An Interactive Map Of British Casualties In Afghanistan

This data visualization tells the story of the U.K. fight in Afghanistan visually, rather than mathematically.

Ever noticed how news of one death can cause more emotions than news of a hundred deaths? Chalk it up to the brain’s ability to shield us from strong feelings, or simply an inability to comprehend suffering on that level—after a certain point, people become numbers, especially on the news or in the papers.

After seeing reports of the ongoing causalities amongst British troops in Afghanistan, a London creative agency called LONO wanted to offer the public a different medium through which to understand the numbers. "Typically when announcements are made in the press, the numbers aren’t all that accessible," James Lonergan, creative director at LONO, tells Co.Design. For many Brits, the ongoing fighting is a source of much anger—the U.K. has the second-greatest number of troops in Afghanistan after the United States. "We were hoping by simplifying the data, it would be easier to digest the information," Lonergan says.

In the interactive graphic, years are represented in concentric circles, with months marked in pie slices. At the intersection of each, a blob represents the total number of casualties during those 30 days. The layout makes it possible to compare month-over-month numbers very easily, which lets us see how each year has progressed in a more fine-grained way.

Lonergan and his team have no overt political opinions about the diagram. Rather, they want to give the public a more in-depth reading of the war than might be gleaned from simply reading the news every day. War-time casualties are an emotional subject, and strong feelings can cloud how we understand the news at a broader scale. By visualizing them over time, rather than focusing on specific events, LONO’s graphic appeals to the brain’s natural inclination toward pattern recognition.

Check out the full interactive version here.

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