The World’s Wealth in Pizza: Improving the comprehension of large numbers through Information Visualization

MA thesis 2018

Extreme numerical magnitudes are part of our daily lives, however, measures outside our immediate experience carry little meaning to the average person. This can lead to misinterpretations, misjudgments, or in the worst case, complete disregard of important issues.

The aim of my thesis was to investigate how the true size of numerical magnitudes can be explained in relatable ways that support meaningful decisions in viewers/users.

On a practical level this included analyzing existing visualizations, describing a framework for presenting extreme magnitudes, and creating three intercative visualization prototypes which were used to conduct an insight-based evaluation / user test.

Master’s thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Arts in the program of Visual Communication Design at Aalto University. Received Grade 5/5 and a grant for excellent thesis work.

Read the full thesis here.

To evaluate the effectiveness of different visualization strategies, I produced 3 prototypes based on the most popular strategies from a corpus of around 80 visualization examples I had collected.

The “Stacking Bills” prototype displays a large monetary number as a bundle of bills, reaching from Helsinki to Riga. This prototype also allows users to explore personalized distances and money values.

The prototype was build using Leaflet and Leaflet.Geodesic by Henry Thasler, an add-on for Leaflet that allows to draw geodesic lines and great circles.

Try out the prototype here.

The “Buying Power” prototype expresses a target measure in terms of its intrinsic value i.e. buying power. To achieve this, relatable objects, such as cosumer goods and services, are used as new units of measurement. The user can interact with the visualization to change the unit of measurement, or add their own objects.

The prototype was build in Javascript and JQuery, some pictograms were adapted from Twemoji

Try out the prototype here.

The “Money Clock” visualization pays off the target measure, symbolized through a counter going down at a rate of €100 per second. It uses time as a familiar unit to re-express the unknown target measure.

The prototype was build in Javascript and JQuery.

Try out the prototype here.