'A day in the life' header image

A Day in the Life

Visa

At a glance

How money makes the world go round. A hypnotic animation revealing the connections, patterns and stories hidden in Visa transaction data that take place across the planet in a single day.

A globe-spinning collaboration

When Visa asked us if we could visualise 24 hours in the life its global network, we flew straight to their team’s San Francisco HQ to kickstart the creative thinking.

What data did they have? What did they want to achieve? As the project gathered pace, we worked in a 24-hour development cycle between London, San Francisco (Visa’s HQ) and Sydney (home to our excellent animation partner for this project).

This was invaluable for creative input and sign-offs, but also for speed and efficiency of production.

Screengrab of grocery spending data visualization

Spending time on the data

We’re no strangers to chunky data. And Visa didn’t disappoint. We received a mass of complex information about their global financial transactions.

To give you an idea of the volume: in 2014, Visa processed around 150 million transactions a day. That’s more than 6 million transactions every single hour. Huge.

So what did we have to work with? We discovered our stories in the transaction data. Things like where the money was spent, what general area (groceries, restaurants, travel) and when it was spent.

Needless to say, privacy was paramount – any data that could be used to identify an individual was stripped out.

Screengrab of spending by category data visualization

Buying into a human story

We’re always looking to bring a personal touch to data.

And with financial data, we knew it was crucial to keep human stories front and centre. We wanted this animation to really pull the audience in.

Ever wondered where the most generous people live? (Australia, apparently.) What do spending habits look like in New York?  And who spends the most on train travel?

To get an impression of what intriguing stories the data might reveal, we ran various scripts (using AppleScript and SQL) to automate early schematics.

Screengrab of donations by country data visualization
Screengrab of spending in India restaurants by time data visualization

What's an average day?

Then came a serious head-scratcher. The visualization needed to show off a ‘normal’ day of spending.

But what day is that? After all, we had to take the entire world into consideration.

We ruled out more ‘unusual’ global days like Black Friday. We also struck off Boxing Day in the UK and Mexico’s Day of the Dead, where activity only changes dramatically in one country.

Finally, we chose a Thursday in July as the optimal average day. And to represent a global population over a 24-hour period, we picked data from Australia, India, South Africa, Russia, Brazil and the US.

Animated train going through a tunnel

Putting the world in motion

To animate these stories in style, we worked with designer Patrick Clair, acclaimed for his work on the evocative title sequences of HBO’s Westworld and True Detective.

Weaving data into narrative via a detailed storyboard, the animation moved between maps of countries and continents, from line-drawn icons to illustrations, steadily revealing the patterns within the transactions.

Our visual palette carefully echoed Visa’s brand guidelines, colour-coding the data categories so that people could understand them at glance.

Screengrab of Total Transactions data visualization

Flowing with the currency

Everything came together to form a hypnotic, organic animation, unfolding via a beautiful array of different visualization techniques and devices.

Giving the story some added flow, a gentle soundtrack also subtly defined each chapter.

If you happen to be in San Francisco, you can see the project displayed in Visa’s visitor centre and HQ reception areas. Or just watch it right now.