Category: Data visualization

Jack Medway

A CHANGE OF INFOGRAPHIC IDENTITY.

Above, Professor Jack Medway, a leading authority on data visualization and infographics. Below, his famous blog.

For IC14, the Dutch infographics conference, the organizers decided (correctly) that as I had presented at the six previous conferences, it was time for someone new. Then Frédérik Ruys had the idea that I could still be part of the program if I appeared as someone else. A change of identity began there. Frédérik created a blog so that I could rant on about infographics for a few weeks before the conference. As an opinionated professor from the (fictitious) University for the Graphic Arts in London. The blog title was my chance to make an over-the-top statement, which later became the more focused “Infographics for the People.”
It’s still online: http://www.jackmedway.co.uk

There was even a Facebook page for Jack.

Below, the conference program, with two very big data viz names in front of me.

I promoted a fake yet-to-be-published book: “Information and Art” on the blog…

…and referred to my real self in one of the posts.

On the day of the conference, I appeared on stage after being given a new look (and a lot more hair) by a professional makeup artist. A video of the transformation (in reverse) is here: goo.gl/d27R8Q

Some people were fooled, some were skeptical, but it was a lot of fun. I even criticized my real self during the presentation. “I’m sick of hearing Grimwade’s opinions on infographics. What makes him such a big authority?” (To be honest, that has a ring of truth about it, so let’s move quickly on.)

Why Jack Medway? Jack is a form of John, and I lived for a number of years in the Medway Towns, which are a group of towns on the River Medway in Kent, a county in south-eastern England.

UGA is a reference to UCA, the University for the Creative Arts, which is the modern name for the place where I studied Graphic Design. I used Walthamstow Town Hall as a stand-in for the UGA campus. (Photograph by Russ London)

Fernando Baptista in Ohio

A SCULPTURE AND INFOGRAPHICS WORKSHOP.

Last week, Fernando Baptista visited Ohio University. He gave a presentation to a packed auditorium, and the following day he began a two-day workshop for twenty students from the School of Art + Design and the School of Visual Communication. The group used the same methods that Fernando uses to make his superb illustrations for National Geographic magazine. Undergraduates and graduates worked together in a studio that is used for art and design classes. Countries (apart from the U.S.) that were represented: China, India, Iran, the Philippines and Spain.
Photograph above by Kisha Ravi (a VisCom photojournalism student).

Day One The reference material. Students chose one of four subjects: mammoth, sperm whale, dodo or triceratops.

The equipment. Notice the figure from an animation about Trajan’s Column, who happens to be on the table. See the video here: goo.gl/jhqbkb

Fernando explains his process. Like all great professionals, he’s keen to share the lessons he’s learned during his career.

The first stage was to rough out ideas for an infographic. One student’s plans for a sperm whale graphic.

A wire armature was made to closely match the skeleton of the animal. In this case, a triceratops.

Aluminum foil was used to fill out the form (here, a dodo) before layers of Super Sculpey, a polymer modeling clay, were applied.

Adonis Durado, who was making a video of the workshop, modeling an impromptu portrait of Fernando.

At the end of the first day, the creatures were really starting to take shape. I don’t often see a table of dodos on the campus.

Day Two Refining the models. Adding the fine detail needed some serious concentration.

Small parts, like teeth and horns, were placed into a toaster oven to make them firmer, and easier to apply to the sculpture. The complete model would be hardened later this way.

Fernando showing how to use natural light to bring form and effect to a sculpture.


Photograph by Kisha Ravi.

A painted background, and some crumpled paper that will later become a rocky area in Photoshop.

Fernando tells us how a stop-motion animation of a whale can be created with simple paper shapes.

Students watch the master using his painting technique. There wasn’t enough time to paint the models, but color will be applied, either manually or in Photoshop, after the workshop. Several students told me that they intend to carry on with the projects, and develop them for their portfolios.

Photograph by Kisha Ravi.

Starting to build a computer version of an infographic.

The workshop was a huge success. In no small part because Fernando put enormous effort into working with each student to help them move forward. It was tiring for me just to watch him assisting all those students for hour after hour. Thank you, Fernando!

Photograph by Kisha Ravi.

My overall impression: This is one of the best creative experiences we’ve ever offered our students. Fernando is a craftsman with a passion for information and explanation. And one of the nicest people in our entire field.

The School of Visual Communication: https://www.ohio.edu/viscom/
The School of Art + Design: https://www.ohio.edu/finearts/art/

VisCom on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/viscomohiou/
Kisha Ravi on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kisharavi/

D.C. data viz

A WEEK OF DATA INSIGHT.

Six lessons from the experts A few weeks ago, I was in Washington with ten Scripps College of Communication students who are the pioneers of our “Semester in D.C.” program. We visited several top data visualization (and infographic) departments, who were very generous with their time. There were some common (and often encouraging) themes.

The points below are not great relevations to the people who read this blog, but perhaps it’s a good thing for us all to stop and reflect on the way forward for our field. They are skewed somewhat towards news outlets, as those were mainly the places we visited.


1. Mobile first Everyone is seeing their audience steadily migrating to mobile, so that has become a big factor in data design. Simpler, often static, displays with limited interactivity are common. Many of them are controlled by scrolling.


2. Limited interactivity On all platforms, if a tap or click is required it has to deliver something that feels worth it. Obviously, mobile (with it’s limited screen size) can be challenging for this kind of interaction anyway.


3. Design for the intended user 
Crucial when making decisions about the level of complexity, and the type of presentation. Often, displays of data are not well-enough refined for their target audience. For example, Vox aims for general consumption, especially through social media, and takes a more edited and popular approach, while the Pew Research Center provides a more comprehensive (“Fact Tank”) view for people who need more information.


4. Basic chart types are often the most effective The more challenging types of chart forms should be used with caution. Make sure that they are the best way to display the information. Often they look exciting, but are not good in terms of clearly visualizing a particular dataset.


5. Transparency Let your readers download the data that you’ve used. They can then see for themselves if the visualization clearly reflects the dataset. Even chart it themselves with their own preferred software.


6. Sketch out ideas Every department used rough visuals, drawn with pencil and paper (or it’s digital equivalent) to initially explore data presentation ideas. Great news for veteran infographic people like me who are always advocating this (to the point of being really annoying).


LINKS TO THE ORGANIZATIONS
(In the order that we visited them). The trends mentioned above are, of course, reflected in these examples.

The Urban Institute https://www.urban.org/data-viz

The New York Times (We visited the Washington Bureau.)
The cost of Hurricane Harvey: goo.gl/ZeJLdR
The UpShot: https://www.nytimes.com/section/upshot
A gallery of last year’s visual stories and graphics: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/28/us/year-in-interactive-graphics.html

5W Infographics (Juan Velasco led a one-day workshop at the National Press Club.) http://www.5wgraphics.com/en/gallery.php

The Washington Post http://postgraphics.tumblr.com

Vox Calories in booze: https://www.vox.com/2016/7/25/12251286/calories-alcoholic-drinks-chart
Map projections: https://www.vox.com/world/2016/12/2/13817712/map-projection-mercator-globe

NPR Gun violence: http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/10/06/555861898/gun-violence-how-the-u-s-compares-to-other-countries

The Pew Research Center http://www.pewresearch.org
How voters switched candidates: http://www.people-press.org/interactives/gop-candidate-switching/
http://www.people-press.org/interactives/dem-candidate-switching/

National Geographic http://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2017/09/cassini-saturn-nasa-3d-grand-tour/

Data viz reflections

SOME THOUGHTS ON A THURSDAY.

Information upswing Stephen Few succinctly captures the position we’re in. From his book: “Signal.” On Amazon: goo.gl/mAVGLW

The best license plate This stopped me in my tracks as I approached our building. Who owns that gem? I soon had the answer: Eric Duell, who is Vice President, Analytics and Intelligence at The E.W. Scripps Company. The BMW i3 REX is electric with a gas-powered engine to extend it’s range. (Notice that data viz people are eco-conscious.)

Only one person in Ohio can have this plate, and it’s clearly not going to be me.


The sweet spot
In terms of understanding, it’s halfway along the information axis. Jessica Hagy’s blog: http://thisisindexed.com

Data pretzel I see a lot of data viz, and (of course) there’s some brilliant examples, but also a lot of scary stuff. However, there’s plenty of room for optimism. Although data visualization has been around for a very long time, a fundamental component has changed: we now have unprecedented amounts of data. And there’s many new ways to edit and display this information, so let’s give the process time to develop. (Photograph © annete/123rf)

Venn diagram

OVERLAPPING RELATIONSHIPS.

This brilliant example is by GuyBlank. There’s a t-shirt version here: goo.gl/VGA8nV

Venn diagrams are used to show commonalities and differences, primarily in mathematics, statistics and logic. Named after John Venn, a logician and philosopher, who highlighted them in an 1881 paper. They were developed from Euler diagrams of the 18th Century. By the way, Venn also built a machine that bowled cricket balls.

In the popular sector, they’re mainly used for jokes.

Below, a serious Venn diagram that shows the common uppercase letters of the Greek, Latin and Russian alphabets. (From Wikipedia)

And now back to the jokes…

 

Mitch Goldstein’s site, “A Helpful Diagram,” highlights the concerns of designers and design students: http://www.ahelpfuldiagram.com

Humanscale

DESIGNING FOR PEOPLE.*

Ergonomics “Humanscale” is a collection of three books and nine selectors with dials. They contain the detailed human measurements that designers need to create workspaces, furniture and products that are ergonomically sound. It was originally published in 1974 by Henry Dreyfuss Associates, and expanded the metrics of the original book, “The Measure of Man” (see “Origins” below). And now it’s being republished by IA Collaborative after a Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/iacollaborative/reissue-of-humanscale

Inside the 1/2/3 booklet.

Some examples of possible applications.

Selector details.

Origins Henry Dreyfuss set the standard for visual ergonomic explanation with his book “The Measure of Man: Human Factors in Design” published in 1959. It contains 32 charts and two life-size posters (shown as one image below) designed by Dreyfuss and illustrated by Alvin Tilley. The two figures (nicknamed “Joe” and “Josephine”) represent the average American man and woman.

Below, the first edition cover.

The book was updated in 1993, and the title made more inclusive.

*The title of a 1955 Dreyfuss book.

Invisible Netherlands

VISUALIZING THE UNSEEN.

This is a guest post by Frédérik Ruys, a data journalist who has worked on three seasons of a popular Dutch public television series.

“Invisible Netherlands” (2017) is the sequel to two seasons of “Netherlands From Above”. Those series had over a million viewers.

The aim of “Invisible Netherlands” was to recreate forgotten stories, or secret events, that shaped the country and its people. One such moment was a spectacular blowout (in 1965), during the early era of the search for natural gas. Using various animation techniques, and based on authentic data, the sequence brought that moment back to life, and put it into historical perspective.

The main challenge was the storytelling. To visually merge all the different datasets into one consistent story that could captivate a broad T.V. audience, and without simplifying the facts. As usual, I started by sketching, and searching for reliable data. Below, samples of borehole location and earthquake data.

The drilling site then, and now.

Despite all physical evidence having been erased (the entire installation disappeared deep into the ground), we were able to reconstruct a 3D model of the site with the help of an engineer from that period. This was created in Cinema 4D.

Meanwhile, we processed extensive datasets of all the boreholes ever drilled, all exploited gas fields, and all earthquakes that followed the exploitation. The main challenges: the sensitive nature of the subject, and the necessary collaboration with seismologists, the energy company and the Dutch government.
I worked with director Geert Rozinga to decide the voice-over and camera angles required. Then we briefed the British animation team, 422 South (http://422south.com), who spectacularly animated and rendered the entire sequence.

The 422 South animation. Click on the image to see the video.

Finally the animation was combined with the report that had been filmed on-site, and here’s the final result: https://vimeo.com/203995902.

But as always, there was a glitch. Shortly before broadcast, the editor pointed out that one earthquake in the North Sea changed position as the camera moved. You can see it moving in from the right-hand side here.

This effect was caused by the earthquake’s depth: 17.5 miles (28 km) below the surface. As this could be confusing for viewers, the earthquake (which occurred on September 7, 1986), was removed. And will be invisible for ever.

Outside the box

MAKING INFOGRAPHICS AND ILLUSTRATIONS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLASS.

Weather An engaging prototype app by Sunny Park, designed while she was a student at SVA NYC (She’s now a UX designer at Microsoft). Sculpey clay stands in for ice cream.

Data viz For the Ablynx 2013 annual report, Soon (a studio based in Belgium) went out to the fields with sticks and colored ropes to visualize the data. They used black sand to make the backgrounds.

3D-printed Another Soon project. The Ablynx 2015 annual report.

Black cloud One day’s CO2 emissions made real by Ogilvy/Bejing.

Sarah Illenberger Creative use of everyday objects to make other everyday objects. Beautifully styled.

And paper-made illustration.

Educational challenge The number of students that dropped out of U.S. high school in 2012 averaged 857 per hour on every school day. The College Board visualized it by putting that number of desks around the Washington Monument.

Cardboard car Shannon Goff made this replica of a 1979 Lincoln Continental as a tribute to her grandfather (who owned one), and to her hometown: Detroit, the “Motor City.”


And…
This is (incredibly) my 100th post, so to mark this earth-shattering occasion, here are a few “one-hundreds.”

I have a fake wad of $100 bills (with a belt clip) that I bought in a Halloween store. In case I want to look like I have some cash.

Neutra house numbers from Design Within Reach: goo.gl/gQ149C

Typeface by Sawdust: http://www.madebysawdust.co.uk

62.1 miles per hour.

Metrics Over 30,000 views of the blog so far. The most viewed post is “Tools of the trade”: http://www.johngrimwade.com/blog/2017/01/09/tools-of-the-trade/

Thank you for reading the blog. I appreciate it. Happy Infographics!

 

Tempus fugit

VISUAL DISPLAYS OF TIME.

Luxury clock The expensive Atmos 568 ($27,000+tax) tells the time, the month and the phase of the moon, and is powered by a gas-filled capsule. It’s close to perpetual motion, as just a one-degree temperature shift can drive it for two days. Designed by Marc Newson, who is part of Apple’s design team.

Sundial Often seen in gardens. Obviously not very effective on cloudy days. This one is indicating 3:15.


(Photograph © Antonio Ribeiro/123rf)

They are sometimes much larger and more elaborate, like this one in London. It was designed by Wendy Taylor, a sculptor.


(Photograph © Christian Mueller/123rf)

Of course, any tall object is potentially a gnomon (the center part of a sundial), and the Washington Monument is a good possibility. Some numbers on the ground are all that’s needed to convert it into a very large clock.

Or go smaller and get a sundial wristwatch: https://www.helios-sonnenuhren.de/en/helios-watch

Hourglass There’s something compelling about watching falling sand indicate the passing of time. No idea why.


(Photograph © stokkete/123rf)

Swiss simplicity This classic clock was designed in 1944 by Hans Hilfiker, who worked as an engineer for the Swiss Railway.


(Photograph: Daniel Sparing)

Personal time Juan Velasco, the infographics maestro, once described his watch as his favorite infographic. I’ve made it clear in previous posts that I love a good watch. I can’t afford this one, but I want it.

One year “The Present” tracks the seasons. Not sure why this is particularly helpful, but it looks good on the wall. “Oh look, we’re halfway through winter!” If you’re interested, you can get it here: goo.gl/qKdr9A

10,000 year clock The first prototype of “The Clock of the Long Now” is in London’s Science Museum. It’s eight-feet-tall (2.4 meters). The full-size clock will, in theory, be able to operate for 10,000 years, with proper maintenance. That 200-feet-tall (61 meters) version is being built inside a mountain in Texas on land owned by one of the project’s backers, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.


(Photograph: Rolfe Horn)

The big picture An infographic that I made for “In Graphics” issue 5 contained my take on an old schoolroom favorite: Our entire history as if it happened over a 24-hour period.

The time section is shown below. Note how the dinosaurs were around a lot longer than we have been (so far).

See a preview of “In Graphics” issue 10 here: http://www.johngrimwade.com/blog/2017/07/06/in-graphics-2/
Example spreads from the first nine issues are here: http://www.johngrimwade.com/blog/2017/07/03/in-graphics-1/

In Graphics (2)

INTRODUCING ISSUE TEN.

Jan Schwochow’s Infographics Group (http://infographics.group) are the team behind “In Graphics” magazine. The previous post had an example from each of the first nine issues: http://www.johngrimwade.com/blog/2017/07/03/in-graphics-1/

Here are six spreads from the new issue (shown for the first time). It’s available at: https://store.ingraphics.info

All the images are © Infographics Group, Berlin.

Above, the cover. Below, the index.

Heartbeat comparison, from a 12-page feature. Click on the image for a larger version.

Berlin Wall history.

The Autobahn system.

The Doomsday Clock. From a 6-page feature.

Instruction manual pages. Click on the images for larger versions.

In a few weeks time, you’ll be able to buy this slipcase to hold all ten issues. It will be available here: https://store.ingraphics.info