Hannah Williams :)

ideas. design. open data. social change.

Design Indaba: Metropolis Issue

The cover for the Design Indaba Magazine issue Metropolis, focusing on design in the context of the urban environment, is a visualisation of data on global urban slum populations from 2000 to 2050. We developed this into a striking abstract graphic that is reminiscent of a fragmented skyscraper and simultaneously gives an impression of a flow into a gutter which is appropriate for showing slums. Using flourescent inks on a black background, the colour scheme references neon city lights – a visual characteristic common to most cities around the world. Collaboration with Mark Henning as Black Hat and Nimbus.

  • Medium: Magazine Cover
  • Client: Design Indaba
  • What i did: Concept, research, data preparation, design collaboration
  • Year: 2011

Public Art

We wanted to create a cover graphic that had aesthetic appeal and impact, but that also told a story. An important aspect of urbanisation, particularly relevent to the developing world, is the growth of urban slums that goes hand in hand with urban growth.

We started by developing what is essentially a bar graph showing the percentage urban population of countries* in 2000, 2020 and 2050. To illustrate the percentage slum population we developed a system where we ‘bent’ the bar graph lines so they changed angle at the percentage slum population value. The resulted in the total line length showing the degree of urbanisation of each country and the proportion of the line running off at an angle showing the percentage of urban slums.

We developed this into a striking abstract graphic that is reminiscent of a skyscraper building in a city, that simultaneously gives an impression of a flow into a gutter which is appropriate for showing slums.

Using flourescent inks on a black background, the colour scheme references 80′s style neon city lights – a visual characteristic common to most cities around the world from Tokyo to Buenos Aires.

A percentage value was used rather than absolute numbers because countries like China and India have such comparitively large populations that the scale of the graphic becomes impractical and legibility is compromised. A percentage value also tells a clearer story of the urban change that is taking place. We only included countries with an urban population of more than 3 million in 2001.

According to The UN Habitat State of the World Cities report 2010/2011 virtually the whole of the world’s population growth over the next 30 years will be concentrated in urban areas so by 2050 70% of the world’s population will be city-dwellers. Based on current trends it is projected that the world’s urban slum population is expected to reach 889 million by 2020.