The Irish Debt Info-graphic Project (IDIP)

NB: There was some confusion in the past few days that IDIP was affiliated with an Irish debt audit, which at the time of writing is currently being undertaken. This is not the case, the Irish debt audit is an utterly independent entity completely separate from IDIP and visa versa. Apologies for any confusion caused.


This project is a call out to Irish based designers, artists and programmers who are concerned about the problem and scale of debt in this country. The Irish debt info-graphic project (IDIP) is a project which aims to visualise the facts and figures behind Ireland’s debt problem in such a way as to make them clear and understandable to any and everyone (including non-English speakers).



  1. To set up a meeting between designers, artists, economic experts and social scientists within the next fortnight.
  2. At that meeting to have the experts deconstruct the crisis into it component parts for a visually literate audience, working with facts not opinion and let the problem dictate the solution.
  3. To have the first finished work (3-D and 2-D) ready in time for the IRL show in the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art (IMOCA) (deadline July 10th
  4. To publish a website which will host the completed work.
  5. To update that work if and when the information changes.


Who IDIP is looking for

We are looking for artists, designers, filmmakers and programmers to help visualise information currently in the public domain regarding Ireland’s debt crisis and financial/data/sociological experts who have a good grasp of the current economic situation and outlook for Ireland. Our aim is that the output will be viewable on any device which accesses the web, and understandable in any language.

Though the main focus of the work will be on online output we will artworks for an exhibition, which will launch in mid-July.

Specifically we will need:

  • People with a good grasp of the current national financial situation and the figures and facts involved.
  • 3D and 2D artists and designers in general
  • Filmmakers proficient with after effects, flash or equivalent
  • Designers with User Interface experience
  • Designers with experience of working with data
  • A programmer coder who could build a system in Flash/MYSQL/CSS, which could visualise data instantly
  • A programmer who could add the code which would allow interactivity with certain graphics, allowing users to select different variables such as in this New York Times info graphic on unemployment
  • Translators fluent in European languages

Though this brief is orientated towards a designer based solution, that is not to say artists are not welcome in this project.



Delivery 1.

Deliver yourself to our first meeting 6pm June 1st, the Science Gallery, Trinity (near Pearce Street Dart station), email me your expression of where we will brainstorm with relevant experts how to go about finding visual solutions to the idea of illustrating the current crisis. By the end of the meeting/workshop we will have our roughed out solutions and our homework to do for the next meeting.

Delivery 2.

July 11th

Will be part of the show IRL (In Real Life) in IMOCA. This will feature displays of the first wave of completed info-graphics and any other solutions arrived at by the creators.

The theme of the show is to create a zeitgeist image of what life in our age is like. As such there is scope for work looking at the individual hardship being suffered by many in the current economic climate. We will want a piece which specifically deals with the scale of the debt involved, for example is has been suggested that a piece of red string 2km in length (this is how tall a stack of one billion in €50 notes would be) could be used to put give an idea of how big a number a billion actually is.

Delivery 3.


This will be the launch of the IDIP website. This website will host all the completed solutions with either alternate versions in all the main European languages, or a facility which allows it to be translated into the native language of the country from which the site is accessed from. Currently the website is online in blog form, this will be taken down and changed once we have collected a satisfactory volume of information.

Delivery 4.


The nature of the debt problem means that new information is constantly being unearthed, and figures and predictions (such as growth rates) constantly being adjusted, there is always scope for new visualisations and new interoperations of data and information. Personally I am interested in tapping into scientific and philosophical analysis and thinking into what debt and money actually are (but I will stress this project isn’t being run for me, and such avenues will only be explored with a group consensus).


Marketing objectives

The goal of the visualisation is to explain the scale and nature of the debt in an intuitive, non-jargonistic fashion, which will draw attention to the scale of the problem but allow the general public to draw their own conclusions. The target market is very broad, it is the hope that this visualisation will be viewed and understood not only by Irish citizens (young and old) but also by citizens of other European countries who have little or no true concept of the nature of the Irish debt problem or how the nation has become so indebted to the banks systems of Germany, Britain, and France.


The data will be visualised through five mechanisms*

  1. Static image visualisation using vector graphics (programs such as adobe illustrator, inkscape, or drawplus).
  2. 3-D sculptural pieces, the format of which is entirely up to whim of the artist, though it is crucial that the work accurately reflect the data it interpret to the correct scale.
  3. Animation, a dynamic and slick presentation of the information in time for the reports full publication (eg.
  4. Interactive graphics, programmed using Flash or JavaScript, which would allow the user some control of how they view the data (see examples below or this
  5. Whatever you like: If you have any ideas of your own about how you want to visualise the scale of the debt (as long as it somehow represents an accurate reflection of the data and would be suited to a web/3-D representation) that don’t fall into the categories above feel free to submit or propose it.

*Note: Should any of these mechanisms prove too unwieldy or cumbersome to fit the data they will not be pursued.

Budget and Schedule

Due to the short timescale this project is being produced over (this is in part due to the urgent nature of the national debt crisis) a budget has yet to be formally drawn up or found, there are a number of potential avenues for funding, at this stage nothing can be confirmed, but I will be submitting this process for fundit (a crowd sourced funding operation). What I can confirm is that I won’t be looking for printing, production costs alone, if printers should get paid so should designers, artists and programmers, and I will be seeking funding with that in mind (see also


Designers, artists and programmers are constantly being sold the cod that “this will look good on your CV,” however this project has a scope and scale to reach both a national and international audience, and to showcase an entire generation of Irish based talent. This isn’t about recent graduates getting coffee from the local café; it’s about showcasing talent for the benefit, education, and understanding of an entire nation and beyond.

Deadline for inclusion in IRL


Due to limited space, only a select amount of work will be able to go into the show. Though considering the short turn around time I suspect only a limited amount of work will be ready in time for the show. Deadline for submissions for the will be the end of June; deadline for work completion (including printing) will be July 11th.


Where to look for inspiration


There is a wide range of data visualisation out there, and easily searchable through Google (or bing, yahoo etc.) I recommend first and foremost the following website which offers an excellent overview of the current state and trends in data visualisation today, as well as extensive links to the artists and designers whose work is referred to.


In addition to that we recommend reviewing the following… The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce) youtube channel, which features the excellent RSA animate videos, which demonstrate the power of visualisation in combination which audio as a tool for explaining complex subject matter. David McCandles’ (data journalist) blog, which in addition to we recommend reviewing the following examples which show how he worked through a number of his own visualisations A blog which posts a new info graphic every day. Another showcase blog of info-graphic glory. Showcase of 40 examples of info graphics


Han Rosling (the granddaddy of data visualisation) at TedTalks



I have a copy of David McCandles’ book “Information is beautiful” and a copy of “Visualizing Data: Exploring and Explaining Data with the Processing Environment” to lend out for reference. However the above online resources should suffice in terms of inspiration and reference.


Potential parameters

Though the parameters will be agreed formally before the first meeting and are likely to be a) Public debt, b) Household and corporate debt and c) the Bank debt.

By the time of the meeting we will have an approximate data set for people to be able to work from

We aim to come up with solutions at the meeting together, should you wish to prepare anything to propose feel free to do so, but please don’t be offended if it is not taken up, the purpose of the first meeting is to decide on a unified and visually consistent approach. The following is a sample of the kind of information and figures we will be aiming to visualise.

Note: the following is a pretty extensive list, this project would be doing very well to visualise even a handful of the following, if you are reading this with intention of going to the meeting perhaps you might consider coming up with some ideas and solutions on one or two of these in advance of the meeting or even some of your own.

  • Historical debt evolution of the Irish state
  • Historical debt evolution of the typical Irish citizen
  • Historical debt evolution of the Irish banks
  • Size of Irish banks relative to the Irish economy over time
  • Projected bank losses, cost of bailout and NAMA compared to actual bank losses, cost of bailout and NAMA.
  • Types of debt, external debt, debt relative to public spending, banking debt, ownership of the banks
  • What has the impact of the crisis been on various demographics (e.g. 18-25 year old males, suicide rate, emigration, personal debt)?
  • How and when the debt is paid down, interest rate on entire debt, maturity?
  • History of Irish imports and exports
  • How much funding are we getting from the IMF and ECB, and who in turn funds them?
  • Conditions of the bailout package
  • Austerity measures which budget areas have been shrunk in the past few years?
  • Size of NAMA, it’s lending and the nature of its funding.
  • What is a bond? What is a bond holder? Who are the bondholders?
  • Timescale of repayment of nation debt
  • Timescale of repayment of bondholders
  • Economic and social impact of austerity measures (how will it effect crime, drug use, suicide rates etc.)
  • What is the money being drawn down from the bailout package being used for? Is it really paying the wages of nurses etc?
  • Timescale and size of deposit loss from national banks
  • Growth projections of Irish economy versus actual growth
  • Irish national tax intake/predicted and actual
  • What does the central bank of Ireland actually do?
  • What does the ECB actually do?
  • What assets does the ECB have as collateral against their lending to the Irish banks (are they junk as David McWilliams claims or are they proper assets as the blog NAMAwinelake suggests)?
  • How does the Irish debt crisis compare to other countries debt crises?
  • Size of external creditors compared to Ireland (see:




Irishdebtinfographicproject at gmail dot com

seanankerr at gmail dot com


Facebook event



Oh eight six 8938347

Oh one 2444383