Final infographic MOOC assignment: Poverty in India

For this final Infographics and Data Visualization assignment, we were given the freedom to research and produce an infographic on any topic we wanted.  I floundered on this for a few days, then decided to turn this into a chance to educate myself on India. My wife will be travelling there bringing medical aid to rural communities in a few months, and I realized that I have a very incomplete view of where India is at today.

So the target audience was … myself, mostly, to answer the question : how bad is poverty in India, and how has it changed in recent history?  The end result for me is that I feel like I still have a lot of gaps in my understanding of India’s poverty, but the big picture makes a lot more sense than it did a month ago.

However, not everything I learned found its way into the infographic.  I was running short on time – the assignment had a deadline of Sunday this past week, and while they gave us some extra time to submit I didn’t really want this running into my work week.

Click on the picture above to see the full infographic.

What I think turned out well:

  • It had a decent range of forms of representing data – a little heavy on line graphs, but they fit what’s being shown.
  • I made a choropleth map! Pretty much manually, actually, using Illustrator to color and using Excel to color-categorize. I also managed to wrangle Illustrator into converting a bitmap of the map into a vector graphic that it would let me color properly.
  • Hopefully the highlight of the message – that India has come a long way, but still has a long road ahead – shows up in the GNI graph, where you can see the dramatic improvement in the last decade but contrast that with how little that still adds up to per person.

What got left out:

I had found a decent resource showing the cost of various expenses in India vs other parts of the world, and wanted to incorporate that into the featured GNI graph.  My hope had been to replace the “$3.85/day” metric with a measure of what someone in India could actually buy with that amount of INR earned in a day.  (eg. a horizontal line across showing how much a loaf of bread or 1L of milk would cost.)  Comparing directly to US $ can be misleading, since spending $10 worth of rupees (based on currency conversion) will actually pay for something on the order of $50 worth of goods (based on costs in INR vs what that would cost in North America).  I’d experienced this weirdness before travelling in Uganda – currency valuation is just strange – but this was more extreme than I’d expected.

The biggest reason it got dropped is that I could not figure out whether the WorldBank data I was using for GNI had taken buying power into account or not.  I didn’t want to double-multiply the effects of this difference by accident, and I was low on time to hunt down the details.  If I’d wanted to commit more time to this, though, that would be high on my list of ways to make this more impacting (and meaningful).

Things that could use fixing based on feedback I got in the course:

  • Apparently I ought to pay more attention to how my monitor is color-calibrated, because I honestly thought those beige boxes (title, callouts) were more grey!  They were mentioned by a few people as being too strong, taking attention away from the rest of the page.  (Even as a grey that dark, they’d probably be too much though.)
  • One person mentioned that it looked a little too thin on content for a whole page.  This was interesting because while making it I often kept pushing things in closer than my original layout – but then still wondered what to do with empty space in a few spots (most notably around the slope graph).  Possibly should have rearranged things for a more natural layout for the slope graph, with text beside it instead of below.
  • Just say no to vertical text! I gotta admit, I had that in the back of my mind and ignored it because I was too hesitant to break my original grid layout to make room for titles. Which makes no sense because there was plenty of room.  I should pull those y-axis labels up above the graphs.
  • The infographic actually pulls data from two sources which use varying cutoffs for the poverty line – I originally messed up and mislabeled two of them as being $1.25 / day, when they weren’t.  I edited those off so I wasn’t lying – but since the per-state lines were created by the Planning Commission using a more complex metric (that gave a varying line per state) I couldn’t think of a good concise way to relabel it.

I’m tempted to take this feedback and create a v2 of the graphic, but that’ll have to wait until later.  I’ll post again if I get it done.