22 February 2006

Using interactive design to make global statistics comprehensible [Business Week]

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Gapminder is a nonprofit, supported by the UNDP, dedicated to better communicating and disseminating global-development statistics — as a means to “mind the gap” between the world’s rich and poor, sick and healthy.

Gapminder wants to be more than just graphics. Between the clean lines and clarity of its presentations lies an argument about the need for information — particularly about the state of human development — to be free and accessible. Gapminder marries an open-source philosophy with interactive graphic design, trumpeting the notion that making global statistical information more easily understood will make it accessible to a greater number of people, and thereby increase the demand for it.

Seeking to make its visual tools available to the broadest possible constituency, Gapminder has worked from the beginning to create software that allows others to create their own visual presentations of the data. Accordingly, Gapminder has been developing a program called Trendalyzer that works from the data itself, rather than a fixed graphical presentation. Developed in Macromedia’s Flash, the current beta version of Trendalyzer is preloaded with a built-in data set, but can also accept imported Microsoft Excel files, allowing users to create animations derived from hundreds of different variables.

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