All $15 Trillion Of Global Trade Laid Out In One Beautiful Visualization

If you think about all the goods and services that rumble around the world each day, the mind boggles with the volume of the comings and goings. In 2012, the world exported a total of $15.3 trillion in goods and services, which is a lot of cars, bananas, and airplanes crisscrossing the planet.

To help you get your head around that, here’s the Globe of Economic Complexity, an attempt to visualize all the trade between countries. Each dot represents $100 million in value, with the dots’ colors representing the industry involved. Cars are in blue, for example. Textiles are in green. Energy is in pink.

“We are interested in improving the visual communication of the magnitude of such data, while also conveying their categories (i.e., the type of export, such as textiles, cars, or natural resources) in an engaging way,” say Owen Cornec and Romain Vuillemot, the two Harvard University researchers behind the project.

The globe gives a quick sense of the dependency of countries on certain products. Textiles make up more than 90% of Bangladesh’s exports, for example, so it looks mostly green. Energy accounts for more than half of Russia’s exports, so it looks quite pink. Multiple colors, on the other hand, show a diversity of exports (which is generally a good thing for countries, as they’re not putting all their eggs in one basket).

The underlying data come from the Atlas of Economic Complexity from the same group. But it looks better in Cornec and Vuillemot’s creative effort.