United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The challenge was to create an original and thought provoking illustration of human development. Zolabo created the winning solution to visualize the data from the Human Development Reports.

Envisage the perfect world as a tree. The tree – the world – would feature a strong trunk and healthy branches, holding aloft a canopy of fresh leaves – the countries. Using this tree metaphor, Zolabo has applied data from the Human Development Index (HDI) to produce a thought-provoking interactive experience.

First a user is asked to set their own worldwide criteria for life expectancy, education, income and gender equality, within defined parameters. Next a stunning 3D representation of their ideal tree grows on your screen; healthy and smothered in leaves. All countries meet your criteria in this ideal version. Then comes the shock value. Reality hits in and the clock turns straight back to <198>5 and many, if not all, of the leaves tumble to the ground, leaving the branches of the tree bare; a sobering image. As the clock moves forward in time, many leaves will return on the branches of the tree. A positive final message showing how much progress was achieved in the past years.

Based on quantitative values, this visualization’s strength lies in its capacity to clearly – and beautifully – demonstrate in seconds something that could not be conveyed easily by a dry, indigestible dataset. “We're realizing how effective it is as a communication tool, as an outreach tool,” said Eleonore Fournier-Tombs – online communication manager at the UNDP.

Open project site


HDI Tree visualization used in the Human Development Report

In request of the UNDP Zolabo also created an alternative version of this visualization to embed in the HDR online report. This visualization shows two trees, each tree representing the HDI score of a country.

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Jurjen Verhagen

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