'A day in the life' header image

A Day in the Life


At a glance

Visa asked us to reveal the connections, patterns and stories hidden in Visa transaction data that take place across the world in a single day.

Screengrab of Total Transactions data visualization

24 hour development

We went to Visa’s San Francisco HQ to kick start the project. We wanted to really get under the skin of the data, to see what was needed from the piece. As the project went on, we worked in a 24 hour development cycle between London, San Francisco and Sydney (home to our awesome animation partner for the piece). This was invaluable, not only for creative input and sign-offs, but also for speed and efficiency of production.

Screengrab of grocery spending data visualization

Dealing with the data

We’re no strangers to chunky data. And Visa didn’t disappoint. We received a mass of complex information related to their global financial transactions. To give you an idea of the volume – in 2014, Visa was processing over 150 million transactions a day, that’s over 6.35 million transactions an hour. A vast amount.

The data contained most of the meta data or elements attached to a transaction, like, where the money was spent, what general area (groceries, restaurants, travel…) and when it was spent. Any data that could be used to identify an individual was stripped out.

Screengrab of Cross-border Transactions data visualization

Warming up the data

One of our team’s great strengths is bringing a human touch to data. With financial data especially, we felt it was crucial to ensure that the human stories were front and centre, so the piece didn’t feel ‘cold’. Equally, we wanted the piece to really draw the audience in.

For example, what do spending habits look like in New York? Where do the most generous people live? (Australia, apparently.) Who spends the most on train travel?

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

Screengrab of spending by category data visualization

What's an average day?

The piece needed to show off ‘normal’ spends. But, what IS a normal day? We scratched our heads over this as a team, as we really had to take the whole world into consideration. We ruled out more global ‘unusual’ days like Black Friday. We also ruled out other days where activity changes dramatically in one country only, like Boxing Day in the UK and Mexico’s Day of the Dead.

We decided on 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.

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

Getting animated

With Visa’s blessing, we chose animation as the best way to bring the stories to life. We’d long-admired the work of Patrick Clair, and invited him to come on board to bring his exceptional creative skills to shape the piece.

With the teams in San Francisco and Sydney, we began to combine the data and narrative with visual design, in a very detailed storyboard.

The piece needed to move between maps of countries and continents, to line-drawn icons and illustrations, revealing the patterns and stories in the transactions.

We took inspiration for the colour palette from Visa’s brand guidelines, choosing the ones that would work best for the specific needs of data viz, for example to allow for multiple categories of data to be colour coded.

Animated train going through a tunnel

The final piece

The end result is a hypnotic, organic animation, with a beautiful array of different visualization techniques and devices. Patrick brought a seamless blend of gentle music to the piece too, subtly defining each chapter, and keeping the piece moving.

If you happen to visit Visa in San Francisco, you can see the piece displayed in their visitor centre and HQ reception areas. Or, hit the link.