Better Life Index

Can quality of life be quantified and displayed as an interactive dashboard? Well, take a look at the delightful work being done at the OECD Better Life Initiative. Take in these fantastic screenshots and then visit the live interactive site here: Better Life Initiative Dashboard.

better life initiative dashboard

The flowers represent various quality of life measure across the 34 member countries of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international organisation helping governments tackle the economic, social and governance challenges of a globalised economy – according to their own definition).

Here is what you see when you drill down into the flower representing the USA:

quality of life metrics

For an excellent description of this novel infographic, see the Visual Business Intelligence post “Data Blooms in Beauty and Truth“.

Here is an excerpt:

On the left, words are used to provide the narrative, while on the right a visual display makes it easy to see how the United States compares to the other countries at a glance. The series of small vertical bars next to each label (Housing, Income, etc.) represents in miniature the values associated with each country ranked from lowest to highest, with the highlighted bar representing the United States. These tiny graphs tell a rich story in little space. Consider Safety for a moment. Not only can we quickly see that the United States is near the bottom with a score of 7.6 out of 10, but that most countries score within a narrow range, with two significant exceptions represented by the lowest bars on the left. Scanning the various measures, I quickly spot that our highest score relative to the other countries is Income (ranked second), but the score of 6.5 is much lower than the highest country. By hovering over the tallest bar a pop-up display tells me that Luxembourg leads the pack with a perfect Income score of 10.

I hope you can see from this brief description that the designers of this infographic achieved a marriage of form and function, beauty and usability, that did not subsume one to the other in an unequal partnership as many infographics do. It was designed and developed by Moritz Stefaner, Jonas Leist and Timm Kekeritz. I don’t know these fellows and know almost nothing about their other work, so I cannot vouch for its merits, but this one example speaks highly of their abilities and their respect for information. If you check on the background of Moritz Stefaner, you’ll find that he has a B.S. in Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Interface Design. His background provides an understanding of the human brain, which clearly directs him to display data in ways that our eyes can perceive and brains can comprehend with ease, speed, and accuracy. The other designers also have backgrounds that make them sensitive to issues of usability. They didn’t just make an infographic that was pretty and provided a little information in a semi-effective way. They could have made the flower petals spin around, but they knew better. Infographics don’t need to shout to get noticed; a welcoming smile and the promise of intelligent conversation is all they need. These guys created a piece of work that is beautiful, engaging, simple, easy to use, easy to understand, accurate, and deeply informative.

Work of this type differs from day-to-day examples of data visualization in two ways:

  • It requires a great deal of graphical design expertise
  • It requires a great deal of time