Out of Balance – Interactive data story about income inequality in cities by Superdot Studio – visualizing complexity

In 2020 Superdot Studio self-initiated the «Out Of Balance» web app on income levels in cities worldwide. The interactive data story was presented to the public for the first time at the Vienna Design Week. Our approach was to make data in digital space interactively experienceable by the means of innovative UX and UI design. To supplement the digital «Out of Balance» web app release, we have also produced a poster version for the exhibition.

We used a data set the UBS bank has been collecting since the 1970s on the incomes of professional groups in various metropolises around the world. The resulting innovative chart Type highlights the different income levels and combines this with storytelling to convey to the audience exciting stories in the data.

Each occupational group shown is represented by its own color and a point on the wage scale. Here, the highest and the lowest of the five incomes define the two peaks of open scissors. The two points are connected by a line kinked in the middle. This makes the mean value between the two wage extremes visible on the scale. The other three occupational groups are now arranged along this slanted line. We developed the «scissor chart», based on the german term «Einkommensschere», which is widely used in German-speaking countries and translates as «income scissors». This term is quite similar to the English term «income gap» and describes the phenomenon when the incomes of different occupational groups diverge widely.

Because the common concept of the «Einkommensschere» is represented in the scissor chart, it is intuitively understandable to the audience, even though they are seeing this chart type for the first time. So, compared to conventional charts, an additional learning effect occurs with a topic-related innovative chart type.

The exhibition situation with web app and poster worked very well as a basis for discussion with the audience. The topic of income affects everyone and also triggers emotions.