Global Health Check header image

Global Health Check

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

At a glance

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helps the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of hunger and poverty.

They asked us to develop a multi-platform piece to launch at ‘Contagion’, an event at London’s Science Museum. It needed to encourage people to explore the state of the world’s health through an interactive, personalised lens using their year of birth as a start point.

Global cases data visualization

Dicing with data

All the data in Global Health Check is freely available online. And there’s lots of it. To help make sure we were as canny with our time and research as possible, we plugged into the super-useful experts at the Gates Foundation. For the final piece, we used data going back over 100 years.

Sketch and data visualization comparison

Starting to sketch

As always, we brought forward our expertise in editorial and design thinking. We explored different visualization options and devices to show off the data and tell its stories, keeping in mind how they could work across different platforms.

With a solid idea of the different stories and data, we ran paper and pencil sketch sessions with the team’s designers and non-designers to get initial thoughts down.

These sessions gave us two things: the time and space to weigh up different options, and a broad spectrum of ideas and opinions.

We find that getting the thinking done upfront helps reduce the amount of changes needed later. So, most of our final designs were very similar to our first sketches.

Data visualization sketch
Set of four icons

On the big screen

We knew we needed to tackle a number of different screen sizes and devices – both for the Lates night at the museum, and its permanent ‘after-life’ online at

We set aside a block of time to consider how the piece would scale from mobile format right up to giant exhibition screens. How would interactions work on desktop compared to tablet? Would a mobile user have enough info on a small screen to understand the viz? And how would it elegantly span these different space constraints?

Sick days data visualization

Right person, right time

We always ask our developers to get involved with design as early as possible in our process. We can be much more efficient if we know what we’re sketching or designing can actually be coded.

The devs like this because they can quickly start exploring the best ways of making the piece sing. Animations, transitions – even the physics of dynamic content – are all super-important to the overall feel of the piece, especially as the central interaction of this piece was a user’s own year of birth.

Disease outbreaks data visualization

Social goals

One of the most important goals with Global Health Check was to raise as much awareness about these global health issues as possible. So, we knew we needed to make a series of social-media-friendly GIFs to entice people to the website.

The big challenge here was to make a personalised viz universally interesting. So we put our stories about global health in the context of big moments in history. Like what’s happened in global health terms since The Beatles made it big? Or Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon?

These bite-size pieces were made for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Flu pandemic timeline visualization
Birthday cake data visualization

Data display

Physically displaying a data visualization in an exhibition space is a whole different ball game to putting it online.

We considered all aspects – from recceing the site, to how the exhibit could grab the attention of passers by, sorting out insurance, booking the right equipment and testing it.

Photo of people viewing data visualizations at the Science Museum

On the night

Our team installed the piece and, on the nights itself, we were there to hear people’s first-hand reactions as they used it – from shock at how many children still die in their first month of life, to surprise at how much life expectancy, for most, has increased.

Want to know how many return trips you could make to Mars with your new-found life expectancy? Give Global Health Check a try to find out.

In October 2017, Global Health Check received an honouree Webby award (the Oscars for websites) for Best Health Website.