Process Book

The steps we took to develop our solution.

Project Synopsis

An exploration of air pollution, its health impacts, and what can be done about it.

Overview and Motivation


Our project will guide people on an exploration of air pollution starting in their home city and expanding to include analysis at the national and international level. This we hope will provide our readers with an engaging tool to inform themselves about how air pollution varies around the world, what are the health impacts, and what can be done about it.

We decided to put the reader at the center of journey beginning right in their home city, so they can explore the topic of air pollution around the world from a starting point they can relate to. In this way we hope to better engage our readers, to make them stop and think about the air we all breathe, and to take action to reduce the damaging health effects and loss of human potential caused by dirty air.


In 2013 air pollution was responsible for an estimated 5.5 million deaths, making it the 4th highest ranking risk factor for death globally. People in every country of the world are impacted by air pollution but it is challenging to convey the scale of the problem in a way that is universally relevant and compelling.


Some of our team members have had the misfortune of living in cities where the air pollution is extremely bad and found it hard to convey how unhealthy the air can be to people who have only lived in cities with relatively clean air. On more than one occasion we have been asked “is the air in Beijing worse than Mexico City?”.

Project Objectives

  • Make readers stop and think about the air they breathe.
  • Encourage readers who benefit from relatively clean air to reflect on the value of environmental protection measures they may be taking for granted.
  • Build awareness and empathy for those who have to breathe highly polluted air every day.
  • Educate readers about what they can do to project themselves from the negative health impacts of breathing polluted air.
  • Compel readers to take action and adopt habits that can help reduce the air pollution problem.


How polluted is the air in my city?

In absolute terms, the concentration of pollutants in any given city is not very revealing. We think readers will be much more engaged and interested if they can compare relative pollution between their own city and others. We think giving the readers this context of a place they know first, will make comparisons more impactful.

How polluted is the air in my country compared to others?

This is a natural extension of the question above and by layering this new information on top of the previous city level comparison we build a stronger sense of context.

Is air pollution really that big of a problem?

Act 2: Death, will really bring home to the reader the true human cost of air pollution through the lives lost every year.

What is it like to live in a city with bad air?

Our section “A year in the life of Beijing’s air” will take readers through a year of pollution, highlighting the impact it has on the daily lives of its residents.

What causes air pollution?

Our section “Behind the numbers: factors contributing to pollution” will invite readers to explore this question. This will be supported by additional text and links to air pollution studies.

What can I do about air pollution?

Act 3: Action, will inform the reader about what they can do to a) protect themselves from the impacts of air pollution and b) what actions they can take to reduce the problem.

The Free Radicals

Marius de Vogel
Marius is not old enough to drink in the US.
Craig Houston
Craig learned first hand about air pollution while living in Beijing for two years.
Dominick Peluso
Dom likes turtles.

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