From ARCADE Issue 31.4Part of a series of posts sharing infographics and data visualizations highlighted the issue feature, "Designing Data." Subscribe to receive ARCADE in print.

Iraq Casualties Infographic Owen Irianto

Photo by Owen Irianto

“Casualties in the Iraq War, 2003–2008”

Design: Owen Irianto
Information Design Project, Division of Design, University of Washington, Seattle.
Faculty Advisor: Kristine Matthews, Visual Communication Design

In "A Year in Iraq" is an op-ed chart created by mgmt. (a design consultancy in Brooklyn) depicting all military fatalities incurred during 2008 in the Iraq War. In this chart, casualties were shown by date, quantity, nationality and military rank.

In contrast, while this information graphic by designer Owen Irianto is also on the Iraq war, it presents a more simplified data set, starkly comparing only the quantity of US and Iraqi deaths occurring over a five year span (2003–2008). Iraqi fatalities (91,094) are represented with a single dot, while US military casualties (4,075) are listed with their full names.


Iraq Casualties Infographic Hart Boyd

Photo by Hart Boyd

The resulting digital print measures 18" x 110," with the block of Iraqi fatalities on the right and the four columns of US military names (in alphabetical order) on the left. This visual strategy highlights the vast difference in scale and resources between the two nations, while also revealing and challenging the viewer’s assumptions about what (and/or who) can be considered more significant.

In this way, Owen Irianto’s work subtly but actively proposes a specific interpretation of the data. The design might therefore by classified as an artistic data visualization—an information graphic that intentionally offers a perspective that may challenge previously held beliefs.

In an alternate exploration of this same data set, US fatalities are organized chronologically, in a radial form reminiscent of paper targets. 

Owen Irianto Target Full

Owen Irianto Target Detail 1

Owen Irianto Target Detail 2

Again, as before, the visualization is not overtly political; it contains no additional elements that directly editorialize the Iraq War as noble/futile, or necessary/unjustified. However, both visualizations have a sense of authority and objectivity that is deliberately applied toward emphasizing the reality of death as a result of political conflict. As such, these information graphics function as powerful antiwar statements.