Inside Visual Capitalist's Signals book

Looking into his spreadsheets, Jeff Desjardins can see the future emerging. He is the founder of Visual Capitalist, a data-driven content firm whose mission is to identify and communicate the trends that will power the economy into the future in a way that is easy for people to understand.

The company has become known for its infographics — visual depictions that cut through the vast swathes of data that Visual Capitalist has collected and analysed in order to arrive at the concise insights it shares with readers. According to Desjardins, 65% of people are visual learners — and for those people, this is one of the best ways for them to digest information.

Visual Capitalist’s latest book, Signals: the 27 Trends Defining the Future of the Global Economy, is a collection of infographics that spell out the 27 key trends tipped to transform the way we live, from rising middle class populations around the world to the increasing scarcity of water.

Technology is likely to provide the answer for how societies cope with these profound changes. “Over the 27 trends that we have, probably six or seven of them are directly related to technology, but probably 10 to 15 of them are indirectly related to technology,” Desjardins told the Opto Sessions podcast in March.

Illustrated data sets within the book show how health and planet-conscious consumers are getting on board with ‘meatless’ meat, while other charts tell the story of rival ecosystems emerging within the digital realm — a so-called ‘splinternet’, where instead of a single, global internet, some countries choose to create their own digital fiefdoms.

Data sources used to identify these changes include a mix of information collected by intergovernmental organisations like the World Bank and the IMF, along with information from consultancy firms such as McKinsey and PwC. Because data isn’t always perfect, the book provides a signal-to-noise ratio as an arbitrary measure of the clarity of a trend. This ratio is represented in a range of one to five, with one indicating that it’s unclear and five showing a wide-ranging guaranteed impact.

“What we were looking [to do] was create a book that can serve as a foundation for almost anybody [in terms of] what is not up for debate in terms of how the world is changing,” Desjardins says of Signals. “It’s not our opinion that this trend is going to be big — it’s clear through the data that it is happening, it’s going to continue to happen, and it’s going to affect the world.”

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