Amber Waves

Amber Waves is a 3D data visualization of global food prices.

The Challenge

A vital element of the annual Feast conference is The Pavilion, a participatory space where the issues and innovations of the conference come to life. For the 2012 Pavilion, we were inspired by the work of Open Source Ecology, a network of social entrepreneurs that promotes local, sustainable, independent food production. OSE proponents claim that the shift in global food production from small-scale, local farmers to larger, commercially driven growers has caused wild fluctuations in food prices, leaving consumers vulnerable to the whims of mysterious market forces. When we collected data on the price fluctuations of the four major grains (rice, wheat, soy, and corn) from 2005-2012, we saw that global food prices did indeed oscillate drastically during this period. We wanted to present this complex data to Feast attendees in a way that is immediately understood, visually compelling, and thought-provoking.

The Solution

To provide an arresting visual interpretation of the data, we filled hundreds of transparent plastic containers with the four grains and suspended these containers from the ceiling at varying heights, creating an “amber wave”—an eye-catching physical graph that gives viewers a tangible and compelling portrait of a troubling trend. We wanted viewers to be able to walk around the entire display, with nothing to distract them from the three-dimensional graph, so additional information about the project was displayed on a large poster that lay directly beneath the hanging containers.

Partnerships & Community

The project was created for the 2012 Feast Conference and was made in collaboration with Aaron Campbell and Michelle Brick.

Commissioning Partner

The Feast


Concept Design, Interaction Design, Physical Design


October 2012