Urbanization in East Asia

world bank & visualizing.org urbanization challenge winner

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The Impact of Urbanization in East Asia


March 2015


“Visualizing Urban Expansion” Challenge


R, D3.js


Provided by the Worldbank


Societies are shifting from having a rural nature to a more and more urban nature. We face the opportunity to set the course of urbanization on a more sustainable and equitable path. This visualization is based on data on urbanization in East Asia between 2000 and 2010 collected by the World Bank using Satellite images and population models. It aims to provide you with a clear view on the magnitude of changes that can happen in only one decade and challenges you to think about the impact on the following years.


My second attempt at a data visualization competition, this was created for the “Visualizing Urban Expansion Challenge” organized by the World Bank and Visualizing.org. I was exceptionally happy and honored to have won the challenge! Sadly Visualizing.org is no longer online, so I cannot point you to their blog about this competition. Luckily, there is still a mention to this on the website of the World Bank.

The goal was to visualize the dataset so policy makers would be motivated to invest more money in research into urbanization. I had a hard time coming up with an interesting design and brainstormed with colleagues about ideas. In essence the data contained only two types of dimensions; population and urban land (The data contained growth in absolute numbers of the urban population and urban land for the 869 urban areas in East Asia that had at least 100,000 inhabitants in 2010). Due to cities being defined differently from the standard, it was not really possible to connect more external data to the cities. Thus how do you get your point across that urbanization is something that can make or break your economic growth and general welfare to local policy makers with just numbers on population and urban land?

In the end I decided that a more narrative approach, showing one angle of the data, explain the impact and move on to another visualization of the same data which shows something new again, was going to be the main concept. However, I still wanted the viewer to have the freedom to navigate the data, thus I combined the narrative with so-called interactive “views”. The final visual has 4 of these views, every time highlighting a different insight from the increase in urbanization.

You can read all about the data, design and coding process in my blog.