Our biggest ever visualization turned huge numbers into a human story, with the help of cinematic spectacle and storytelling.

Neglected Tropical Diseases Summit

A photo taken during the Cascade presentation. Ten speakers sit on stage in front of three floor to ceiling blue screens that display a mesh moving like the surface of water. In the foreground, an audience sit in the dark watching the stage.

With around 5.2 billion medicines delivered globally, the drive to fight Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is one of the biggest health interventions in history.

For the NTD Summit 2017 in Geneva, hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we knew that this mind-blowing effort required an equally mind-blowing visualization. Something that reflected the staggering scale, but preserved the human stories behind the data.

We proposed a super-widescreen video. Three panels, each five meters high and 30 meters across – think three London buses.

The story wove together two themes: unmatched scale and delivery to remote locations around the world.

Geometric shapes visualized the precision and gravity of the datasets, but a free-flowing ‘cascade’ motif would drive the narrative's emotional surge.

For this cascade, we took inspiration from the murmurations of starlings. At a distance, a beautifully morphing swarm, but each piece an unique individual.

We enlisted the animation skills of the VFX studio Territory to translate our work to the big screen. And composer Tim Cowie designed an original soundtrack, inspired by Hans Zimmer, that would emphasise the flow of the piece.

Unveiled in April 2017, Cascade became the centrepiece of the NTD summit, filling the room with a world’s worth of stories.

Four sheets of paper pinned to a board and printed with grids of different dot sizes, used to test their visibility at a distance.
Several sketches of ideas and visuals for use in the Cascade presentation.
A sketch of how the Cascade presentation might be laid out in the final room. It shows three large panelled screens that almost form three walls of a room. On each screen is a visualisation and five sketched silhouettes of people are stood between them.
A colourful sketch pinned to a board. It shows a person looking at three large screens with different visualizations on each.
A computer screen on a desk. The screen shows four data visualizations for the years 2012 to 2015.
An animated GIF of a murmuration of starlings flying in a cloud against a grey sky.
An animated GIF of a digital swarm of blue glowing dots moving in a similar flowing swarm pattern to a murmuration of starlings.
A dark room with three floor to ceiling screens. The screens show various microbes and parasites on a dark blue background. In the middle is the text: "In 2012 the London Declaration on NTDs was signed"

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