Wellesley Renewing Democracy Summit

Personalized data visualizations prompted reflection and conversation for future leaders.

On April 6, 2024, global leaders convened at Wellesley College to participate in “Renewing Democracy: Women Leading the Way,” a summit that explored the challenges facing democracy in the US and abroad—such the rise of voter suppression, misinformation, and autocracy—and to forge solutions. The summit marked the launch of the Hillary Rodham Clinton Center for Citizenship, Leadership and Democracy at Wellesley, which is dedicated to preparing the next generation of civic leaders. Clinton was a keynote speaker at the event, which also featured the Nobel Peace Prize laureates Leymah Gbowee and Maria Ressa, among others.

As part of the “citizen toolkit” for the summit, Pentagram partner Giorgia Lupi and team designed and produced unique visual Data Portraits to spark conversations and connections among attendees during the summit. The Portraits were colorful, wearable buttons with graphic motifs derived from each person’s responses to a set of simple yet evocative questions.

The concept was originally ideated by Giorgia for TED 2017 in Vancouver, as a human way to use data to inspire personal reflection. Throughout the conference, attendees wore the buttons on top of their badges as an icebreaker to start conversations that were more meaningful than the usual business introduction.

For the Wellesley summit, the Pentagram team developed multiple-choice questions such as “To me, being a good citizen means…,” ““I hope the next generation will enjoy better…,” and “How do you stay informed about what’s going on in the world?” The designers created a system that turned the answers into a set of shapes, colors, and symbols to represent each person’s views, with the color, position, and rotation of every element indicating a different response. The buttons were accompanied by a legend describing the system.

Attendees were given the questions in advance, so the buttons could be prepared as part of the conference materials packet, and visitors could take them home as a personal memento of the experience. The project reflects an approach to data collection and visualization that Giorgia calls “data humanism”—challenging the idea of data as something that is cold, impersonal and intimidating, and instead viewing it as another way to record and describe our lives, helping us learn about each other and make connections—all essential to rebuilding democracy.

Pentagram also created the identity for the new Hillary Rodham Clinton Center as part of an effort to refresh the overall Wellesley brand with new colors and typography. 

New York
Giorgia Lupi
Project team
Zach Scheinfeld
Phillip Cox
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