Visualizing the Growth of the World's Urban Population

An interactive visualization recently released by Unicef presents a startling picture of the world's urban population growth from 1950 to 2050. Mark Wilson deconstructs its implications.
March 21, 2012, 6am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Produced by Unicef, with the help of design studio Periscopic, "An Urban World" shows urban population growth in 10 year increments looking backwards and forwards.

Other than the astounding predicted growth that can seen in the urban populations of the developing world, another important statistic provided by the map is the percentage of each country's overall population that is urban. By 1990, 75% of the population of the United States, for instance, lived in cities. By comparison, Wilson notes that "China and India swell to astounding proportions without reaching our general city density. By 2050, somewhere between 50-75% of their population will live in cities. In other words, the India and China of tomorrow look a lot like the U.S. from the 1980s."

"Now, whether this ends up being a good or bad thing--whether we're talking about urban slums or smartly scaled communities, loosely populated expanses of efficient agriculture, or underdeveloped countrysides stricken by poverty--none of that is written on this map because none of that is written just yet. But it's hard to watch these bubbles grow, expanding into one another in a battle for your mere vision (let alone food, housing, and wages) and earnestly expect that everything is just going to be all right."

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Published on Friday, March 16, 2012 in Fast Company Co:Design
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