Nadeem Haidary

A new data viz turns the U.S. flag into an infographic of socioeconomic data.

The U.S. flag is packed with meaning. Originally it had 13 stars and 13 stripes to represent each American colony. Over the years, as more and more states joined the Union and the country’s landscape changed, the flag evolved into the 50 stars and 13 stripes we know today.

Designer Nadeem Haidary’s new data visualization project, State of the Union, pays homage to the dynamism of the American flag by turning it into an interactive infographic. He explains his motivation:

We think of flags as static symbols. Enduring, fixed markers that represent nations, states, organizations and other communities. What if we reimagined flags to represent constantly changing groups as they stand in the moment?

Haidary links the flag’s stars and stripes with socioeconomic data from 1890 to 2013, showing the progress in American life over time. The stars correspond with average life expectancy, the blue panel varies according to GDP, and the red stripes expand or contract according to metrics such as unemployment, divorce rate, homicide rate, school enrollment, and gender-salary ratios.

From left to right, you can see each of these measures fluctuate each year, causing the flag to (sort of) flutter over time. Here’s some stills of the flag in 1938 versus 2013 (you’ll have to click through to the project’s main page for the full interactive effect):

Parsing through the data reveals small steps as well as big jumps in the quality of American life. But overall, Haidary hopes the viz acts like a progress report for the country. Here’s how he sums up the purpose:

It takes a set of metrics and visually transforms elements on the flag to represent their current state. Over years or decades, citizens would be able to perceive shifts in the country as we get wealthier, healthier and live better lives—or not.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    This Bike Elevator Makes Steep Hills a Little More Manageable

    Is there a place for this Norwegian invention in American cities?

  2. A rendering of the Detroit Food Co-op
    Equity

    A Black-Owned Food Co-op Grows in Detroit

    Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s co-op will control food production and dissemination to bring good food and wages to an underserved community.

  3. Life

    The ‘Marie Kondo Effect’ Comes at a Weird Time for Thrift Stores

    Netflix’s hit show has everyone tidying up, but that's not the only reason second-hand stores are being flooded with donations.

  4. A photo of a DART light rail train in Dallas, Texas.
    Transportation

    What Cities Are Getting Wrong About Public Transportation

    Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.

  5. Transportation

    Tokyo’s New Strategy for Easing Subway Overcrowding: Free Soba, Tempura

    To ease the morning rush traffic, the city’s Metro will reward riders with buckwheat noodles and tempura for traveling outside peak hours.