Author Archives: Mark Allen

A few resource suggestions

It’s helpful to review other creative solutions when stuck or unsure how to proceed. I’ve assembled a few resource suggestions for exploration.

The GOOD transparency archive on Flickr includes a collection of colorful infographics. My favorite is “Largest Bankruptcies.”

Information is Beautiful is a wonderful British project that features Data Visualization and tools. Their website collection is very entertaining.

The RSA is a 258 year-old charity devoted to driving social progress and spreading world-changing ideas. Their YouTube animations are both informative and visually interesting examples of storytelling.

The Invisible Gorilla experiment is a classic example of selective attention. Anyone that’s become overly immersed in their work will probably relate.

A happy group of castaways

When your plane has crashed in the ocean…

Why not order something from the menu or strike up a game of cards? After all it’s going to be a while before rescue arrives. The history of airline safety cards is an interesting study in illustration. My conclusion is that ditching in the ocean was WAY more fun before I started flying.

We recently worked with Safeair Media in Seattle to develop a clear and informative style that emphasizes critical actions over details of plane upholstery, race, or gender. The goal was to minimize any non-essential distractions. A short evolution through time follows with stops in the 1950s, 1980s, and 2018. Safe travels, my valued readers.

raft of happy cast aways

What are the stewards standing upon? The sunken plane? Other passengers?


women with life jacket

Sooo happy. She loves the look!

man putting on lifejacket

This is in current use. Unnecessarily busy visual with no need to be racially specific.

life jacket series

We worked in our refresh to show as little extraneous visual info as possible.

Operational risk management explained

Operational risk is a part of any business that’s innovative and growing. The degree to which risk is acceptable, and how risk is managed determines whether ‘risk’ is helpful or dangerous. If risks are inadequately supervised a big business can be bankrupted suddenly. Since all members of an organization share in operational risk management, everyone needs to have an understanding of risk sources and their management framework.

We undertook a very high-level depiction of risk for a global bank. Many of the risk areas are common to all types of businesses. From a visual perspective, we explored several different ways to tackle the conversation. We examined the roles employees each play, the journey that might be taken in negotiating risk, and an alternative view of groups that are frequently involved. Here are three early thumbnails with the tighter view we developed to stimulate thought and conversation about risk management.

Operational Risk by role

Operational Risk by role

Operational Risk Management as a journey

Operational Risk as a journey

Operational Risk Management by groupings

Operational Risk by groupings

After some continued refinement, we settled on the following view that incorporates a journey through four primary risk management steps; identify and assess, control and monitor, event management, and management action. The characters involved are the primary actors in risk management. All members of the bank will gain a general understanding of risk from this overview as a preface to their specific role responsibilities.

Operational Risk as a journey map

Operational Risk as a journey map

A photo of the Vaux building

Make your case with legal clarity

When water valves failed in several NEW construction Portland condominium buildings, we helped the tenants’ legal team prepare. We worked with the esteemed firm of Dunn Carney to clearly depict the differences in plumbing between the properties. The only similarities in the failed water systems were faulty valves that degraded too quickly.

While the construction documents had too much internal detail, the architecture renderings only showed surface detail. To focus jurors attention, simple transparent buildings showing only the salient plumbing system were created. Knowing what to remove is as important as knowing what to leave when focusing audience attention.

Case won, case closed.

architecture drawing of The Vaux building

The original architecture drawings did not show the internal plumbing stacks.

Illustration of the Vaux building

We made all the structures transparent and shown at the same angle to keep the focus on the plumbing

illustration of 12 West building in Portland

Also known as the Indigo building, the tenants suffered from immediate plumbing hardships.

Poster of 12 West plumbing repairs

We had previously provided communications on plumbing repairs and we were invited to help win their legal case.

Forest Service shield

Design a plan for success

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” said Antoine de saint-Exupery. I’m not sure who he is but I like the thought.  Working closely with our friends at the the Forest Service Land Mobile Radio (LMR) group, we developed a strategic plan to implement key changes and improvements. We reviewed original data sources and wrote the draft, created charts with layouts, and a PPT roadshow for regional discussions. We also sketched next steps and responsibilities to facilitate discussion. The communications helped align thinking, inform leadership, and mobilize teams;

photo of plan cover

5-year plan PDF created for print & email

spread from strategy report

Strategic goals and objectives are outlined with the case for change

sequence of steps over time

Next steps are identified with general ownership responsibilities

sketch of LMR system

We sketched the components and users to highlight opportunities