World of 100

| October 19, 2011

Even when statistics are clearly represented as visuals, understanding data is difficult. We’re not so naturally inclined to to understand statistics in relation to our personal, daily lives. An emerging method of providing people with the tools to achieve that contextual understanding is through interactive graphics, such as the 9/11+ME project (which uses Facebook or survey data to personalize information).

But what about other data sets that are vital to understand but not easy to breakdown by zip code or age? For example, poverty, access to drinking water, development? Because these data sets tend to be so large and in the developed world, so far away, it is especially easy for poverty to be normalized (and therefore especially important to find a way to understand it). Can statistics be humanized in a new way, other than through empathy-evoking devices like photography and narrative story-telling?

Yes they can. Toby Ng, an award-winning designer in Hong Kong, selected as one of the 36 Young Designers in Asia by Designnet magazine, Korea, created a poster series, The World of 100, which has just been published as a book in 2011.

This is a book about you. Despite thousands of differences you can pick from your next, unfortunately you can’t escape from identifying yourself being a member of the world. Agree? Well then, better face it than running away. In 2008, designer Toby Ng gathered statistics about the spread of the world population and turned the numbers into a series of 20 posters – The World of 100, putting forth this question: If the world were a village of 100 people, how would the composition be?

Reducing the world to a village of 100 people is a fresh idea both conceptually and graphically. Maria Popova at brainpickings writes, “In a weird way, we were most shocked by the least consequential [cards], our daily entitlements that we take for granted… for instance, in our proverbial village of 100: 48 can’t speak, act according to their faith and conscience due to harassment, imprisonment, torture or death. And some of it, although common knowledge, makes some of our societal ironies particularly salient.”

The book, revised with 2011 figures, is accessible on Toby Ng’s website for $24.99 and free worldwide shipping. More than just a beautiful coffee-table conversation piece, imagine its usability in an educational setting: the activities and discussions than can emerge from reading the cards. It’s a refreshing learning tool and perspective for students who are lost in a information growing world that sometimes pushes them into complacency because they can’t decode it–thousands of Facebook friends, multitudes of data on anything and everything, so many online sources that they don’t know which to read.

A world of 100 might be much needed relief.