Courtesy of Scott Summit

Happiness, 3-D Printed

An industrial designer takes data visualization to a sculptural dimension.

Scott Summit calls it “the Global Homunculus”—a 3-D printed sculpture that doubles as a way to display data about every country.

Summit, an industrial designer and entrepreneur in Amsterdam, has been at the forefront of 3-D printing for a long time. He’s the kind of guy who, after tearing a ligament in his arm and dreading the traditional plaster cast his doctor was about to give him, used a 3-D printer to make an ultra-lightweight version that could get wet.

This globe project is practical in a different way: as a new means of making information tangible. In the version you see above (from three different angles), the countries that are popping out the furthest are the happiest places on earth.

The work begins with any spreadsheet that has data for every country. A 3-D printer can extrude each nation to a height determined by any value in the spreadsheet. So while this globe used data from the World Happiness Report, an annual collection of quality-of-life metrics published by the United Nations, he’d also like to use the technology to map immigration, war and peace, economic development, you name it. Summit says he’s inspired by seeing the “relationships between countries in a way that is neither digital or ephemeral, but instead, real and natural.”