Best practices in visual communications and infographics are something you learn – historically this was often by trial and error – but now, it’s much easier to see what others are doing by reading and following along on social media sites.
I thought it would be useful, both for myself and for others, to see what I was producing 10 years ago, whilst I was Graphics Editor at New Scientist. I will also include my freelance work.
Good, not so good and not to be seen again.
But it is still important to try new things using data, explanations, colour, text and applications.
So enjoy or cringe along with me.
August always seems like a quiet period with summer holidays but I have found some good and bad infographic examples from way back in 2008. This month I was visualising sleep patterns, sea surface temperatures (again!) and the Large Hadron Collider.
The spelling of Rythms in the headline obviously got through the system back then! Graphic looking at the body’s circadian rhythm – simple and clean. You can’t go wrong with a 24-hour clock look.
3D blocks and cutting the y-axis…obviously trying something new AND trying to fit it all into the space I had been allocated once I had produced the chart – not the best way to proceed.
A good try but a few things that should be done more effectively. Lines on both the PDO and the Global temperature in the first graphic, are too bold and overpowering. The key could be better with temperature next to the right-hand axis, for instance. The bottom graphic showing AMO index is trying to show correlations between the data but again it needs more refined lines and colours, I am also looking for more details for the rainfall and hurricanes lines – what are the scales here?
I still like this one. A full-page graphic telling the story of the LHC, where it is located, the size of it and what it does. I made the model in Cinema4D, rendering it there, before bringing it into photoshop and then ultimately into Illustrator to pull everything together. It was always a struggle negotiating a full-page graphic within the constraints of a weekly magazine with the editors wanting to fill the pages with words rather than visuals, but I obviously put up a good fight here and won. I am still pleased with how it looks 10 years on. The line chart at the bottom follows the story of the experiments through time from 2008 to the future.
Even a simple bar chart can always be improved. I should have made the flying data more prominent, as it is mentioned in the headline (make the others grey, for instance). Do we need the y-axis and the data points? In this instance I should have deleted the axis and just gone with the data as numbers on the graphic…
Let’s see what September 2008 holds…
Looking back at what I was producing from July 2008, we have an evolutionary fishy missing link, tidal power generators, chemical elements and the Big Bang, bird migration, and a dodgy looking baby illustration.
Quite like the absurdity of what these fish look like front on – simple, clear graphics. Song reference in the headline!
Using Cinema4D, Photoshop, and Illustrator to try and show how energy could be generated using tidal currents. Annotations really help the storytelling here, adding additional text to help the understanding.
A terrible pun in the header. We were trying with ‘sticky’, ‘funny’ titles at the time. Not sure they work but at least we had an explanatory sub-head! Too many colours…my eyes go everywhere at the same time… urgh! Slope graph would be better…
Gratuitous use of the ‘drop-shadow’ effect, a much-overused effect of the time! Missed the obvious by not colouring up the bird silhouettes in the same colour as the tracks and because of that we had to use a key! On the plus side, it does show the long ranges these birds cover, but again text on the graphic could have cut the sub-head text.
Have produced so many graphics based around the Big Bang over the years. The sheer scale, time-wise, is always a problem. Log scales are always a useful vehicle. Not sure this works, or indeed, actually shows what I was trying to…there will be many more to come in this series, so will be interesting to see what I did.
And finally for this months look back…
A look at the benefits of breastfeeding over formula milk. Good use of the coloured text in the sub-head that correlates with the coloured text in the graphic. Think the alignment of the text boxes and therefore the lines going all over the graphic is the best way. Would certainly try softening up the rigid approach here! The baby graphic is a bit off-putting to me. Don’t know what it is but would certainly try making the internal organs less ‘real’ or not so blood red. Would also draw the baby in a more realistic and ‘alive’ state!
Enough for this month, lets see what August 2008 brings
Opioid abuse, how a pitcher plant captures its prey, a warmer planet in the past and the food drain. Some good, some bad again this month.
A simple filled line graph using the design of New Scientist at the time.
Still like this graphic showing how a pitcher plant uses various ways to catch its prey. Illustrator, photoshop and a picture used together to explain how it works. We liked catchy headers in 2008!
Not sure I would use a rainbow colour scheme today..divergent or sequential would work just as well if not better.
Three graphics from a feature. Not much to say about the first one. What was I thinking about in the second one! Certainly shouldn’t have used a double axis as the timeline is not consistent!!! The third one is quite interesting but not sure the 3D blocks show the data particularly well. The data should be much more prominent and less made of the ‘lovely’ icons.
Climate change, Autism, Mars and the rise of data tagging.
Back in 2008 we were wondering just how high global temperatures would go, with 3-4°C being the most likely. A simple chart that would benefit from no background colour (but had to fit in with magazine style).
We were looking at how to mitigate carbon emissions, looking at carbon sequestration as a viable option. Lots of photoshop as well as illustrator use here. Trying to show the differences using bubble size but really achieving the effect – obviously spending too much time on the 3D image and not so much on the actual data which is interesting. Combining these two elements with data from the subhead would be good.
With NASA’s Mars Pheonix lander about to descend to the surface (it landed on 25 May 2008) I looked at Mars’ ice caps. Illustration using illustrator, photoshop as well as official photographs.
Another timeline, this time comparing Earth history to Mars. Clean and simple. Fitting in text on a timeline is always a compromise.
Interesting use of red and dark red flags! I can see what I was trying to show here, but not really a graphic, more of a fancy list.
Using circles to compare numbers is always problematic. At least in this instance, there is a marked difference. Wonder what the 3 million number would be now – but the web was still in its infancy back in 2008.
Timelines, photoshop bevels, 3D work, Global warming, US election and more from April 2008.
Producing timelines for a science magazine is always something that is required frequently. ‘How can you make it look different from the last time?’ I was often asked. Fitting all the information into a small space was always a problem. A very basis timeline here looking at what is known about antimatter. Not my best!
An attempt to show the flow of carbon credits and the emerging carbon market. The arrows were trying to show the amount of the flow by using the width of lines but that 3D chart at the bottom! Wouldn’t do that again.
Not sure how much this would change if done today! Still using drop shadows!
A look at the 2000 US presidential elections and how the voting in Florida helped George W. Bush to victory.
Context and science in a flow chart, showing the methods, and dangers of producing methamphetamine. A clean, easy to follow graphic. Lots of Cinema4D use here!
Not sure about the colours used here. Would have been easier to read without the key at the top – would annotate the lines now! and speaking of the line chart, I’m sure that a histogram would be a better way fo showing it.
Sea creatures, nanotubes, quantum theory, the rise of blogging and more from March 2008
These from February 2008