Reinvesting open-data portals.

If open data isn't easily accessible and engaging to its audience, it's a lost opportunity.

In 2019 the city of Matera was named the European Capital of Culture. To celebrate this achievement, the city wanted to create a creative, informative portal that would showcase the Open Data of the wondrous year of 2019 to its citizens. While open data portals are typically focused on the data first and explanations of it second, we wanted to flip the order. The narration of the data and the depictions of what could be done with open data were put first. Only thereafter we provide downloadable open datasets. Readable data sets, like CSVs and machine, is only one facet that forms part of a larger, informative ecosystem that narrates the story of Matera’s year as the European Capital of Culture.

What we did

  • Data storytelling
  • Data visualization
  • Web design
  • Front-end dev.
  • UX


Matera European capital of culture 2019 Foundation

The process
To design an engaging experience, know your audience

We identified three main audience profiles through a co-design session: citizens, data lovers, and data experts. In order to share open data’s complexity effectively - according to each audience's knowledge - we created tailored visual and verbal languages for each. The result is a digital experience that engages a multifaceted audience through various didactic entry points.

The strategy
An open data inception

To draw in our multifaceted audience into exploring the possibilities of open data and how it can creatively be reused, we created a layered data portal. Through data visualizations, data journalism and web design, this inception-like portal shares the city’s open data in a way that slowly reveals to its users how the data can be used. The portal uses quantitative and qualitative data to paint a picture of the multifaceted year Matera experienced as the European Capital of Culture, over the course of seven thematic sections and 6 in-depth micro-stories.

Thematic sections

The portal’s six sections focus on the primary fields of institutional data generated during the year 2019. These sections include participation, heritage, budget, legacy diversity and care.

What are micro-stories?

Although micro-stories are similar to the portal's thematic sections, micro-stories narrate the stories of specific events throughout the year through their quantitative and qualitative data.

The design
In case of doubt, make it simple and rainbowish 🌈

One key ingredient in our design approach is our preference for simple visualisations rather than flamboyant charts. To facilitate the audience’s comprehension of hidden data patterns, we leveraged colours and animations keeping our designs fresh and engaging.

To showcase the liveliness and the humanity that characterizes Matera’s cultural programme, we used rounded shapes and a profusion of dots to visualise a pack of many separate units that form meaningful clusters. To spark curiosity in the reader we intertwined the Legend of text above the visualisation, highlighting key words with the colours corresponding with the charts.

The process
Open data corner

The heart of this platform is the data which is now published in a format that’s open and easily accessible. With this approach, Matera’s 2019 datasets become a digital common that can inform, inspire and support new informative and design practices for local national and international communities.

Below you can download both the raw data, related to each section’s theme and the aggregated data used for each of these visualisations. You can also find more data in the website's Open Data Centre, or on our Github repo, which contains all the data available on the platform.

The impact
Let’s break the screen

Both our team and Matera 2019 Foundation’s team decided that digital projects weren’t sufficient to trigger a response in the offline world. With our eyes set on increasing the creative reuse of open data, we decided to plan a series of local events all over Italy to empower citizens, and people concerned with data and information. The goal of these workshops, structured as one-day workshops, was to engage more people in open data practices. However, due to the pandemic, local events were postponed to the next summer season.

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