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The mechanics of an intelligence machine

NRC journalist Kees Versteegh researched the inner workings of the AIVD, the Dutch intelligence agency. He learned the myriad of ways that the agency handles different kinds of scenario's and situations. In his research he focussed on the myriad of ways how the agency responds to different scenario’s and situations.

The vast array of different cases made for a complicated story.
The large amount of ways the agency handled cases made the story a complicated one to tell. My challenge was to present this enormous amount of information in a visually compelling way.

Early on we determined that every process had three main steps. First information was gathered, then processed and finally action might be taken or the file would be archived.

To illustrate this process we decided to recreate the AIVD headquarters. Every floor illustrates one of the three steps. We populated every floor with each of the desks a file might be going to and added explanations of their function to the desks.

To help people understand the agency's inner workings we added four scenarios on top of the main graphic with the desks. Visitors start out choosing one of the four scenarios – all of which are imaginary but grounded in reality – these scenarios take the visitor on a route throughout the piece.

The interactive infographic is built out of SVG files and programmed in Javascript (ES6), with some use of PHP and Sass. The entire visualisation is 400 kilobytes due to the extensive use of vector graphics.

For this work I did the interaction design and production.
Kees Versteeg: research and text
Pepijn Barnard: illustrations
Harrison van der Vliet: editing