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Blackout 2003

The Northeast blackout in 2003 was 2nd most widespread blackout in history. The power outage spread over an area of 9,300 square miles, affecting a population of over 50 million people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Canada. This infographic poster explains why the blackout happened and how events that triggered the blackout precipitated.

 
 

blackout 2003

Infographics Design | Print

 
 
 

The Northeast blackout in 2003 was 2nd most widespread blackout in history. The power outage spread over an area of 9,300 square miles, affecting a population of over 50 million people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Canada. This infographic poster explains why the blackout happened and how events that triggered the blackout precipitated.

As a group of three, we were prompted to produce a condensed narrative that can be easily understood by anyone.

 

the challenge

Due to the inconsistencies within news articles concerning the blackout and how it happened, nobody knows the full picture unless they pieced every little bits together.

Furthermore, in the official 238-page long Department of Energy report (the most reliable source up to date), there was not just one single cause of the event but multiple errors that had led to this massive power outage. As we read the we found out how complex the event actually was and the difficulty of fitting everything on to a single sheet of 30in x 20in.

 
 
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my role

Working in a group of 3 with other designers, we split everything evenly. We devised our strategies after extensive research and finished the design project in 6 weeks.

 
 
 

research

Before everything started, we had to understand electricity and the role of real power vs reactive power in the electric grid. 

 
 
 
 

We also had to find out how the electricity network was interconnected, who are in charge of which area, so that we can wrap our heads around the whole event. To better help you understand what happened during the blackout, we made this little infographic that includes a few things you should know before moving on:

 
 
 
 

our strategy

 

Our strategy for organizing the contents entailed splitting the event into 3 sections: pre-conditions, how the cascade started, and how it spread across the northeast interconnection. This is all explained with the aid of a time-based diagram that shows the accumulative lines and generators that went down.

 
 
 

We wanted to try a strategy no one has used before to graph out the blackout, something that would convey the impact of the event visually. Hence we straightened out our timeline and plotted our data to see if they will work visually.

 
 

We tried multiple methods when graphing. These plotted graph of cascading lines in the interconnection surprised us. 2/3 of these lines tripped at the end of the event within 5 minutes. We couldn't have worked with a graph that took up that much space, so we decided to not only reverse the whole graph but also compress time visually.

 
 
 

design process

We laid out every piece of information we want on the page and refined each versions in their content, organization and design. Below is the 16th version.

 
 
 
 

final design