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Visualized: Global Trade As A Frenzy Of Color-Coded Pixels

Harvard researchers built an interactive infographic to unpack international exports.

There’s a rule of thumb that to have a healthy diet, you should eat the rainbow–meaning fruits and veggies of all colors. A similar notion could be applied to a country’s economic health. The more diverse the exports, the less susceptible a nation will presumably be to fluctuations in a single market. Too reliant on oil? A drop in prices might spell the loss of billions of dollars. And for a country where heavy machinery comprises most of the exports, that drop in prices might mean lower operating costs and an uptick in sales. And thanks to globalization, the web of trade is very complex and tough to comprehend.

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Looking for better ways to unpack this data, Harvard researchers mapped out international exports in an infographic called the Globe of Economic Complexity, an interactive website that visualizes the exports of every country around the world.

See the interactive graphic here

Industries like agriculture, medical products, precious metals, cars, and even baked goods are all assigned a specific color. To get more detailed breakdowns, the infographic leads you to an atlas of exports with more detailed breakdowns. The data was collected in 2012 and for that year, the graphic shows the United States as predominantly turquoise (machinery and parts), blue (automotive), and fuchsia (chemicals). Spin the globe and head over to China and nearly half of the exports are machinery related. Saudi Arabia is a beacon of pink for petroleum, accounting for 76% of exports. Clicking on the country names shows who the nation exports to the most.

Changing to different views, like the product space graph, reveals which countries are most heavily involved in the trade of a specific product. Who knew that the United Kingdom accounted for 26% of the antiques trade or that Europe exports the most cigarette papers?

See for yourself over at globe.cid.harvard.edu.

[via Next Nature]

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About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.

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