From Abstract to Meaningful

I remember reading that the average per-capita GNP of the industrialized world is around $27,000 while Africa’s is $528. I felt shocked at the extreme disparity. Because this information was simple and concise it was immediately clear that this disparity in wealth was severe.

Every day we read or hear about all manner of complex global issues. With that much information these issues become abstract and motivating people to act on their behalf of any of them can be a major challenge.

Over the past few years there has been a tremendous growth in creativity and expression with infographics. Their ability to elevate, enhance and convey the meaning within information can be a powerful tool. These depictions allow us to experience the data or facts in a way that can communicate impact and elicit a meaningful connection.

For example look at the many pressing and critical issues across Africa. Contrasting all the news about the fully comprehensible South African World Cup were the ongoing reports of genocide, piracy, war over natural resources and the continuing devastation brought on by HIV, malnutrition, corruption and water shortage. It’s too much to expect of anyone to comprehend the impacts of any single one of these issues. And it’s even harder to imagine how all of this can happen in a single place. This inability to convey the true size and scope of the place we are talking about is part of the challenge to addressing the issues themselves.

Earlier this month Economist published an article featuring an infographic created by famed interface designer Kai Krause. He developed the graphic to fight “immapanncy” or the distorted view that most people have regarding the true size of continents around the world. The distorted view can also distort our sense of what any region can contain.

The true size of Africa. – Kai Krause

The map above clearly shows how large the African continent is compared to other countries. Seeing the vast size of Africa makes it easier to comprehend how one place can have so many challenges. Then consider that 8 of the world’s top 10 economies are among the many countries that would fit within the borders of the world’s poorest continent.

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