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The Olympic infographic

Graphic Design

Posted by Emma Tucker, 31 July 2012, 15:55    Permalink    Comments (16)

Artist Gustavo Sousa has reinterpreted the five Olympic rings as a series of infographics, comparing statistics across the five continents. The statistics range from comparisons of how many McDonald's outlets there are per continent, to more serious statistsics about gun ownership and hazardous waste.

Thanks to the excellent French site Fubiz, we came across this series of infographics that use the five Olympic rings to represent statistics for the five different continents.

Although the Olympic rings were originally created to represent the five continents that take part in the Games, the colours don't correspond to particular regions. One issue we would raise with Sousa's infographics is their lack of a key to explain which continent is represented by each ring. There's potentially a clue in the title of Sousa's Tumblr -  oceaniaeuropeamericasafricaasia - however it's not entirely clear if the title corresponds to the infographics.

Sousa has also made a video version, which sees the rings morph into each infographic in a rather pleasing way.

oceaniaeuropeamericasafricaasia from gustavo sousa on Vimeo.

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It's only an infographic if it gives you some information.

These are graphics. Pretty graphics.
2012-07-31 16:19:32

Let's start with the easiest one: Africa pretty much has to be yellow (child mortality rate).
Who's second in child mortality? Probably Asia. Makes sense that Asia (green) would have few McDonald's and low obesity, putting it just above Africa in each.

That this is "the Americas" and not North America and South America complicates things. Otherwise, I'd think North America would be first in prisoners (green), which is implausible when the obesity graph is taken into account, so maybe it's second in prisoners (red), which makes sense for obesity AND McDonald's outlets. This seems to work for North America, but does it work for the Americas as a whole? I would guess so.

Catholic priests is an interesting one. My instincts said South America, but Europe seems plausible too. Europe as the black ring seems to work for McDonald's outlets, obesity, and child mortality.

And I guess this leaves Oceania as the blue ring.

So, red = Americas, blue = Oceania, yellow = Africa, black = Europe, green = Asia?

Wikipedia says this: "Prior to 1951, the official handbook stated that each colour corresponded to a particular continent: blue for Europe, yellow for Asia, black for Africa, green for Australia and Oceania and red for America (North and South considered as a single continent); this was removed because there was no evidence that Coubertin had intended it (the quote above was probably an afterthought)."

But I don't think that holds for these graphics anyway.
Kyle Jacobson
2012-07-31 16:38:10

OK I see what he's done, and it looks quite nice, but two things.

One: everything in 'this vein' to do with the Olympics kind of automatically heads towards the negative.

Two: I can clearly see the link between the continents involved in the Olympics and using the corresponding rings as part of the infographic, but I think this would be more relevant, if he wanted to go down the 'negative' route, by highlighting sporting doping cases, number of historic medals, size of Olympic teams with reagrds to the type of country they come from (i.e. is there a correspondence between a 'third world' country and the size of their Olympic team?) etc. etc. Stats. about McDonalds and child mortality have absolutely nothing to do with sport as a whole and therefore, the link between the stats he's presenting and the Olympics themselves completely breaks down, bar the fact that he's presenting stats on continents involved in the Olympics.

I dunno, I probably haven't articulated myself well enough, but it just seems like this is 'Olympic' for the sake of it, rather than having any real, solid watertight link. I think the stats and the fact he's used the Olympic graphics need to be better linked up, otherwise, why not just use flags from the various countries in the continents, or relative map sizes or something?
2012-07-31 16:43:43

Whilst I was very attracted to the minimalism and power of this visualisation I quickly became frustrated by the lack of key. As I analyse in more depth in this blog post I also questioned the use of this title if it wasn't to be implied as the key. As Kyle above has determined, this sequence of continents isn't the correct order given the encoding of the continents in the stats. So do one (clear title), or the other (key), but don't do neither.
Andy Kirk
2012-07-31 17:08:41

Why has it become so cool to be negative towards the Olympics?

There are more important things to protest against.
2012-07-31 17:39:36

this has nothing to do with the olympics
James Nelson
2012-07-31 20:02:25

I agree with Rob, I really don't get it at all…
2012-08-01 09:19:47

I agree with what a lot of people have said. It is a little bit abstract to understand the system that Gustavo has used, except when you see it in the statistic relating to 'Gun Ownership'. From this you can see that the rings are tied to each other and are rooted in the form of the Olympic rings. So each time the stat changes the relationship between the rings remains the same > Blue ring interlinks with yellow ring, which interlinks with black, which interlinks with yellow, which interlinks with green. It's just a little difficult to read this relationship because of the distortion in scale.

As Andy Kirk remarks in his blog and which a comment gives more clarity, the title is also a little abstract but it is correct if you read the continents in order of the rings (3 top, 2 bottom).

Perhaps Gustavo has ignored, for the time being, sporting achievements/scandals relating to the main event as these wouldn't challenge anything, they would still be interesting, but I don't think they would have the same impact..

I think the link Gustavo is attempting to make here, by using the Olympic rings and the various stats, is that during this period every four years, the whole world is somewhat united. As well as being the biggest sporting event the Olympic Games is also one of the biggest political events that the world stages, it's and opportune moment to make these observations.

I don't believe Gustavo is trying to be negative towards the Olympics, the use of the iconic and recognisable Olympic rings is only a vehicle to carry his point. The effect of this, is the creation of a simple and beautiful graphic style that has an arresting quality to it that confronts us with global issues we often disregard or forget about.

The trick here, I think, is to see them for what they are and only that. Sometimes too much analysis is unnecessary.
2012-08-01 09:52:34

This feels a bit harsh… I'd prefer to see stats about the history of the actual games not just negative obscure facts about continents. If they were more relative to the spirit of the games and he added a key it would be far more successful as a project.
2012-08-01 14:38:48

This feels a bit harsh… I'd prefer to see stats about the history of the actual games not just negative obscure facts about continents. If they were more relative to the spirit of the games and he added a key it would be far more successful as a project.
2012-08-01 15:17:26

How are 'stats about the history of the olympics' less obscure than global demographic data which everyone ought to be aware of?

I like the use of the olympic rings to display thought-provoking stats because it contrasts how easily the whole world can find a single voice to cheerlead 'the spirit' of an event, and the flip side, that the global community's discourse is dominated by divisionism, spin and propaganda that ignores the actual plights of the lowly peasants. Seems like the 'spirit' only seems to surface when there's money to be made from it.
2012-08-02 14:51:35

I don't really know how the editors missed this, but there is a key in the short intro paragraph above the infographic -- it's in French, but still, it's there:
2012-08-02 17:37:30

It's pretty simple to decipher:
Red = N & S America
Black = Europe
Green = Asia
Yellow = Africa
Blue = Australia & Oceania
2012-08-02 17:42:47

The graphics are certainly interesting and although the lack of a key is frustrating it does make you work a little harder to decipher the message.

A more positive approach to the stats would have been a braver choice. Perhaps a comparison between economical power or population against medal success would have revealed more interesting results?
2012-08-04 17:30:38

Dear Dan,
suddenly whilst I don't understand the concept of the info graphics (or simply graphics) I do get why these designs has become popular enough to be seen and talked about, It is because we have Olympics right now, and the artist, let's say, used its symbols to promote himself, however I do not know why he has done it. However, I don't completely dispute his talent, it's a very interesting vision what he has done.
2012-08-07 13:30:04

Beautiful things come from simplicity:
2012-08-10 08:42:43

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