Data + Design Project

Balloons of Bhutan: Stories of a Nations Happiness

Wednesday 11.02.2011 , Posted by
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The country of Bhutan has a unique interpretation of what makes their nation a success: instead of focusing on the countries Gross National Product, a concept mostly unrelated to a populations well being, since 1972 they have officially focused on “Gross National Happiness.” Now renowned traveling story collector Jonathan Harris has put together an inspiring website of his 2007 project Balloons of Bhutan. Harris traveled the Himalayan kingdom giving out balloons and capturing a storied portrait of the nations happiness.

His beautiful website explores the catalog of his 117 interviews with the countries people. Of each individual he asked five questions: what makes them happy, what is their happiest memory, what is their favorite joke, what is their level of happiness between 1 and 10, and, if they could make one wish, what would it be. He then inflated a number of balloons based on their level of happiness and took five photographs: them holding their balloons, a portrait, a funny face, their hands and them holding a balloon with their wish written on it. Each picture also includes an audio clip of an answer to a question.

Click here or the image below to explore this inspiring site.

Another feature of the site: a matrix of each persons source of employment.

An excerpt from Jonathan Harris’ excellent TED Talk, highlighting his time in Bhutan (put together by the excellent BrainPickings.org):

Thanks to brainpickings.org

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Benjamin Starr

Written by Benjamin Starr



Known in some circles as the most amazing man in the universe, he once saved an entire family of muskrats from a sinking, fire engulfed steamboat while recovering from two broken arms relating to a botched no-chute wingsuit landing in North Korea. When not impressing people with his humbling humility, he can be found freelance writing, finding shiny objects on the internet, enjoying the company of much-appreciated friends and living out his nomadic nature. He is Managing Editor of Visual News. Follow his movements on Twitter:

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