Giant Infographics in Grand Central Terminal Summarize A World Of Finance Data

A remarkable visualization by David Mccandless, for the Financial Times, is on view for everyone to see. Here’s a peek if you can’t make it.

If you’re a commuter in NYC, you may have come across it already. But right now, the Financial Times is presenting Graphic World, a brilliant 3-D projection that seems to sink into the walls of Grand Central Terminal by data viz guru David McCandless.

Inspired by the Billion Dollar O Gram, each of the three works features a blocky motif, a cubed recession projected onto the stone walls of the terminal. And every part of the imagery seems to stem from that chunky geometric frame. "The vibe was very much about data, which has a digital, grid-like, matrix-esque quality about it," McCandless explains to Co.Design. "Then there was the playful, creative angle, like kids’ toy blocks. So, all together, blocks seemed a natural fit."

The Global Economy


A global breakdown of the value, and human cost, behind a dollar. (You’ll learn that China has more legally promised paid vacation—five days a year—than the U.S., which has none.) You’ll also enjoy the adorable, toy-like cabs.

Recession and Recovery


The economy is lousy, yes, but U.S. corporate profits are up, businesses have cash reserves, and the small startups of today are likely to do well if and when the world returns to normal. The highlight comes at about 1:20 in when you see piles of cash buried beneath skyscrapers.

Money Talks


The most topically focused of the presentations, McCandless pulls us through a series of unique visualizations, each about the importance and spread of cell-phone use.

But this preschool-esque data presentation, juxtaposed against no-nonsense narration and a generally dark forecast for the U.S. as a global economic superpower, well, it’s unsettling. It’s like the Financial Times is spelling out how bad things have gotten to a bunch of children, with a hint of scolding.

"Data-journalism and telling a story with data is a challenging experience," writes McCandless. "You can’t always control where the story’s going to go. You can’t really argue with the data. So wherever the data leads, you follow. Which means you can’t decide the story in advance and find the data. You have to shape the story and the data at the same time. They emerge together."

Especially in this case, the data is all so interrelated in ways no two experts are likely to agree upon—salary, cost of living, investment in education, unemployment, population, GDP, corporate profits, and even the interconnectedness of cell phones—it’s amazing that McCandless was able to make any sense of it at all.

[All images: Drew Anthony Smith/Fast Company]

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1 Comments

  • Richiewhite66

    You certainly can argue with the data and you can also decide the story in advance and find the data to support it.  This is the norm in journalism these days.  It's all about which data is chosen for inclusion.  There's no need to refute or explain data that is not even mentioned.  The story yesterday about the evils of red meat is a prime example.  It only presented statistics for the relative increase in risk, not the absolute increases.  What you choose NOT to report is probably even more important than what you do report.