Artist's Statement

I am passionate about the visual communication of information—complex, layered, multi-faceted information. Everyday, we are confronted with situations that require us to decipher and make sense of data. My goal is to facilitate this understanding by giving information a more intuitive form, thereby revealing meaning.

I approach information design from two different perspectives. The first is to work with a set of data and ask myself what shape this information wants to take. The second is to discover and reveal existing shapes that provide evidence of underlying information. Both approaches have value—one giving shape to meaning, the other finding meaning in shape (alternatively: the shape of information vs. the information of shape).

This exhibit highlights a selection of pieces all completing the phrase “The Shape of....” The scale of these topics range from the global to the intimate, but each proposes a visual solution for communicating a complex set of data.

I like to think of this process as mapping—distilling information down to its most essential and meaningful elements; sorting and organizing until the patterns come to the surface; bringing clarity and focus to what initially feels overwhelming; providing a layered visual experience encompassing both the big picture and, at closer examination, the smaller details.

I believe that all information—from the seemingly mundane to the exquisitely complex—can be communicated visually in such a way that it becomes engaging, accessible, beautiful, and ultimately more meaningful.

Christina Van Vleck
MFA Graphic Design, Boston University, 2007



The Shape of Family: Introverted

The Shape of Family: Extroverted

The Shape of News

The Shape of Globalization

The Shape of Dependence










The Shape of Family: Introverted
(50”x60” / view pdf (1.3MB) )

Based on traditional fan diagrams, this radial form places me at the center and traces my ancestors back through time—each ring representing a prior generation.

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The Shape of Family: Extroverted
(34”x44” / view pdf (4.9 MB) )

This series of four diagrams depicts the family lines of each of my four grandparents from 1900 to the present. The rings radiate outward in time with each individual’s wedge begining at the year of their birth and the outer ring representing present day. Each progressively lighter layer represents a new generation. Dotted lines spanning white nodes represent a death in an earlier generation on an underlying layer.

This new approach to the traditional family tree—reminicent of the rings of a tree as opposed to its branches—allows for a more complete illustration of layered generations and relationships through time. At a distance, the diagrams also offer an abstract snapshot of the “shape” of different families—providing an instant impression of varying density and complexity. My goal was to create a progressive experience where the viewer can relate to the design at both a macro and micro level.

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The Shape of News: Front Page News Coverage Across the Country
(40”x60” / view pdf (1.6 MB) )

An exploration of the choices our nation’s papers make about the stories on the front page. From the few remaining foreign news bureaus to the hyper-localism movement, do our papers reflect a nation at war?

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The Shape of Globalization:
The World Auto Industry

(36”x44” / view pdf (540 kb) )

The complex web of players in the auto industry illustrates the rich interdependence of a globalized world.

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The Shape of Dependence:
Top Ten Oil Importers and Exporters

(50”x44” / view pdf (679 kb) )

By layering consumption and population data, we are able to see the big picture of oil addiction and the clear need for alternatives as countries like China and India approach the per-capita consumption of the United States.

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