World Development Report

World Bank

At a glance

How can data help us end poverty? We transformed a huge report into a hugely engaging online experience, making its big ideas easy to understand for everyone.

Data against poverty

Data is everywhere. But what is the data revolution doing for the 700 million people who live in extreme poverty? The 2021 edition of the World Development Report from the World Bank explains how data can improve the lives of poor people and advance development objectives.

Taking it online

The World Development Report (WDR) is really important. And really long. So we turned the 350 pages into an engaging website, breaking down the report’s big ideas into nine digestible stories with animated visuals.


Human, after all

It’s a report on data. But really, it’s about people. Everyone on the planet is a data user or a data participant (or both). Which is why we put people at the centre of our designs for the website.

The report’s original illustrations (like the one shown above), created by Base Three Studio, sparked our imaginations on the many types of data users that the report touches on.

In fact, we liked them so much that we used an animated version for the page’s header and commissioned freelance illustrator Elisabetta Calabritto / Loveblood Creative to design more people-powered illustrations that tied the site content together.

Collaborative sparks

A story this ambitious has to be told in chapters. We shared the data visualization and storytelling work with fellow data visualization experts, Jan Willem Tulp and Maarten Lambrechts, to cover the nine key stories from the report.

As well as writing three of the data stories and designing the interactive visualizations, we set the design tone for the site and took control of the build. We created a style guide for the team to follow for story pages and data vizzes. With over 20 different types of data visualization, this aligned approach was crucial. 

Different vizzes were tied together with fonts, colours and consistent styling. This was an ever-evolving process as each of the visuals had different needs, such as additional buttons or extended colour palettes, all of which had to pass our accessibility tests.

Data in motion

The big idea in the report is this: we need a social contract for data. This stops data being used in silos. It connects people. So we brought to life each element of the social contract with animation, using interaction between abstract shapes to illustrate growing networks, exchange and reuse.

Scroll to see

Much of the report is actually about frameworks and ideas rather than quantitative data. To help people understand them, we broke down these concepts using scroll-triggered animations that build in the ideas frame-by-frame.

The integrated national data system is one of these ideas: 19 components in four layers. How could we make this simple to understand? We started by looking at what this framework was trying to achieve: a dynamic data ecosystem. This gave us the visual idea we would use to explain it: concentric circles and branches that we animated to represent a living, breathing framework.




Overall design

To bring the report to life online, we built a website hosting the key stories, data visualisations and supporting research. The website’s design system echoed the pale yellow background of the printed report cover and attention-grabbing illustrations.

The stories delved into complex ideas, so the illustrations had to work hard to communicate these clearly. The entirety of the site design was pared back to let the illustrations really shine and touches of animation were brought in to engage readers even more.