Taking nature into account(ing)

The World Bank has developed a first-of-its-kind methodology to account for the value of nature in economic models. We worked with them to showcase the connection between biodiversity and economic development, the economic impacts of a collapse of ecosystems, and  “nature-smart” policies that provide the best way forward.

A picture of three copies of the report “The Economic Case for Nature”, arranged vertically like books one behind the other, on a gray background.

Making the (visual) link between nature and economics

We wanted to create a timeless and elegant design that embodied the relationship between nature and the economy. We settled on an abstracted version of an abacus, a calculating tool that has been in use since time immemorial. We added some visual connections to nature with vibrant colours and pictures, including animals, plants and the whole planet Earth.

Guiding the eye through complexity

To guide the reader through the main structure, we alternated chapter colours and played around with our abacus concept to add progression dots.

The table of content laid out on two pages with a beige background. Next to the chapter names, there are small circles of alternating colours: blue and green. In the image, there are also three chapter covers: chapter 1 is blue with a large 1 in white and a vertical row of white circles above, all empty except one at the bottom to represent chapter 1. Then chapter two has a green background with two filled white dots, and chapter 3 is blue with three filled white dots.

Each chapter starts with a synthesis differentiated  from the rest through colours, borders and font sizes. Within each chapter, we emphasized the visuals (charts, maps and diagrams) with background colours and wide margins.

There is a synthesis page on the left. It features a beige shaded box that contrasts over the blank page and a thick green header containing the section’s title. The font in the shaded beige box is also slightly bigger. There are also three double pages taken from the report, presenting the general layout. Charts are located in boxes on the page, with slim green borders, they take the full width of the page. Text on the other hand only takes two thirds of the width of the page. The margins are wide and the header contains the page number and title of the section.

A matter of weight

This chart highlights a piece of previously hidden information: the population size for each region. It  gives a sense of scale, a connection to the human element. We can see the magnitude of the impact not only in terms of GDP change, but the number of people affected.


The image shows the original stacked column chart before the redesign. The columns point downard and are made up of smaller columns for each of the ecosystem services. The last column, on the right, has a grey shaded background because it is the total categories. The other column represents the different socio-economic categories.

Exploring the effects of policies and how they can be combined

The World Bank also charted a way forward by exploring “nature-smart” policy options. 

This scatterplot presents how those policy options will benefit us, both in terms of positive GDP change as well as avoid natural land loss. The challenge was to visually connect those policies together as they were often combinations of previous ones. We did this by using three colours for the basic policies, which are then re-used in the combined policy scenarios.


This image shows the original presentation of the policy scenarios. On the left, we see a grey rectangle titled “basic policy options”, underneath are three more orange rectangles below one another with the title of the three basic policy options. To the right, we find a similar structure for the combined policies (one grey rectangle above two green ones containing the title of those policy combinaison) and another one for the combined policies with research and development.


This image shows the original ES.3 chart before the redesign. It shows a chart with blue columns, and orange dots that are horizontally aligned with the columns. Each column represents a scenario and the column's height is based on the share of avoided land conversation while the dots’ height is based on the GDP change.

Finding the right balance to achieve our goals

Convincing the world to adopt the necessary policies is not an easy task. To make the argument, this chart shows how the economic loss caused by restrictions on land use (in red arrows in our visual) is almost entirely offset at the global level (white background) by the economic gains resulting from improved provisions of ecosystem services.


This image shows the figure ES.5 before the redesign. It is a stacked column chart with the % change in real GDP on the y-axis and each socio-economic category on the x-axis. Each column is made up of smaller stacked columns for each of the biodiversity ecosystem services (forestry, fisheries, etc.) in addition to policy drivers and other drivers. A thick border shows the total.

Who has the most to lose?

By reorganizing the way the data was presented in the initial visual, we were able to identify which groups had the most to lose from the implementation of each policy, a key information for the stakeholder engagement process. Moreover, with all policies displayed next to one another, we emphasize the clear benefits from investing in research and development (P6 and P7), as it increases the benefits for almost every group.


This image shows the original figure 18. It contains a scatter plot where the x-axis is the landowner rent difference 2021-2030 and the y-axis is the unskilled labor wage difference. Each dot is one of three policy scenarios in each country.

Accentuate the elegance of the methodology

As mentioned, the World Bank developed a first-of-its-kind methodology to conduct this research. By breaking down each step and mapping them on a 2×2 matrix, we emphasized the elegance with which the team was able to weave together macro- and micro-level analysis while navigating between the changes occurring in the natural world and the economic impacts that it will have on us.


This image shows the original figure C.1. It shows a diagram with four different columns. Each column is related to one of the models used by the World Bank in their methodology. At the top of the column, the name of the model is displayed and underneath, additional information about the model can be found.

Adding meaning to the legend

For this map displaying agro-ecological zones, we changed the colours to reflect the organization of the different zones. We then designed the legend in a grid that captures the nature of the zones in terms of their environment, humidity and growing period.

The reader can now quickly grasp how each zone relates to another. Additionally, even when the reader may not be able to distinguish between two similar colours, the added information below the grid lets them understand a zone’s environmental characteristics.


World map showing 18 agro-ecological zones in different colors with no apparent link between them due to the absence of a legend. The countries are purple, blue, turquoise, green, orange, red and yellow.
Top view of the open report flat on a gray background. Each of the two pages contains a colour bar graph, which takes up most of the page.

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