Global Health Check

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

At a glance

Has humankind become sicker or stronger since you were born? We encouraged people to explore the state of the world’s health through an interactive, personalised experience at London’s Science Museum.

A century of data

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 visualization to launch at ‘Contagion’, an event at London’s Science Museum.

Every fascinating bit of data in Global Health Check is freely available online. And there’s lots of it – we used data going back over 100 years.

Data visualization sketch

Sketching out the stories

Editorial and design thinking always come first. Although this visualisation was about the entire world, we wanted to put the user right at the centre.

We explored different visualization options to reveal the data and tell its stories, keeping in mind how they could work across different platforms.

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


Design thinking

These free-flowing sketch sessions gave us an exciting spectrum of ideas and opinions.

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

On the big screen

We needed the visualizations to work seamlessly on a number of different devices and destinations.

First at the Lates night at the Science museum. And then online at That meant it had to wow within the space constraints of a mobile phone and also expands to the giant possibilities of the exhibition screens.

Right person, right time

We involve our developers in the design process as early as possible. That way, devs can quickly start exploring the best ways of making the piece sing.

Animations and transitions – even the physics of dynamic content – are all super-important to the overall feel of the visualization, especially as the central interaction of this piece was a user’s own year of birth.

Birthday cake 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.

To make a personalised viz universally interesting, we put our stories about global health in the context of big moments in history. What’s happened to global health since The Beatles made it big? Or since Neil Armstrong put his footprints on the moon?

These became a series of bite-sized social-media gifs to entice people to the website.

Data display

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

We investigated every angle of the event space, we considered how the exhibit could grab the attention of passersby, we booked, installed and tested (and tested again) the equipment to iron out any possible performance wrinkles.

On the night

On the night itself, our team was there to hear people’s first-hand reactions as they used the visualisation – from their shock at how many children still die in their first month of life, to their 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.

Update: Global Health Check was shortlisted in the Information Is Beautiful awards and received an honouree Webby award (the Oscars for websites) for Best Health Website.