on this version of the chart.  Also the cost seems to be a big deal, since that is slapped on there in another rounded corner box, with totally different curvature to the previous slides.  I wouldn’t use round corners for the NSA, rounded corners trigger softness.  The NSA gets information, it’s pretty straight forward work and doesn’t trigger “fuzzy-ness” for anyone as an entity.

My fix:


Rounded corners removed.  I also grouped the different companies, by chronologically, so they’re shooting out of the same years.  Note that the lines reverse so every other year is either above or below.  This way your labels have more white space.  The note has been put to the bottom of the page in smaller font so it’s no longer competing for attention on the page, but is still on the page and easily findable.  The timeline has been shifted so it’s just from left to right and is cleaner looking, and in American blue.  The cost box is called out in American red and has square edges, as should fit the image of the NSA’s work.  I didn’t repeat the logos again because they’re already on the top of the template page and I wanted to continue avoiding visual competition.

Now, they’ve got some cleaner slides.


, , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply