List of Physical Visualizations
and Related Artifacts

2015 – Dan Gilbert's TV Ads


The famous psychology professor Dan Gilbert made a series of TV commercials for the insurance company Prudential, together with Ray Del Savio from Droga5 and Colin McConnell from Prudential. These TV commercials make a clever use of participatory physical visualizations to demonstrate and explain human biases in financial planning.

  • Ribbon Experiment (left image): Dan Gilbert asks bystanders to estimate how much money they will need to retire. He then gives each of them a ribbon and asks them to cut it according to how long that amount will actually last. Ribbons are then assembled into a large-scale radial visualization.
  • Age Stickers (middle image): Dan asks people how old is the oldest person they know, and gives each of them a sticker to place on a wall to construct a histogram.
  • Magnets Experiment (right image): Dan asks people to recall something that happened in their past and something that might happen in their future. Good things are put on yellow magnets, while the bad ones are put on blue magnets. The resulting participatory visualization clearly shows that people tend to be overly optimistic about their future.

Also make sure you watch the Dominoes Experiment which set a new world record for the tallest domino stone ever toppled, watch Dan Gilbert's amazing TED talks, and check out our other entries on participatory physical visualization and storytelling.


  1. Freakonomics podcast (2015) How to Make a Smart TV Ad.
  2. Photos above from Prudential Financial, Inc.

Added by: Pierre Dragicevic. Category: Passive physical visualization  Tags: participatory, storytelling, walkable