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Visualizing Multiple Statistics

MIT Media Lab & Northwestern U explore Human Development

The Human Development Index was designed to focus attention on human well-being by combining metrics on health, education, and income into a single number between zero and one.

Some critics complained that important aspects of well being were left out. Others complained that a single number obscured important differences in the component parts: “a country whose population was lavishly wealthy but completely illiterate could look identical to a hyper-educated nation of homeless people.”

Graphics to the rescue, students at the MIT Media Lab and Northeastern University created a graphic that could quickly comminicate the multiple components and the relationship among them: The HDI Tree. Using an arrangement of color blocks the graphic quickly communicates the index (height of the tree) and its component parts (size of the blocks).

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