America Off Balance

America's national debt crisis is complicated. America Off Balance breaks it down, explains how it will affect you, and empowers you to solve it.

Brand Strategy, Visual Identity, Visual Essay, Data Visualization, Digital Toolkit

The challenge

America’s ballooning debt has the potential to throw the country and its citizens into turmoil. The current national deficit is so large it’s hard for most to fathom. And yet this debt, already in the trillions, will impact generations to come. How do we sound the alarm to millennials about something so calamitous yet so mind-numbingly difficult to understand?

America Off Balance is a 3-part digital storytelling experience that demystifies the national deficit and invites both the general public and economic experts to try their hand at reconciling the unrealistic promises of politicians from both parties.

Bringing the story to life

As we wrote this piece, we wrestled with content that could quickly overwhelm and jade audiences. We made it a point to speak directly to the user, in plain language and easy-to-understand sentences. In order to demystify the astronomical numbers and what they mean for everyday Americans, we painted scenarios of what a future with crippling debt would look like.

We leaned into analogies and metaphors that could help ground the issue of the national debt in ideas that were closer to home. And for visual elements, we referenced popular publications such as the New Yorker and The Economist to gather editorial inspiration that would resonate with savvy, politically-engaged millennials.

Breaking down our national debt

We started with a short explainer designed to walk the general readers through the magnitude of the challenge in under a minute. A key goal of this work was to raise the alarm amongst the politically-engaged general public.

Balancing the budget

The second chapter is a choose-your-own adventure experience, where curious economic enthusiasts can try their hand at applying some of the most commonly touted solutions. The nature of partisan discourse has made it difficult for politicians to talk transparently about the costs, both direct and indirect, associated with fixing the budget. We wanted to normalize the inevitability of tradeoffs and show that a perfect solution may never exist. The trade-offs are, of course, frustrating and illuminating.

A budget calculator for the pros

The final chapter is a budget calculator, targeted to economic bloggers and policy staffers from across the political system. It is designed as an industry-standard tool for practitioners to assess proposals and make important decisions and recommendations. Using real-time data, users can enact policies, slash costs, and grow the economy to show off their budget strategy. This first-of-its-kind tool is already being used in university classrooms and financial think tanks.

  • 500+
    advanced users published budgets
  • 1000+
    federal budgets created on the calculator
  • 5 min
    average time to create a budget
Hyperakt made this product as accessible as ever! They were fun to work with—solving high-level UX problems is no easy feat.
Daniel Heil
Lead Economist, The Hoover Institution

Project Credits

Project Team
  • Naim Sheriff
  • Mihai Cernusca
  • Dan Reilly
  • Sebastien Thibault
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