If there’s one design trend that’s become fairly universal in the last few years, it’s infographics. These poster-like graphical representations of data are now everywhere across media including print, digital and of course online. The web, however, is also able to offer another dimension to the experience – user interactivity. This is demonstrated beautifully by Neil Halloran in The Fallen of World War II, a new interactive experience detailing the casualties of World War II.
Fallen.io only attempts to present one piece of information – a graphical representation of the death count in World War II – and does that one thing very clearly and concisely. The result is an incredibly provocative and emotive digital montage that evokes the human impact of the data that could easily be overlooked.
Halloran uses one single icon of a human to represent a thousand individual casualties in the war. Combined with his narration the video truly reiterates that each of these icons embodies a thousand different lives – probably more people than you will be properly acquainted with in the whole of your own life, and all with families and friends just like you – that were subsequently taken away by the horror of war.
More than anything, fallen.io shows great potential for the future as a new step towards true depth of understanding when learning. Most of us were educated at school either through textbooks or teachers and information, although digested, often never lifts off the page or from the words of others.
Indeed, many people would struggle visualise the difference between 1,000 and 10,000 humans in one space, and when the numbers get bigger this becomes even harder. So the contrast between figures like 1 million and 100 million are just too hard to comprehend, whether in a teacher’s voice or documentary narrative. This is where decent data presentation makes such a big difference, allowing us to have a proper perspective on the information we are trying to understand.
That’s not to say this kind of experience is perfect though. As with any infographic – or indeed any statistic – you have to be weary of its origin and reliability. It’s well known that statistics can be misleading, but are still readily accepted by many people despite often having a lack detailed evidence to back them up. You only have to look at some of the British newspapers’ headlines that subsequently get corrected to see this in full effect.
All data and information should be taken with a pinch of salt, as there is always a bigger picture, or even worse often a bias. From our TV news to our educational textbooks, there is a huge difference between scientific evidence and what is often presented as fact. You only have to look at the ways that World War II is seen in differing perspectives by the various countries affected – and indeed how it is taught in the classroom. A history lesson on the subject is very different depending on whether you are in Britain, Japan or Poland, for example.
But this is what makes The Fallen of World War II a great piece of information presentation – the facts are largely stripped bare of any political bias, showing just the very literal human impact of the war through death. Although the death counts can never be completely accurate, and the true horror of war and the effect it had is virtually impossible for modern generations to even begin to comprehend, it does allow us to at least start to understand the vast scale of its impact.
The Fallen of World War II allows the enormity of the numbers to speak for itself through a mix of simplicity and technology, and as such creates an accessible and emotive response that a textbook rarely could – all setting a great example for the future of information presentation.