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Creative Visualisation of numbers

A key challenge for policy makers is how to tell a compelling story with numbers. It is not easy to visualise the impact of change in a meaningful way—but help is now at hand.

Ironically it doesn't come from the business intelligence (oxymoron alert) community—it is more the result of being able to add graphical tools and creative vision to the core data. The person driving this vision is Dr Hans Rosling a global health professor. Google like the approach so much that they have now invested in the gapminder software developed by Rosling.

The second irony here is that it is much better for you to go view this video presentation than to carry on reading at this point (video link provided below.)

Try this link if the flash embed doesn't work correctly. (20.35 minutes)

"Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called "developing world" using extraordinary animation software developed by his Gapminder Foundation.

The Trendalyzer software (recently acquired by Google) turns complex global trends into lively animations, making decades of data pop. Asian countries, as colorful bubbles, float across the grid—toward better national health and wealth. Animated bell curves representing national income distribution squish and flatten.

In Rosling's hands, global trends—life expectancy, child mortality, poverty rates—become clear, intuitive and even playful." (from Ted.com)

It is easy to try the gapminder software out and what will be even more exciting is if policy makers actually use some of this to help communicate in visually compelling ways.

Note: TED is "like drinking from a firehose" see a report from Brian Sweeney who was at TED 2007 and has attended quite a few of previous conferences. His liked the Rosling presentation and recommended it as follows:

"See especially the presentation by Hans Rosling at the 2006 conference, it will change your world view of what is happening and what is possible"... and

"For me TED has been life-changing in terms of seeing ideas up close from the folk who had them" ... Sam Morgan presented a new design for dispensing pain relief medicine which can save lives the world over.

He has also kindly posted his conference notes on TED 2007. See full post.

Also—Guy Kawasaki linked to a budget poster (yes really) which uses  relative sizes to communicate well. Check the full poster over at budget poster use the control or shift keys to zoom in/ out.  Another example of visually useful fast communication.