Our Top 22 Visualizations of 2022
The world was a complex and volatile place in 2022.
In our signature style—combining art, data, and storytelling—we helped millions of people make sense of unfolding events, from geopolitical flare-ups to stock market turmoil. Our growing team ranked, mapped, and visualized hundreds of new infographics on a multitude of topics.
This year we continued to refine classic concepts such as All the World’s Money, Global Happiness, World’s Richest People, and Prediction Consensus.
See what hundreds of experts are predicting for 2023 with our Global Forecast Series.
In this ninth edition of our yearly round-up, we’ve highlighted a small selection of our work, as well as pieces made by talented members of our Creator Program. The following visualizations were selected because they reached millions of people, sparked lively conversations, or pushed boundaries in design and data-driven reporting.
Now, let’s dive in to the top 22 visualizations of 2022.
Editor’s note: Click on any preview below to see the full-sized version of a visualization.
The $100 Trillion Global Economy in One Chart
IMF projections from earlier this year suggested that we would hit a new milestone for global economic output: $104 trillion. This voronoi diagram carves up the global economy by country.
One more insight from this graphic. While China’s GDP growth has slowed in recent years, projections still indicate that the country will overtake the U.S. by 2030, dethroning the world’s economic leader.
#21 CREATOR PROGRAM
Visualizing Earth’s Seasons
The Earth’s changing seasons radically affect the world in different ways. Some regions experience four distinct seasons, while others experience only two or as many as six.
Many people think the seasons are dictated by Earth’s proximity to the Sun, but this isn’t the case. It’s the Earth’s tilt, not its closeness to the Sun, that influences our seasons and causes massive changes in weather and ecology.
This animated map by Eleanor Lutz visualizes Earth’s seasons, showing how the temperature changes impact ice levels in the Arctic, as well as the growth and shifting of vegetation. It also highlights the cloud cover and sunlight each hemisphere receives throughout the year, with each frame in the animation representing a month of time.
Map Explainer: Key Facts About Ukraine
As columns of Russian tanks began snaking their way toward Kyiv in early 2022, the world’s eyes became fixated on Ukraine. While outlets like FT and NYT provided real-time invasion updates, we focused on geography, infrastructure, and points of interest using our Map Explainer format.
Visualizing the World’s Largest Oil Producers
The conflict in Ukraine had broader implications on the global economy, and the world hit its first energy crisis of the 21st century. This infographic looks at where oil is actually produced around the world.
The OPEC countries are the largest oil producers collectively, with Saudi Arabia alone making up one-third of OPEC production.
10 Years of Tinder
With its user-friendly interface and popular features like “swipe right” to indicate interest, Tinder has transformed the way people meet and date. When the dating app reached its 10th birthday this year, we leaned into a wacky design that reflects the twists and turns the company has taken on its journey from hackathon project to billion dollar business.
The Salary You Need to Buy a Home in 50 U.S. Cities
Where one lives has big implications on how realistic home ownership may seem. This graphic offers a broad view of affordability, mapping out the annual salary needed for home ownership in 50 different U.S. cities.
San Jose came out on top as the most expensive city, while Oklahoma City and Cleveland ranked as some of the most affordable.
The Relationship Between Wealth and Happiness, by Country
Throughout history, the pursuit of happiness has been a preoccupation of humankind. Of course, we humans are not just content with measuring our own happiness, but also our happiness in relation to the people around us—and even other people around the world.
We crunched the numbers and visualized the data to see if money really does buy happiness.
Animation: The World’s Biggest Wind Turbines
Over the past 20 years, wind turbines have grown in size, and are now generating much more energy per unit. Today, the tallest turbines can reach over 200 meters (650 ft) in height and cost more than $12 million to manufacture and install.
This animated infographic, produced by our Elements team, shows them side-by-side with iconic landmarks to help show the scale of modern wind energy infrastructure.
33 Problems With Media in One Chart
One of the hallmarks of democratic society is a healthy, free-flowing media ecosystem. Unfortunately, the modern news media ecosystem is under fire from a number of angles, from a shrinking pool of ad revenue to declining trust from readers.
Many of the problems identified in the infographic are easy to understand once they’re identified. However, in some cases, there is an interplay between these issues that is worth digging into. One thing is for certain, the topic generated a lively discussion on how to fix the problems that plague mainstream media.
#13 CREATOR PROGRAM
Visualizing S&P 500 Performance in 2022, by Sector
Tracking indices over the course of a year reveals a lot about market trends and sentiment. The S&P 500’s performance over the course of 2022 is a great example.
Throughout the year, inflation rates have remained high and interest rates have likewise been climbing around the world. Accompanied by the looming threat of a recession, some sectors have been hit harder than others.
This animation from Jan Varsava shows U.S. dividend-adjusted stock performance for each company in the S&P 500 index in 2022, from the start of the year through the end of September.
Animated Map: Where to Find Water on Mars
The European Space Agency has long been looking for water on Mars, and this year it looks like they’ve found it…in rocks!
Special rocks called hydrous minerals are believed to contain remnants of a large but now lost Martian ocean. The ESA released new data confirming the geographical locations of these rocks, suggesting places where water may still be present deep beneath the red planet’s surface.
All the World’s Military Personnel
With conflicts in Ukraine, Iran, and other places making war and violence unfortunately prevalent in 2022, we assessed the military capabilities of countries worldwide.
This visual breaks down all the world’s active duty and reserve soldiers with each soldier icon representing 10,000 soldiers. Although China has the largest active military, Vietnam took the top spot as the country with the biggest military worldwide when including reserves and paramilitary numbers into the mix.
#10 CREATOR PROGRAM
The Yuxi Circle: The World’s Most Densely Populated Area
If you wanted to capture over 55% of the global population inside a circle with a 4,000 km (2,500 mi) radius, which city would you place at its epicenter?
Mapmaker Alasdair Rae went digging through population data, tracing circles around 1,500 cities worldwide to find out how many people lived within a 4,000 km radius. Out of all possible options, he discovered that the The Yuxi Circle, based on a city in the Yunnan province of China, was the world’s most densely populated area.
A Lifetime’s Consumption of Fossil Fuels, Visualized
In this graphic, we visualized exactly how many fossil fuels are used in an average American’s 80-year lifetime, putting the coal, gas, and petroleum into scaled cubes and comparing them to the size of a human being.
The end result? It turns out that we use a lot of fossil fuels as individuals—over 119 tonnes of coal, 236 tonnes of petroleum products, and 2,007 cubic meters of compressed natural gas.
Every Song With Over 1 Billion Spotify Streams
Spotify is the world’s most popular audio streaming service with over 450 million users across 183 markets. With that kind of scale, songs can rack up some serious streaming numbers.
In this ambitious data visualization, we looked at every song with more than one billion streams on the platform, and served the data up by decade and artist.
A Decade of Elon Musk’s Tweets, Visualized
Even before Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, the entrepreneur was already a power user of the platform, using it to share news about his companies, chat with users about technology, and, of course, post dank memes.
To better understand Musk’s Twitter usage over the years, we decided to scrape his entire tweet history and visualize the results. The result is a unique radial timeline design that highlights key topics as well as the overall volume of tweets. Our article also features the highlights (and lowlights) of Musk’s growing body of microblogging work.
#6 CREATOR PROGRAM
Nature Timespiral: The Evolution of Earth from the Big Bang
Not much is known about what came before the Big Bang, but we do know that it launched a sequence of events that gave rise to the universal laws of physics and the chemical elements that make up matter.
How the Earth came about, and life subsequently followed, is a wondrous story of time and change. Over the course of about 14 billion years, history has seen the creation of the universe, the expansion of the cosmos, and the spawning of galaxies, stars, planets, and eventually, life.
In this amazingly detailed visualization called the Nature Timespiral, Pablo Carlos Buddassi illustrates this journey, depicting the various eras that the Earth has gone through since the inception of the universe itself.
All the Metals We Mined in 2021: Visualized
“If you can’t grow it, you have to mine it” is a famous saying that encapsulates the importance of minerals and metals in the modern world. The sheer volume of raw materials and metals that factor into our everyday life often goes overlooked.
This visualization takes these unsung heroes and puts them center stage. Of the 2.8 billion tonnes of metals mined in 2021, iron ore, which is used to make steel, made up 93%. Over on the other end, rare metals like rhenium are tiny by comparison.
#4 CREATOR PROGRAM
Countries Grouped by Their Largest Trading Partner (1960-2020)
Which countries are the central nodes of the global trade network? The answer to this question has changed over time, with China becoming the latest nation to dominate global trade networks.
This series of “netgraphs”, by Anders Sundell, connects countries to their primary trading partner, using data that includes both imports and exports. It’s no secret that the U.S. has seen its trade dominance slip in recent decades, but seeing it visualized in this unique way really drives the point home.
The Top 10 Largest Nuclear Explosions, Visualized
Threats of a nuclear war outbreak have been populating headlines this year ever since the beginning of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. We examined the top 10 largest nuclear explosions in history, charting their explosive yields, their height, and the size of their destructive radii into one graphic.
Though humans haven’t seen devastation from the likes of nuclear weaponry since Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the explosives that came after leave much to the imagination in the face of developing world events.
FTX’s Leaked Balance Sheet
The high-profile collapse of crypto exchange FTX will stand as one of the biggest—and most lurid—financial stories of the year.
When FTX’s leaked balance sheet was published by the Financial Times, the large numbers it contained were tough to truly appreciate. We saw an opportunity to visualize the data to better understand the size of the company’s hole, and the breakdown between liquid and illiquid assets.
Graphic design aside, the results were not pretty.
The World’s Population at 8 Billion
In mid-November of this year, the eight billionth human being entered the world, ushering in a new milestone for humanity. In this series of voronoi diagrams, we look at the current distribution of humanity, by country and by region.
In just 48 years, the world population has doubled in size, jumping from four to eight billion. Our team also dug deep into this topic in a full report and webinar for VC+ members.
According to projections, 2023 will bring another major population milestone. The world will soon have a new largest country, as India’s population will surpass China’s.
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5 Megatrends Fueling the Rise of Data Storytelling
This era of data abundance should be propelling humankind forward, but valuable insights are often lost in the noise. Data storytelling holds the key.
Infographic: The Rise of Data Storytelling
Humanity is creating more data than ever before, and more of that data is publicly accessible.
While “data is the new oil” has almost become a cliché, the impact that data abundance is having on the world is undeniable. All of the world’s most valuable companies are heavily reliant on data for their continued success. Even oil giant Saudi Aramco, the world’s most valuable company, runs a 6,000 m² data center, and is partnering with Google Cloud.
In a world where nearly everything is quantified, communicating insights from that data becomes a massive opportunity. This is where data storytelling comes in. In simple terms, it’s the difference between simply making a chart, and actually explaining what it means, why it’s important, and how it fits into the broader context. This style of data-driven communication is cropping up everywhere, from newsrooms to corporate communications.
Here, we examine five megatrends fueling the rise of data storytelling.
① Information Overload
It’s estimated that between 2015 and 2025, the world will see a 16-fold increase in data.
- The bad news: The rising tide of information is growing faster than our ability to harness it
- The good news: This growing universe of data holds the promise of more insight, if properly utilized
Thankfully, data storytelling is an emerging field that thrives on information abundance.
As our society and economy grow more complex, more high-quality, actionable information is critical for today’s decision makers.
② Declining Trust in Media
Trust in news media has been declining for decades, and in many countries around the world, the majority of people don’t feel that media is a trustworthy source of information.
Trust in social media is similarly shaky. Only one-third of people surveyed around the world believe that social media is a trustworthy source of information. As well, a recent poll found that 75% of U.S. adults felt that political views were likely being censored by social media platforms.
The mass media ecosystem as it currently exists is facing a crisis of confidence. When a system is no longer adequately serving the needs of its users, that system is ripe for disruption.
③ Winner-Take-All Dynamics
This information abundance should be propelling humankind forward, but more often than not, valuable insights are lost in the noise—either poorly presented or pushed to the margins by clickbait and other distractions.
Today, most of us rely on algorithms and aggregators to deliver information to us. Over time, those systems become very good at feeding us information that is generally what we’re looking for. The downside, however, is that engagement-driven algorithms reward only the most compelling narratives. The handful of stories you see are the result of fierce, darwinistic competition on platforms like Twitter or Medium.
This hyper-competitive environment is part of the reason there are so many problems with media today—clickbait and tabloidization being two prominent examples.
Data storytelling takes potentially dry, complex topics and makes them more accessible, compelling, and more likely to win the battle for people’s attention.
④ Moving Beyond Text
Many of our existing systems look the way they do in part because of past technological limitations.
Search engines, for example, are still largely driven by text-based considerations. This makes sense as the early internet was essentially a collection of pages with text and hyperlinks.
Today, search engines are much better taking other forms of information into consideration, and technological advancements are breaking new ground in analyzing video and data visualizations. Advancements in AI could soon allow users to search for visualizations in ways that don’t even involve text keywords.
In a future where searching for information in a visual format is as intuitive as a Google search today, the utility and reach of data storytelling will increase dramatically.
⑤ Democratization of Data Storytelling
Even as the number of people with professional credentials in data analytics, data science, and other similar professions is on the rise, it’s never been easier for laypersons to create and publish high quality visualizations.
Free tools which are usable on almost any device have broken down barriers of access for millions of people around the world. There is now a universe of resources for people and organizations looking to convert data into a compelling visual format.
Below is a shortlist of data storytelling resources ranging from the intuitive design tools to powerful coding language libraries:
|Resources for getting started|
|Visualization selection||Data Viz Project||From Data to Viz||Storytelling With Data|
|Color selection||Adobe Color CC||Paletton||Colors on the Web|
|Bringing data to life|
|Classic||Microsoft Excel||Adobe Creative Suite||Google Data Studio|
|Web apps||RAW Graphs||Flourish||Datawrapper|
|Powerful, specialized resources|
Of course there are many more resources out there, and we’ll be covering this more comprehensively in the future.
The Last Mile
The concept of “the last mile” is typically associated with e-commerce. Fulfillment can be centralized in massive hubs and delivery can be optimized with uniform trucks and precise routes, but neighborhoods and residences refuse to conform to rigid standards. The last mile is where the orderly world of logistics fragments into randomness, making this leg of the journey the thorniest problem for companies like Amazon to solve.
This last mile analogy lends itself to communication as well. Analytics and datasets can be polished and made publicly accessible, but the real world is messy. Humans are unpredictable, each with their own style of learning and varying levels of data literacy.
Also, unlike e-commerce—which begins with a defined request—insight comes in unexpected flashes. Those moments of serendipity need the right conditions to occur, and the fact of the matter is, most sources of high quality information (databases, white papers, reports, etc.) are only accessed by the small number of people who conduct research for a living.
This is the great opportunity presented by data storytelling. High quality information is distilled into a form that is more digestible, memorable, and sharable, allowing more people to benefit from this era of information abundance.
Put simply: data storytelling bridges the gap between under-utilized knowledge and the growing number of people who are striving to separate the signal from the noise.
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