Visualizing Inequality

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / 2019 / Economics, Gender Equality, Human Rights, Racial Equity

Main illustration produced by Graphicacy for the Gates Foundation Goalkeepers Report


Graphicacy joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) as a strategic partner in creating an impactful suite of interactive data visualizations and conceptual illustrations for the 2019 version of their annual Goalkeepers report. The focus that year was “how geography and gender stack the deck for (or against) you.” The report made clear that the deck was stacked highest against young girls born into poverty with little access to education or opportunities. BMGF wanted strong data-supported graphics to outline the challenges but also some of the significant progress.

Background and Challenge

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeepers report shares “the latest data on 18 key data indicators, ranging from poverty to maternal mortality to education. These indicators help us understand our progress toward the Global Goals—where innovation and investment are creating bright spots, and where we’re collectively falling short.” But this report goes beyond the data to help humanize issues affecting society as a whole. In 2019, the report would focus on the intersection and impact of geography and gender.

The Goalkeepers report is intended to be the canonical summary of progress for the BMGF’s efforts in any given year with a focus on one particular issue area. A report of this scale required teams of people inside BMGF and here at Graphicacy working in concert to create compelling, credible, and comprehensible visualizations that would function in print, online in static shareables, and in an interactive format that would serve as a backdrop for the BMGF’s founders keynote.

The Graphicacy team was tasked with not only creating core data visualization assets but also conceptual graphics that captured things like the fact that Bill and Melinda Gates’ life paths contained significantly fewer and lower hurdles than those confronting a girl born in the Sahel.

An illustration for the Gates Foundation's Goalkeepers report, designed by Graphicacy

Opportunity and Solution

This was a chance for Graphicacy to play a key role in communicating global progress for the biggest issues societies face in tandem with one of the largest, and most respected, charitable foundations in the world. As data visualization experts, we had the opportunity to create assets for efforts designed to be evaluated by their measurable impact – evidence that things were getting better, or not, due to the BMGF’s efforts.

Working closely with the BMGF’s internal teams and their agency-of-record, the Graphicacy team and our partner, Catherine Madden, approached this project through a very in-depth, multi-day discovery process, followed by iterative rounds of data review and sketching, wireframing, visual design and final production and development.

Discovery sessions for this project involved robust discussion and a number of whiteboarding exercises that were intended to yield clear intent, appropriate tone, a compelling narrative, the most effective presentation of the related data, but also a very thorough and iterative look at how all of the assets (text, photos, illustration, and data visualizations) would all work powerfully together.

The report website was designed as a single, scrolling page with a crisp, magazine-style layout. There was a lot of information to convey, so the story was chunked into “chapters,” some of which contained mini data-driven narratives. As users scroll through these narratives, text on the left side of the page corresponds to adjoining visualizations and infographics on the right, amplifying and enhancing what is being described. The result is a multi-faceted interactive experience that is easy to navigate, vibrant, and informative.


Interested in working on a project like this?