Data Visualization and the United States Air Force

Session Title

Data Visualization and the United States Air Force


Eric Johnson, Roundarch

Session Type: Presentation

Roundarch has had a relationship with the United States Airforce since 2001 beginning with a build of the USAF Portal. In 2005 the Global Logistics Support Command hired Roundarch through Lockeheed Martin to build a Rich Internet Application using Adobe Flex called the Weapons System View. The initial basic advantage of using flex was faster performance for data mining tasks conducted by analyst. In addition to immensely faster performance, Flex provided a rich presentation level platform in which to provide data visualization. Since the initial Weapons System View, prototype 12 additional flex application have been build by a team of 50 including a team of 7 interaction designers. Consulting at the Air Force is extremely challenging because the UX must at both as experience lead and as a business analyst. The environment is unstructured and the learning curve is extremely steep due to the fact that Air Force is a very silo-ed organization from an data perspective and because they speak in sentences of acronyms which make it very difficult to understand. The resulting interfaces provide a very simple interface for conducting complex tasks. Applications are designed with two prime users in mind. The first is the data analyst who needs a tool which allows them to slice and dice the data set that they desire in order to determine what is causing the availability of planes, vehicles or equipment to be low. The second user is a high level leader who needs an interface where they can quickly scan a dashboard in order to find problems areas which they must focus their attention. The leadership interfaces utilize a more graphical approach to the data visualization where color coding and icons take the place of data grids. Our team is faced with what we call “hard core” interaction design challenges on a daily basis. Short schedules and multiple layers of government oversight make every day an adventure. My presentation would outline the challenges of working for the federal government, our team structure and design process and a walk though several of our visualization interfaces and explaining the design challenges. NOTE: I about to leave for my honeymoon in Italy in about 10 minutes so I had to write this on the fly, otherwise I would have missed the submission date.


Over the past 20 years, my skills have grown from designing the visual display of information to integrating my design skills into the software development process in order to design and architect complex interfaces and information structures. My experience creating the vision and architecture for user experiences spans the consumer, business to business and government markets; allowing me to draw on a wide variety of user centered design process and best practices. For the past two and a half years I have been the experience design team lead for the United State Air force Data Services team. I provide oversight for a team of 7 interaction designers, visual design, 5 functionals and a team of 35 developers.