by Infogram
Create infographics

Making of The Height of Social Values

An inside view of the creative process behind this interesting piece of visual journalism

February 10, 2015

[This is a guest post by Alberto Lucas López*, about the infographic “The Height of Social Values”, published on the South China Morning Post newspaper. This post is also available in Spanish, in Alberto’s website.]



The project: Social Barometers

Can we discern the most important social values of an epoch by analyzing a civilization’s tallest buildings?

Throughout history the world’s tallest buildings have acted as barometers, symbolising the principles society holds dearest. In early history buildings glorified religion, then government, which were in turn replaced with monuments to banking. Today, the first building to surpass the one kilometre mark, will be a democratic mix of retail, restaurants, offices, hotel and residential.

Here we take a look at Joseph Campbell’s claim in The Power of Myth (1988) that buildings contain many clues to a society’s conscience: “You can tell what’s informing a society by what the tallest building is. When you approach a medieval town, the cathedral is the tallest thing in the place. When you approach an eighteenth-century town, it is the political palace that’s the tallest thing in the place. And when you approach a modern city, the tallest places are the office buildings, the centers of economic life”.

(image: “The height of social values” | Alberto Lucas López | South China Morning Post)

To add maximum detail to each building the central illustration was drawn by hand with ink and first rendered on 14 sheets of A3 paper – similar in size to a double bed. Thanks to this, the infographic’s lavish detail furnishes the reader with enough information to compare the wonders of the ancient world with such new examples as One World Trade Center, Shanghai Tower and Kingdom Tower, which will become a milestone in history, surpassing one kilometer in height.

(image: Actual size of the illustration on page | Alberto Lucas López | South China Morning Post)

Some buildings are associated with certain viewpoints and become hard to recognize when taken out of context. One of the foundation principles for an infographic is to provide clarity to the complex. Therefore, it was decided to forgo a fully frontal plane for some buildings. These were drawn with a slight perspective to ensure every building is instantly recognizable.

This infographic does not aim to be a perfect altimetry but rather adjusts the actual measurements so the reader may easily assimilate information and compare buildings by referring across ages and continents as well as heights.

(image: ink illustration handmade | Alberto Lucas Lopez | South China Morning Post)
(image: ink illustration handmade | Alberto Lucas Lopez | South China Morning Post)
(image: ink illustration handmade | Alberto Lucas Lopez | South China Morning Post)

Hong Kong is a city of 8 million people. As the financial hub of Southeast Asia there is a large and thriving expatriate community, a high percentage of whom are daily readers of the South China Morning Post newspaper, which published this infographic. The countries of origin for these residents are particularly diverse so a special effort was made to research enough information so that all readers can make a personal connection with the infographic. For this purpose, buildings were selected from more than 25 countries with the page designed to make it easy to compare the heights of buildings, to see at a glance the social significance of the architecture, and to spot trends throughout the history of mankind.

(image: Final result after Applying the Color code | Alberto Lucas Lopez | South China Morning Post)
(image: Final result after Applying the Color code | Alberto Lucas Lopez | South China Morning Post)


*Alberto Lucas López is a Senior Infographic Designer at South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong. He was featured on Visualoop’s Portfolio of the Week section in 2014. Follow Alberto’s updates on Twitter (@aLucasLopez), and visit his website ( for more amazing examples of infographic design.

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.