Designing for complexity: data visualizations in megaproject management
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date10/07/2020
Focusing on the format of dashboards and the visualisations of performance indicators, this thesis explores the design features that make accounting visualisations influential in shaping the management of highly complex and dynamic organisational settings. Informed by empirical research on the reporting design practices in Crossrail, Europe's largest infrastructure megaproject, this thesis theorises how the design of data visualisations is consequential in supporting engagement with the challenges of project delivery and how they enable and constrain interaction. To address these concerns, this thesis develops a comprehensive design framework for the study of the visual in accounting. It does so by drawing from the design theory concepts of affordances, visual and aesthetics literacy, and visual conventions to investigate how designers deploy specific forms and features to pre-form practices of future interaction with visual artefacts. Theorising five interrelated design principles – multimodal balance, visual relationality, optical consistency, functional beauty, and the emphasis on incompleteness and the visualisation of consequences – this study makes three contributions to the study of the visual in interdisciplinary accounting. The first contribution informs the accounting literature on the design of accounting visualisations unpacking how designers visualise the multiplicity and interconnectedness of complex organisational phenomena and theorises how such artefacts can support the creation associations to tackle complexity and emergence. The second contribution is to the literature on numerical pictures in accounting and relates to how aesthetic attributes can augment the power and interactional possibilities of visualisations. The third contribution of this study consists in the fact that it offers a design perspective to the study of the visual in accounting. In fact, this thesis investigates how reporting designers construct visualisations and does so relying on a theoretical framework developed based on notions borrowed from design theory.