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Meet the Method: Canva

A close up screenshot of part of an infographic comparing the Boston MBTA lines' reliability. The green line is 79.4% reliable; the orange line is 90.5% reliable; the red line is 90% reliable; and the blue line is 96% reliable.

This NULab blog series serves to showcase some of the DITI’s publicly available learning resources. This installment focuses on Canva. 

Written by Emily Sullivan

Boston’s public transit system, the MBTA, is a cornerstone of local city life. It is known more commonly as the “T”, with some affectionately nicknaming the train system as “grandma T,” alluding to its slow, weathered chug. More than just the vehicle which transports you from point A to B, the T boasts vast stores of social media meme-age, and functions as a shared social point of reference for the diverse Boston population. As a weekly rider of the green line’s B train—and as someone who only moved here as recently as 2022—I have become increasingly intrigued by the strong emotions that Bostonians tend to have about the MBTA, its effectiveness, and its shortcomings. Leaning into this curiosity, I decided to compare and contrast the MBTA’s rapid transit lines through the medium of an infographic. A fairly user-friendly platform to create infographics like the one I wanted to create is Canva; however, user beware, Canva has been slowly decreasing its free features, and bolstering its paid membership perks. 

When approaching this task of creating my own infographic on the MBTA, I employed the handy assistance of The Digital Integration Teaching Initiative (DITI). The DITI has created a wide range of modules on digital tools and how to use them, including slide sets with step-by-step instructions and even handouts to help you along. You can consult the full collection of DITI slides and handouts to learn more about the digital tool(s) you may be interested in, the best kinds of content each tool serves, important accessibility considerations, and the most useful tips and tricks. You can also find examples of student work to spark your own ideas or model where to start. If you’re a Northeastern faculty member or graduate student, you can also obtain access to the full archive of DITI teaching materials via Canvas Commons; contact the DITI Team if you need assistance navigating the Canvas page. 

For my own infographic, I consulted the slide set “Creating Infographics with Canva”, which taught me both the foundational theories I needed to design an infographic and the technical instruction for how to put it together within the specific platform of Canva. I also looked at some examples of student work, including an infographic comparing the MBTA to Berlin’s public transit, Deutsche Bahn. I decided to keep it simple and just compare and contrast each MBTA line’s reliability, as reported by the MassDot website. I decided to display the full graph measuring reliability between the years of 2018 and 2022, but only highlighted the percentages for 2022 in the boxes beneath the graph, since that’s the most recent data. I tried to make sure my background and text colors were highly contrasting, and to use text minimally and intentionally. I also decided to integrate a funny (in my opinion) meme to demonstrate which line is measured as the least reliable: the green line! You can look at my beginner’s infographic: Comparing Boston’s MBTA Lines.

After giving infographics a go, with the help of the DITI and its resources, I realized how well suited they are for engaging with your community. I examined one specific aspect of the Boston public transit system, but there are so many more local quirks, struggles, histories, and current realities that you could communicate to the public through this user-friendly and conveniently shareable medium.

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