Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Than Just the Facts

I just came upon an eye-opening little volume called The Little Book of Shocking Global Facts. There’s nothing like a sobering fact to arrest our attention.

The book – produced by London design studio Barnbrook – sheds light on some of the biggest issues affecting the world today – including trade, the environment, health, population, human rights, the arms trade, war, and drugs. On each page, a fact is spelled out in bold type which can turn thinking toward action in one way or another. Some of the facts:

  • 59.3% of the global population lives in just 10 countries: China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Russia, and Japan; 40.7% lives in the remaining 219 countries.
  • There are over 250,000 child soldiers involved in twenty conflicts zones around the world.
  • 25% of greenhouse gases are caused by deforestation.
  • Just one percent of China’s 561 million urban inhabitants breathe air considered to be safe by the World Health Organization.
On a brighter note:

  • Between 1990 and 2007, negotiations led to the end of 59 conflicts around the world. In those 17 years, military victories resulted in the end of only 27 conflicts. This has become the first period in recorded history where more conflicts have ended in negotiation than in violence.

What I like about this book is that it goes beyond just facts. It’s overflowing with incredibly powerful visuals. Every page is covered top to bottom in vivid images that add clarity and emotion to the truth and consequence being illustrated, whether in the form of pie charts, graphs, photos, drawings or graphic art. The information architecture works.

Imagery adds emotional depth. If the information was presented on a white screen with black type (as with the above 5 facts), it would be too easy to disassociate. Visually communicated, the urgency hits home.