Causes of Untimely Death

Data Visualization

© 2017 Jung Hee Lee

Project Details:

Professor Jodie Jenkinson
Date completed
February 2017
The general public
Tool(s) used:
Microsoft Excel | Adobe Illustrator

This data visualization piece was done as part of the Data and Info Visualization course in the Biomedical Communications program. The project was a redesign of an original information design by Thomas Porostocky's Causes of Untimely Death. The data was provided by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Challenge: visually translating unorganized data into an easy-to-digest data visualization

Throughout the project, the main challenge was reducing the amount of time and effort for the audience to understand and digest the data. First, I organized the unorganized data by using Microsoft Excel. I remained the three original parent categories: (a) communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional disorders, (b) non-communicable diseases and (c) injuries. Each parent category contained subcategories of relevant diseases. Also, the data was re-organized by grouping any data points under 0.5% as "others."



The next question that I asked myself was "What were the parts that could be improved from the previous data visualization by Thomas Porostocky?" Followings were the design decisions that I made: 

  • According to The Functional Art  by Alberto Cairo, "If the goal of the graphic is to facilitate precise comparisons, a bar graph is always superior to a bubble chart," and the audience underestimates differences when forced to compare areas or volume. Thus, the data was redesigned as a radial bar graph.

  • In addition to using a bar graph to enhance comparisons, numerical values were also added to facilitate precise comparison.

  • The colour theme did not seem to match the main point of the data, “causes of untimely death.” Thus, I toned down the colours and used faded red, blue and yellow to make the data to be salient from a dark grey background. By applying different colour schemes, the visual atmosphere changed in a way that was more suitable for this topic.

  • The intended audience was the general public, so some of the medical terms were re-written in plain language by using “CDC Plain Language Thesaurus for Health Communications.






Circulatory & cardiovascular diseases


Neonatal encephalopathy


Cerebrovascular disease


Hypertensive heart disease


Neonatal disorders





Brain & nervous system disorders




Heart & blood vessel diseases


Brain disease​s of newborns and infants



High blood pressure


Disorders of newborns and infants



Next, multiple versions were created through an iterative design process.

Process Work

© 2019 by Jung Hee Lee