June 24, 2021

MSPW Student Deconstructs the College Fight Song In A Poster-Worthy Infographic

This spring, the students in Document Design and Data Visualization, a core course in the MS in Professional Writing program, put their visual thinking skills to the test in a series of design challenges spanning the Spring 2021 semester. One of these challenges asked students to compile an original dataset on the topic of their choice, then visualize that dataset using strategies and resources from their coursework. MSPW candidate Theresa Smith answered this call with a clean, clever infographic deconstructing the college fight song, shown below in full below.

Theresa Fight Song Infographic

To compile her dataset, Smith combed through the fight song lyrics from 20 top colleges and pinpointed words and concepts that came up often. After building her initial list of contenders, Smith then revisited each song to make an objective count of the words and concepts she had identified. 

Armed with her newly-minted dataset, Smith designed a graphic that uses icon size as a visual stand-in for word or concept frequency. “The icons were inspired by a set of geometric Art Deco teapots I saw at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum a few years ago,” she explains. “I wanted to find a visualization method that could create some distance between the presentation and the subject, but which would also still let me use color and shape to capture the spirit and character of these songs.” 

Smith opted to keep the rest of her infographic minimal, using school colors to visually demarcate each college and bumping their formal labels to a position-coordinated key at the bottom. This allowed her striking icons to draw the eye and maintain user focus. 

The result is an unconventional, beautiful data visualization that received rave reviews from both peers and adjunct instructor Meg Nanson, who taught Smith’s section of the course. Nanson, who has been working in digital marketing professionally for the past ten years, says, “As a fellow writer who took ages to learn graphic design, I don’t expect anyone to master these tools and concepts overnight. But Theresa’s innate eye for aesthetics and understated flair for the unexpected helped her sail through every design challenge. Her ‘fight song’ visualization is on par with work from seasoned design professionals. Coupled with her already considerable writing talent, Theresa’s aptitude for visual thinking makes her a powerful force!” 

Smith, like most of the students who take the Document Design and Data Visualization course, considers herself a writer first and foremost. “I was kind of amazed to learn that I'm good at designing,” says Smith. “Before this class, visual design was just a task I had to put up with if I wanted to persuade other people to read my writing or listen to my music. Now, it’s something I think about every day, and I’ve started to incorporate it into my brainstorming. It’s amazing to know that a few thoughtful design choices can transform a set of data into a persuasive, coherent piece of visual exposition.” 

To learn more about the Document Design and Data Visualization course or the MS in Professional Writing program at NYU School of Professional Studies, visit sps.nyu.edu/mspw

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