Article / Policy Innovation
Published: 07.11.2022

Creativity and art can do more than inspire. In fact, we are surrounded by art. But has it found its place in policy design?

Data analysts in leading tech companies compared big data to LEGO bricks. After unboxing, you will find pieces of LEGO, representing raw data. The next thing you want to do is sorting them by color and arranging them by size. Assembling the LEGO bricks into creation is, therefore, data storytelling. Several parts are put together to create a visualization that is easy to understand, thus serving the purpose of assembling the LEGO sets.

Here are 3 ways arts can drive public policy.

  1. Turn data into a compelling story

You are a policy designer looking to raise awareness of climate change among state officers, specifically those in high positions with decision-making power. You now have three options:

A) Make a slide presentation showing a plentitude of field data collected from 10 years of ecological changes.


B) Use a pie chart to present the number of environmental changes and the costs of impacts from ignoring the rising temperatures. 


C) Print aerial photographs of diminishing forests over 10 years on glass panes, and layer them to illustrate the actual ratio.


Which option do you think will create the most emotional impact on the audience?

It is not surprising that data visualization lately becomes more popular, thanks to its ability to create emotional impacts. People feel more involved when they participate or touch the tangible data presentation. Big data alone cannot make your audience think, “I need to do something to change this.” The art of storytelling is an important tool for policymakers.

  1. Build the future and possibilities

‘Design’ has become a buzzword among policymakers. Policy formulation is often linked to ‘design thinking’ or even designing the outcome of the policy to make sure it responds to the actual issue. We can use design and art to identify problems and solve policy issues.

For example, a good policy must have a long shelf life. What, then, can keep the policy’s actual implementation fresh even after 10 years? The answer is the art of design. Smart bus stops, pedestrian crossings, traffic signs: these road functions involve design and arts in their creations. Imagine coming across a realistic 3D zebra crossing at night. Drivers unfamiliar with it might startle and crash, despite the invention’s goal to reduce accidents. Designing a 3D crossing should consider all users’ experiences in various situations. Designers can adopt artistic perspective as one of the factors, such as calming colors and eye-catching shapes that do not startle people. These crossings should not stand out and differ too much from local people’s quotidian usage.

  1. Boost creativity in policy formulation

Instead of conceiving dialogues to get to the stakeholders, a group of policymakers worked with actors to act out the problems. This approach helps the audience–other stakeholders and policymakers–see the humanized aspects of the issues and expand their perspectives. The theatre explores and performs solutions that respond effectively to the problems.

In another case study, traffic police were invited to find a solution to the rush hour traffic locks. Policymakers asked them to draw their ideal city plan on a board, using various colors to represent vehicles and types of routes. By drawing, the police came to see the livelihood of people who use the roads, besides the cars. They realized that safe and effective traffic would improve citizens’ quality of life. This realization emerged from a free prompt to draw anything on the board, then discussed later.

Arts do not limit to paintings or color theory in graphic design. If creativity in your daily life gets other people to feel with you, that is already art. Policymakers who use human-centered design can use art to create social changes. If you doubt the impact of art, try asking your friends if they have seen the poster below. If this image of turtle choking on straw makes them hesitate to grab a plastic straw with their next coffee order, that means art is doing its part in our daily lives.



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