“Dress For Our Time”: the social impact of data visualization

A visual image says more than a thousand words. It’s nothing different when it comes to data. A visual representation makes your message so much stronger. And not only in a business context. Discover a beautiful data project, called “Dress For Our Time”.

“Dress For Our Time” is a beautiful example of how data visualization can open the public debate. In time, there has been a lot of research & data on social issues like climate change & the refugee crisis. But now, Professor Helen Storey (London College of Fashion, UAL Centre for Sustainable Fashion) wants to show the human story behind all of that data: in the form of a dress.

data viz dress

Image by David Betteridge (source: forbes.com)

Not just a dress: the human side of the refugee crisis

It may sound strange, but the story behind the dress is immensely moving. Actually, the dress is made out of a former refugee tent that once housed a whole family at a refugee camp in Jordan.

It has been exhibited in various places. Most recently, you could admire it at the Science Museum in London. On the dress, you could see a projection of 80.000 points of light, chaotically moving around. Each point of light represents the movement of 100 human lives across the globe.

Dress For Our Time in action

Video by Holition (Source: Dress For Our Time)

This simple visualization captures the life and misery of 8 million people. In the blink of an eye, it exposes the daily reality of people who are seeking shelter. What’s more, it shows a purely human side of the refugee crisis. As such, Storey aims to evoke awareness and compassion for those in search of a better life.

The visualization is based on real data, collected and provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Dress For Our Time: an eye-opener for climate change

In 2015, “Dress For Our Time” already made its first appearance at London St. Pancras station. At that time, it tackled the issue of climate change. Again, the dress showed just a simple visualization of an existing study, provided by the Met Office.

A digital display on the dress showed the impact of climate change on the world in 3 phases. Especially, it showed what would happen if we don’t take immediate action. In that way, it increased awareness for climate issues with thousands of passengers.

Dress For Our Time at St-Pancras station

Dress For Our Time at St. Pancras (Source: London College of Fashion)

Aiming at maximal public impact, it was installed right before the United Nations Climate Change conference COP 21 took place in Paris. The goal was to influence decision-making, since many of the delegates would travel to the congress through St. Pancras. In that way, the dress made them stand face to face with the reality of climate change.

Examples like these touch many people around the world. They inspire us. What makes this project so powerful is the richness of meaning that is captured through one simple, visual representation.

Representing your data in the right way reinforces the message you want to get across. It can support the greater good, but it can also help us forward on a smaller scale: our daily work and routines. Want to learn more about data visualization? Feel free to contact us.

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