Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The World of 100 -- Writer's Poke #234

One of the best non-fiction books I've probably ever read is Chip Heath and Dan Heath's Made to Stick. Heath and Heath explain why some ideas stay with us, while others just fade away. Their main premise is that sticky ideas have six basic qualities: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional connectedness, and the element of story.

Looking at the blog attached to the book, I noticed that the authors posted a link to The World of 100: http://www.toby-ng.com/graphic-design/the-world-of-100/

This link takes statistical data about the world and uses picture graphs to present the information. It's difficult to visualize statistics for 6 billion people, so instead the creator of these graphs breaks it down to the world as though it were made up of just 100 people.

Thinking about the data from that perspective is really kind of neat. For example, instead of trying to image that 2 billion people in the world are Christian, try to imagine that 33 people out of 100 are Christian. Other interesting statistics: 7 people out of 100 have computers, 1 person out of 100 is college educated, 17 people out of 100 don't have access to clean drinking water. Just stating the stats in this way is nice, but the picture graph attached to each statistic is carefully designed to provide even more meaning than the numbers themselves can communicate.

What statistic do you have difficulty conceptualizing (national debt, annual number of individuals that die from breast cancer, the distance to the nearest star, etc)? How might you use "The World of 100" approach to generate more meaning and understanding for yourself and others?

"The average human has one breast and one testicle." -- Des McHale

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