Section Logo
Go BackGo Forward

Interactive Annual 15:
information design

State of the Salmon

Launch Live Site

“A simple, powerful, cleanly designed tool for tracking salmon populations. Easy to search, filter and zoom in on specific locations.” —Stacey Mulcahy

“Despite immense and complex data, users can easily navigate and find the information that is most useful to them; it delivers a massive amount of information in an extraordinary visual fashion.” —Edward J. Heinz Jr.

Overview: Developed as a way to view the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s assessment of Pacific Sockeye Salmon, this is the first in a series of visualizations of salmon population health and status and fulfills the Wild Salmon Center’s goal of providing salmon population information to the general public. Designed for multiple and distinct audiences (river managers, policymakers, academics, environmental advocates), it has four interfaces that provide unique and role-specific ways of looking at data: a traditional, sortable-list view; a hydrographic view illustrates the health of salmon waterways; a data cluster tree visualizes genetic diversity; and a historical animated bubble plot illuminates population trends. It allows visitors to interact with historical salmon data and uncover population trends and patterns and reveals the struggle of salmon and their sensitive environment.

  • • The Modest Maps library, a display system for tile-based maps, loads assets as needed, based on user interaction.
  • • The information in the visualization is self-revealing based on user interaction, with no set navigation paths through content. Familiar iconography is used to alert visitors to opportunities to access information and reinforce the nature of the data, but all views are created accessing data in unique ways and exploring user-specific data points.

Comments by Dino Citraro

Were there any specific demands that made the project easier or harder? “The data was new to us, as it will be to most people—even the intended target audiences. Oddly, we feel this made us more qualified to create this visualization, because it allowed us to approach the project with a fresh set of eyes, and not be prejudiced by the collection process. Since our client needed to present the data as objectively as possible, the biggest challenge we faced was creating a compelling experience without an emotional narrative that would guide impressions and conclusions.”

How does this improve upon traditional ways of presenting information? “The traditional ways of presenting data, most often in spreadsheets, are typically inaccessible, hard to digest, and require serious commitment on the part of the user in order to uncover meaning. Raw data is much more enlightening when relationships, trends and patterns are revealed. As we explored the data and discovered the underlying structure, we developed a visual language that would allow people to easily come to their own understanding.”

“Unlike a Web site with content categories and navigation, information visualizations need to be more open and malleable. In this tool we created content relationships, instead of content categories. We were able to present different interfaces that provide unique ways of looking at the information and allow users to determine their own paths; this allows for discovery, in ways that are distinct for each user, rather than offering a scripted experience.”


Scott Benish, creative director/interactive designer/interface designer
Pete Rand, Wild Salmon Center, project creator
Dino Citraro, interaction director/executive producer
Kim Rees, technology director/database programmer
Wayne Fidler/Brett Johnson/Zach Krausnick/Sean Samuelson, Flash programmers
Jacob O'Brien, designer
Dino Citraro/Kim Rees, information architects
Todd Cooper, producer
Brian Twilley, senior producer/quality assurance
Matthew Goslin, Wild Salmon Center/Cathy Kellon, Wild Salmon Center, scientific consultants
Periscopic (Portland, OR), project design and development
Wild Salmon Center, client