Inequality Is Fixable is a new infographic designed by Periscopic.

Its greatest merit is that it’s an addictive, interactive narrative.

(In other words, don’t just go through these photos in this gallery. Actually try it out on the hosted site.)

It’s fascinating because it asks you questions--fact checking your economic knowledge and asking how you believe wealth should be distributed. Plus you can even enter your own data to see how you stack up against others.

Then we get context: Why is our economy the way it is? What’s happened in the past to get us here?

The site ends by linking you straight to policy and actions for you. So while it starts with mere information, hopefully it ends with real economic change.

Co.Design

Infographic: Why The Rich Stay Rich

Information should always tell a story. But when there’s a real narrative? All the better.

Economics are boring. Now sure, there are times you can look at the micro and the macro and see all of the driving impulses of humanity playing out in numbers. But if economics were interesting, The Bachelor would be a stock market game and we’d all be lighting cigars with Benjamins.

Luckily, Inequality Is Fixable feels a bit like mixing economic policy with Saturday morning cartoons. It’s an interactive graphic from the Economic Policy Institute, designed by Periscopic, that pulls out all the stops—everything from Duck Tails-esque piles of cash (there’s no gold, sadly) to the Mr. Potters who are hoarding it—to explain why the rich have become so rich while everyone else was left behind.

"We recognized early on in the project that this information would be difficult for many of the people in the target audience—those most affected by economic inequality—to grasp if it wasn’t presented in a non-traditional way," explains Periscopic co-founder Dino Citraro.

Like many of Periscopic’s pieces, it begins with a series of questions—how should income be distributed between the most wealthy 10% and the remaining 90%, and how is it actually distributed? This technique gives the viewer an immediate stake in what was to come. But where this data viz differs a bit is in pure tactility: a satisfying soundscape backs every step, little characters celebrate or lament when you redistribute their income, and there really is a moment where a man in a top hat smokes a cigar while the middle class puts boxes on an assembly line.

"Sometimes data is best shown as simply that: data. A well-designed interface that allows visitors to explore at their own pace can be precisely the right approach when developing a scientific visualization or a set of data exploration tools," Citraro writes. "However, when your data has a very clear story, and your goal is to encourage a specific action, using a narrative approach can be much more effective."

Indeed, each scene urges you onto the next, so by the end of the experience, you learn that things weren’t always this way. And in fact, it’s only since 1979 that income distribution has shifted so dramatically.

Then again, what do I know? I don’t even own a proper top hat.

Try it here.

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4 Comments

  • AL

    Capitalism is a
    mode of production based on private ownership of the means of production.
    Capitalists produce commodities for the exchange market and to stay competitive
    must extract as much labor from the workers as possible at the lowest possible
    cost. The economic interest of the capitalist is to pay the worker as little as
    possible, in fact just enough to keep him alive and productive. The workers, in
    turn, come to understand that their economic interest lies in preventing the
    capitalist from exploiting them in this way. As this example shows, the social
    relations of production are inherently antagonistic, giving rise to a class
    struggle that Karl Marx believed will lead to the overthrow of capitalism by the
    proletariat. The proletariat will replace the capitalist mode of production
    with a mode of production based on the collective ownership of the means of
    production, which is called Communism.
    Do you see any parallel on the way how the "Professor" is suggesting how to fix the "Inequality"
    This method was tested for about 80 years over the shoulders of the very people(proletarians) that were suppose to fix it. It creates another oligarchy that replaces the capitalists and eventually convert itself to a dictatorship. DOES NOT WORK AND IT IS VERY DANGESOUS. 

  • artlee7

    I'm concerned about responses that devalue the presentation for clearly stating a point of view. Do you know of any good infographics that can match this one from a more conservative perspective. All views have shortcomings. One of the problems I have is how many points of view about economics are based on personal experiences of success or failure and minimize the complexities of social context of opportunities to succeed.

    Art

  • Larryalobo

    This assumes all people should have the same or similar incomes, that they all do what it takes to make more money or create wealth at an equal level and do it at the right times in an economy that create great wealth and they all use the same practices to hold on to and grow wealth.  Its just not true. 

    Workers who complain that the head of the company makes so much more than they do - well - lets see if they could run the company, know what to do and grow the company in the global economy not that all heads do a great job.  Not all athletes are great coaches even if they know the game. 

    Those who become rich and stay rich handle wealth and the opportunities that come their way than many others do.  Lots of people become wealthier but don't stay that way and go from poor to middle class and back again - go from poor to rich and down to middle class - go from middle class to wealthy and back again.  Its not just your skills but your attitudes and feeling about money and wealth and the risks you take with the opportunities you get.  We are not all the same nor do we act at the right times to turn things our way or get the help we need to do this

  • Dan Coates

    The lead of this article should have been about the power of infographics to misinform.  The year 1979 correlates to the rise of the personal computer and advent of the information age and the creators of the infographic conveniently ignore how rising productivity is as a result of technology, not income inequality.

    The 'narrative' is steeped in fallacies that only the most liberal of economists would accept. Hopefully the readership of Fast Company know better - 'technology investment' rather than 'income inequality' has created outsized returns for those bold enough to take the risk.