311 Scale - Providing information about the Great East Japan Earthquake and the state of Japan today via an integrated visual language - Nippon Design Center

311 Scale

Today marks again a sad anniversary. Japan was hit by the largest earthquake in history on 11th March 2011 at 14:46. Now it is often referred to as the Great East Japan Earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake.

311 Scale is a website set up by the Nippon Design Center Inc – on of the most prominent design institutions in Japan – as an objective resource to capture the magnitude of the event in 2011 with the following policies:

  • No dramatization
  • No opinions
  • Communication that can be easily understood by people around the world
  • Maximum possible accuracy

The aim is the following:

Providing information about the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011 and the state of Japan today via an integrated visual language.

The website design is almost too beautiful how it captures the horrors of the event in precise and interactive information charts and maps. However a neutral view on the event is precisely the point of this website. The interface actually allows the user to replay the sequence of earthquakes in the order they happened. Other charts are about the height of the successive Tsunami which caused the multiple core meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Further maps deal with radiation fallout around the stricken plant or the severely restricted power supply in Western Japan thereafter.

311 Scale - Providing information about the Great East Japan Earthquake and the state of Japan today via an integrated visual language - Nippon Design Center

Hypocenters and intensity levels of earthquakes tremor

Under the name “311 SCALE,” Nippon Design Center has begun a project aimed at presenting data from the Great East Japan Earthquake in visual form. We are creating graphs which illustrate issues such as how the earthquake and tsunami struck, and the radiation levels in each area affected by the nuclear accident, based on a fundamental approach of no dramatization, no opinions, producing communication that can be understood easily by people around the world, and achieving the maximum possible accuracy. 

Creating an entirely neutral visual representation of numerical figures is not always an easy task. Graphs provide a clear representation of the numbers, however while a graph can efficiently express the characteristics of these numbers, at the same time the visual representation automatically generates something which can guide the viewer toward certain conclusions. Although a graph should be entirely objective, in fact it can produce a bias in its interpretation as a result of the images which the viewer derives from its form.

The graphs which are creating are no exception; however we are committed to avoiding unnecessary explanation and interpretive perspectives to the maximum extent possible, and will endeavor to provide the most objective viewpoint of Japan today. We hope that viewers will approach this information from a non-emotional and open perspective.

311 Scale - Providing information about the Great East Japan Earthquake and the state of Japan today via an integrated visual language - Nippon Design Center

Heights of tsunamis caused by the main earthquake in all parts of Japan

311 Scale - Providing information about the Great East Japan Earthquake and the state of Japan today via an integrated visual language - Nippon Design Center

Radiation in the area surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

311 Scale - Providing information about the Great East Japan Earthquake and the state of Japan today via an integrated visual language - Nippon Design Center

Radiation levels across Japan and in major global cities

311 Scale - Providing information about the Great East Japan Earthquake and the state of Japan today via an integrated visual language - Nippon Design Center

March 11, 2014:Power usage and maximum power supply capacity

The website also offers a message of condolence and is aiming to raise awareness about the dangers of nuclear power in an objective way:

We would like to offer our deepest sympathies to all of those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Although the destruction of entire towns over an area stretching for 500 kilometers to the north and south is of an almost unimaginable scale, we believe that this immense devastation can be overcome and we hope that during the process of rebuilding the disaster-affected region, we can also discover a path for the future of Japan and the world.
The earthquake has also brought the new crisis of radioactive contamination to Japan. Not only is there the physical issue of the cleanup following the nuclear accident, but one of the first steps on the path to recovery must be to reduce the negative image which people have of Japan as a country contaminated by nuclear radiation, and thereby lessen the damage to Japanese industry, by presenting the world with an objective look at the current situation – at least within a range that is reasonable to modern science.

Image Credit:
Nippon Design Center, Inc

Source Credit:
311 scale

Author Information


Founder & designer at Tokyo based Bento Graphics Inc. Specialities are corporate identity design, interface design, user experience design and website/mobile development with responsive design.

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