How’s the UK economy feeling?

Distilling complex information down into a manageable, understandable format isn’t easy.

Essentials | 5 minutes read | Michael Gough

How’s the UK economy feeling?
How’s the UK economy feeling?

But when organisations do it well, they can break through the noise and stand out from their competition.

Simplifying well is our driving force at Sparks, a principle we apply to all of our work for all of our clients.

So when we were presented with the challenge of taking complex financial statistics and creating an easy to understand, engaging data visualisation, we jumped at the opportunity.

The Bank of England recently opened their data vaults, inviting agencies and designers to create insightful visual interpretations, to make it easier for the general public to understand and interact with their numbers.

We sourced figures on unemployment and inflation from the Bank’s database and used them to create the misery index, which gives an indication of the state of the UK economy.

Devised by US economist Arthur Okun, the index assumes that both a higher rate of unemployment and an increase in inflation creates economic and social costs for a country.


Inflation + Unemployment = Misery

The Process

Misery Process


Our idea was to communicate the complex Bank of England data in an interesting way, tracking the peaks and falls in the misery index over the years along a scrollable timeline.

To make the design feel more dynamic and less miserable we introduced a classic smiley face. The changing expression of the smiley face shows how happy or sad the economy was at any given point along the timeline.

The key was to give a visual indicator of the data, keeping text and numbers to a minimum, using simple language and clean design.


Misery Index Process 2


The misery index site is designed to be responsive, meaning it adapts for various browsers and devices.

We added an interactive element allowing users to create personalised, shareable summary. You can reflect on comparisons or discord between the UK rate of misery and important dates in your life using our misery index generator.


Miserable examples


The Misery Index data visualisation shows that complex information can be relayed without the need for paragraphs of text or complicated spreadsheets. Financial facts can be decoded to appeal to a wider public audience.


Data visualisations, and visual stories, are great tools for engaging and guiding customers through complex processes and information.

Do you think this could be part of what will make forward–thinking financial organisations stand out from the crowd? We certainly think it would help make customers lives easier.

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