Sustainable Energy collection

United Nations

At a glance

A series of animated data visualizations to light up the story of the world’s move towards sustainable energy.

Focusing our energy

World leaders are agreed that by 2030 we should all have access to modern energy services, use them efficiently and without damaging the planet. But are we on track to meet this deadline?

Photo of a man on stage in front of audience
Photo of audience members looking at a screen Picture of man on stage at event

Help them see the light

The United Nations asked us to a create a series of animations explaining three key issues in energy development: energy access, energy efficiency and the uptake of renewables.

These visualization-driven explainers would be used to inform and inspire attendees of its Sustainable Energy for All forum in New York, in 2017.

We worked closely with data partners at the UN and World Bank to ensure the right stories were being told.

The power of three

Once we’d understood the objectives and grappled with the datasets, we put together a carefully chosen team of three to work on scriptwriting: one researcher/writer, one designer and one animator.

Rather than following a ‘waterfall’ process of handing the script from research to editorial and so on, we work together to consider the data, story, visual language and movement together from the start.

Illustrations for Sustainable Energy animation

Scripts to AppleScripts

Plotting dense datasheets is a massively time-consuming challenge for data-viz animators. How could we get this super-complicated chart data into After Effects to bring it to life?

We found an innovative answer: we used AppleScripts to automate the data-plotting, putting it into motion along a timeline for many different countries. Swiftly, effortlessly and error-free.

Illustration of wind turbines and solar panels

Let it glow

For the visual styling, we used glowing colours against a dark background to emphasise the themes of energy and light. These illuminations turn on and off as we move through the story.

And because so much was happening visually, we worked hard to dejargon the language, simply explaining concepts like ‘energy efficiency’ (how much energy a country needs to get each dollar of its GDP) and ‘energy intensity’ (a measure of energy efficiency).

Strong process

While scriptwriting relied on a free-flowing creative approach, the production phase needed to follow a strict process.

This meant we nailed script and storyboard before we considered recording the voiceover. That voiceover was locked before we began animating. And animation was completed before we layered on music and sound.

illustration of a machine and plastic bottles

Lighting up the forum

The animations were used at the Sustainable Energy for All forum, where over 1,000 high-level guests from government, business, civil society and international organisations from 110 countries came together.