Eugene Park, University of Minnesota

Open data is the concept that public institutions across federal, state, and local levels should make government data available to all citizens. By providing access to databases from various sectors, proponents of the idea believe that it will increase government transparency, foster research and innovation, and empower more citizens for public engagement.

Despite their potential benefits, the current offerings of open data have been hindered with numerous access barriers. Many of its online portals lack the means for ordinary citizens to discover appropriate data, visitors are unable to find relevant and useful explanations about the data at hand, and there are no clear incentives for the public to explore these vast digital collections in the first place. As a result, their ambiguities and user experience issues have rendered many open data endeavors to be inaccessible for many.

Recognizing these issues, this presentation seeks to discover how designers can take advantage of open data while its implementation is still at its infancy. How can designers use these vast and ambiguous collections of data as an extension of creative and critical inquiry? Can they also expand the modes of representation of such datasets in order to promote public engagement? And what further opportunities can open data provide to the design community, particularly in education and research? This presentation first evaluates the current strengths and weaknesses of various open data portals in the United States, present student outcomes on how they were able to work with open datasets in the context of data visualization projects, and finally outline the challenges and opportunities for future endeavors.


Eugene Park is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design (Twin Cities) where he teaches courses in graphic design, interaction design, and data visualization. He has a MFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BS in Physics from the University of California, San Diego. Combining his backgrounds in science and design, Eugene’s research interests focus on exploring the visual representation of knowledge from social and scientific datasets.