Friday, January 21, 2011

Morphing Cartograms and Other Great New Tools To Illustrate Information or Decision Making

In the ten or so weeks since its launch, I’ve been fascinated at the cartograms , or morphing value-added maps that show statistical data in a diagrammatic way, created by FedEx to give perspective on a variety of topics.Capture

It begins with world population, life expectancy, median age and growth rate.  It is part of a global paid advertising program, but it has already demonstrated an even more powerful earned media impact.

Click on the start button at the bottom after opening this link and the size and shapes of each country will morph proportionately with each measure, thus the term cartogram.

You’ll see a place to “select other topics” at the bottom as well.  Click and the cartograms will illustrate:

National Geographic Magazine began a series this month on reaching the 7 billion mark in world population but the cartograms used as illustration aren’t available online yet.  However, this video by National Geo  on the topic makes excellent use of illustrations.

Another great example of how to illustrate a lot of information at once appeared last week in the Washington Post.

It shows the relative cost and life cycles of communication devices like fax machines and cell phones to computers, television, A/V etc.

Hover over a year and you’ll see, for example, that in 1984 cell phones cost more than $4,000 each and less than 1% of the population had one and by the time I arrived in Durham in 989, the cost had dropped to around $1,300 and 4% of the population had one.

Today the average cost is $78 and more than 90% of the population has one.

If you’re in the business of helping inform data-based decision making, these are excellent examples of how today we have more information than ever at our fingertips yet it is easier and easier to digest.

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