Data Visualization: A True Stakeholder Map

During my internship at Grontmij I had so extra time during the summer during which I was waiting for feedback on my thesis. This was’t really what I hoped for, but on the other hand I was presented with a wonderful other assignment which I otherwise wouldn’t have had time for.

As a large engineering company Grontmij gets most of its large assignment through tenders. For this they always have to go through multiple rounds and present and write multiple reports, which means that it is always necessary to keep in some creativity to try out new things to keep both the teams and the clients awake.

During the summer a tender was held for all engineering design for the refurbishing of a several km long road that has to become the most sustainable road that is possible. One of the most important scoring points for this tender was showing that you (as a company) were not looking inward but that you had a stakeholder network in the area, and another large scoring point was sustainability in any way possible. This has led the team to talk to a variety of stakeholders and to ask them to think with them about how they could help make the road (and nearby area) as sustainable as possible.

After these talks they compiled a nice table of the stakeholders including what they could do for the project. The information in it was fine, but in this way absolutely useless for a tender document. Luckily there are many creatives in this world, and so one (not me) came up with the idea of putting all the stakeholders on a map from which it could somehow become clear what they were offering.

At this point I came in. I was handed the list, a Google maps screenshot on which the location of most stakeholders was shown and the assignment to figure something out to make it work visually.

I somehow figured that it would be nice to use a hexagon (since hexagons are often used in nature, think for example of a bee-hive) around which the different types of help from the stakeholder could be placed. This led to six different types of help, each with their own symbol, with right in the middle the number that was given to that stakeholder. On the map only the types of help provided by the stakeholder would be shown, all other types of help are left out. In the figure below the legend of this can be found.

Tekening N470 step2

The next step was creating an actual underlay for the stakeholders, so first of all the main characteristics of the landscape were formed in a land-use sketch (often used in architecture to create a quick overview of a landscape or building) to which the main roads, railroads and waterways were added. Also the names of the cities were placed on the respective places in the form a sign that is also normally used in the Netherlands for this. Later on the exact borders of the cities were added to clarify it at certain points. This led to the map below.

Tekening N470 step1

The final step in creating the map was putting all the stakeholders on their respective spots and adding their types of help. In one area a specifically high concentration of stakeholders was found which meant that a loupe was added to magnify this piece (idea stolen from this). That led to the following completed map (without the names of the stakeholders).

Tekening N470 step3-02

In order to incorporate the map into the plan of action two pages had to be used, which meant two pages less text. As a workaround it was decided to make it into a cover for the plan. This meant adding a gutter in the middle, adding some extra text and refining the lay-out. In the end this was used as the cover (with the logos of the stakeholders on the right-hand side).

Voorpagina N470 PvA Final

Unfortunately the tender was lost to a competitor, but I’m sure that it wasn’t due to the work that we did in those weeks and the creation of this awesome stakeholder map.

The Idea Behind The Graphic Design of My Thesis

As with everything, it all starts with a good content, and can be finished of with good looks. A thesis is not much different in that, and so I did put some time in coming up with a good design for mine.

I’ll take you through some of the ideas behind the design of the entire document, from title to logo to layout.


First of all, the title. While doing my research I was literally mapping all the different policy instruments that are available for direct current and sustainable energy in general.

When the map has been created, the next step was looking for any gaps in the instruments that need to be filled for the development of DC. Hence, the title became: “A gap in the map?”

The logo

ACDC Kleuren Logo-01

Next, the logo. For the design I took the idea of a map and of four different islands under which the different instruments could be classified (this later changed in the final version, but for the logo this was better).

Another relevant discussion is the one between Alternating Current (AC), the current standard, and Direct Current (DC), the new technique. The technicalities don’t matter for the design, but the difference between AC and DC could be easily shown as four ‘islands’, namely A, C, D & C. Put together in a square you automatically see them, while also seeing the difference.

Then the coloring of the logo. For this I looked at the colors of the logos of the companies the research was done for. Using Google I found these color cards for Grontmij and ABN AMRO. From these cards I took the main color and first accent colour of Grontmij and ABN AMRO to fill the blocks. For the letters AC the main colors were used to emphasize the dominant position of AC, whereas the first accent colors were used for DC to show that it is less well known than AC.

As a final touch I added a photo of an office building as background effect to emphasize that the research took place in an office building.

Lay-out, images and tables


Moving on to the further lay-out of the document, I used a two column layout with white borders with widths as determined by the University. The titles of the chapters, as well as the introductory paragraph span two columns, whereas all the main text is placed into one column. Images are either one or two columns wide, depending on the amount of information in the image.

For the text a combination of fonts was used. While searching online I found this website on which a series of nice font combinations is presented. I opted for the combination of Helvetica Bold and Garamond. This combination works very well. with the sans serif Helvetica (bold) for all the titles and headings and with serif Garamond to make reading easy.

For the chapter titles the colour blue of Grontmij was used, whereas for the (subheadings) gray and black have been used. All main text was also in black. One notable exception are the numbering of the tables and images. For this the words Image/Table and the number were shown in green (for the images) and blue (for the tables).


As a final design aspect I chose to (re)draw any images in the green color of the ABN AMRO logo, and all tables used the blue of the Grontmij logo for accents.

When adding all these elements together it created a very professional look which has supported the contents of the report. And probably had a positive impact on my grade as well, but that can only be guessed.

3 Steps From Idea To Innovation (According To An Incubator)

A week ago I presented my research to the people from KIC InnoEnergy; an incubator aimed specifically at sustainable energy innovations funded by the EU.

They helped me get further with my research by pointing out some things they believe are necessary for the succes of the product, but also we had a nice discussion about innovation in general.

Along the way of the discussion we came across their method of getting a person with an idea towards an innovation. They do this in three simple steps, which I kindly turned into this nice infographic which is now also decorating some walls in the office.


Hurray For Adobe

Just a quick thing I found out last week. For the past few years I’ve been using the student edition of the Adobe suite of software for creating all kinds of designs related to my study.

Now, I’m moving forward to the next phase, where I’ll be using the software to create things I get paid for. And for a long time I thought I wasn’t allowed to use the Education version of Adobe Creative Cloud for commercial purposes, but as I was looking into buying another license for the commercial work I found in the Dutch FAQ of the student and teacher edition this sentence (which I kindly translated for you):

Can I use the Student and Teacher Edition-products commercially?

Yes, Student and Teacher Edition-products can be used commercially on your own computer. Resale is not allowed.

This means that I can happily use this software at a discounted price, while having all the options I need. And yes, I’m happy about that, and I think that this is very smart, since they create a kind of lock-in for you when using these products (they’re kind of awesome in their class, I think).

Anyway, for anybody in the Student field this is a very interesting option where you can earn back the costs of a year license by producing some commercial work. Yay us.

One thing: although I found this in the Dutch version at this moment, Adobe has the right to change their terms at any moment and they may differ per country. Check for yourself to see if this is (still) applicable in your case. I can not be held accountable for any issues following from this post. Keep thinking.

Some Recent Graphic Work

The fun part of the end of the semester at a university is that everything has to be handed in or presented, and most of all, that it has to look good.

For this semester that means that I’ve made two things of which I’m proud, one of which I told a bit about last week, and one I haven’t shown yet.

So first of all I want to show you the entire corporate identity I designed for ComboCab, a new player in the taxi branche (one day, probably). The logo reflects the fact that two people will be at the wheel (literally), since driving school cars will be used for this service.

The color yellow was chosen to reflect the color of the taxis in New York, which should give you an instant idea that it’s about taxis.


For the design of the paper I used a seven column layout, where the text spans the six columns furthest away from the spine. Graphics are placed with a width between 2 to 4 columns, and tables are seven columns wide, adjusted to the contents.

The lettertypes used are Avenir & Minion Pro, as I was inspired by this blogpost to use these two.

BP Opmaak ComboCab vs Final-Blog

Huisstijl CC2

For another course we had to design a poster, and I once again turned to the list above to select the font combination, this time being Gill Sans Bold & Garamond.

The entire poster is designed upon a four-column grid, where the width between the pictures in the second column is half the width between the first and second column. For the colors a bit cool version was chosen, using Adobe’s built-in color palettes.

Poster PE vs 03 Also awesome to design, and even more awesome to see printed out on A1 size.

So far so good. I hope to make some more nice designs in the coming time, and when they’re ready I’ll share them overhere.

Anti Hero Advertising

Although it is a campaign which was run last year, I still think that it is one of the best print ad campaigns I have seen last year.

The ads are for an information line about domestic violence, and show Disney fairy tale hero(ine)s after they’ve been hit by their significant other.

The texts underneath are all also very strong and in line with the pictures, and the pictures itself are very simple, though highly effective in the message they want to convey.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“…and then the fairy tale had ended.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“How long will you keep believing in the fairy tale?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“At home I’m not the hero.”

In my opinion more of these types of campaigns may be run, though I hope that one day we will only have to run these for good causes, because all the shit has left the world.

But until then, I hope for more of this type of ads.

The Odds of Becoming Who You Are

Statistics are amazing, when you want to tell your story. For now I’m not talking about how to lie with statistics, but really by using a large serie of statistical calculations to show what the odds are of you becoming you.

Originally this story was told by Ali Benazir on his blog, but then someone from made it into something much better; this beautiful infographic.

And so you see that this is usually a better way to get your message across, and it’s just nice to see that the chances of you becoming you are about 0.

Drawing It Off

I’m in the middle of one of my final exam weeks, which means that most of my time is taken up by studying. Sometimes, however, I need to take a break and do something completely different. Either physical or mental.

And so it happens that I did another few quick tutorials from this list for Illustrator, which gave me these cool results (and some nice new knowledge).

Test30okt2014-2-01 Test30okt2014-2-02 Test30okt2014-2-03

Big Problems Presented Easy

Whenever you encounter a problem, the hardest part is really getting to the core of the problem. Most of the times you’ll get there, and sometimes not.

But when you get there, you can take the next step, and try to make something that conveys the message of your problem in a simple way.

Like I did with this info graphic. The youth camps which we organize did not go through this year, simply because we didn’t have enough participants. No is this a quite simple problem, but to get it across better ahead of a brainstorm session, I designed this simple info graphic.


Now of course this is something simple, but it can also be used to try to get much more difficult things explained in an easy way. All that you need before that is a thorough understanding of your problem, and a nice idea how to present it.

I believe that this making hard things understandable for people is one of my powers. Something for which you’ll need an expert, which can really delve into the problem and bring it back to its most simple form, without loosing important details.

That’s what I’m trying to do, and bring to the world (or your company).