lights out

about the project

This is a 30" x 20" infographic poster about the electrical blackout in 2003. The blackout was a widespread power outage that took place in the northeastern portion of the United States and Canada. This infographic explains the flow of electricity throughout the U.S. and Canada, the cascade of events that lead to the disruption of this flow, the corporations involved, and the overall effect on the population. The goal of this project was to use this information to design maps, diagrams, and use supporting text to explain the overall event as concisely as possible.

date created:



2 months

project type:


my role:

designed the 3 minute cascade maps, the electrical diagrams, and the final blackout map


Rene chan

design tools:



We were given several documents about the blackout. It was very challenging sifting through over two-hundred pages of information. Once we fully understood the cascade of events we then had to figure out the best way to sum up the information without leaving out any important details. We found it difficult to determine which information should be in the form of text and which needed to be in the form of visuals. We also needed to strategically divide up the information so that it would be easily grasped by the viewer.


Designing the layout was pretty difficult and we went through several iterations to decide which arrangement would work best (depicted above). We tried overlapping some of the content as well as adjusting proportions of each element. Ultimately, we decided that we wanted to arrange the elements to be consistent with the natural movement of our eyes – from left to right and top to bottom. It was very important for us to explain how electricity works before going into detail about the major events, so we placed those diagrams completely on the left side. The top portion was reserved for the corporations involved, followed by the blackout timeline. Lastly, we placed the final blackout map and the aftermath statistic in the bottom right. Since the poster is filled with so much information, we really wanted the viewer to clearly be able to navigate their way throughout the infographic.

In terms of color, typography, and line work, we really wanted to stay consistent throughout the entire poster, For example, the light green-blue color always represents the flow of electricity, yellow represents the power plants, and red-orange signifies nuclear energy. Most of the type is the same weight, but we highlighted and bolded areas of text that we felt was important for the viewer to take in.

Overall, we made sure to be very detail oriented when it came to designing the maps and diagrams. We were careful to consider the color, size, and layout of all the elements in order to be sure that the infographic could be easily consumed by the viewer. Click this link to view a high resolution PDF document.