Best practices in visual communications and infographics are something you can learn – historically this was often by trial and error – today, it’s so much easier to keep up with the latest trends and follow what others are doing.
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 if it’s good, bad or thought-provoking enough.
We are always learning…and so it is important to try new things out.
So enjoy, smile, question, ponder and cringe as I look back.
Good, not so good and not to be seen again.
2008 left us with lots of photoshop filters being used along with importing of Cinema4D files, all put together before outputting to Illustrator for final changes.
As we are in the depths of winter I thought I would start off with a graphic showing sunlight shining through the Pantheon’s oculus and lighting up the front courtyard. Would have liked to have seen a calendar of sorts and maybe a compass, nice, simple explanatory graphic.
I often see double-axis charts and wonder why they are not easier to read, so here is one of my not easy to read charts. A colour coded axis would have helped, and I wish I had used better colours! Black and dark red!!! At least the headline also wonders if cause or coincidence are involved, which is always the case with using double axis.
If you include statements or questions in the graphic header then show me where to look to see or discover the answer in the actual visual! This fails on so many levels. Where is the halfway mark and which are the developing countries? Plus, do I really need so many nuclear symbols?
A simple look at aircraft wing efficiency. Again simple and clean. Not sure how many winglets are made from shape-memory alloy but at least the technology has improved efficiency nowadays.
Carbon scrubbing was the the future technology that was being looked at in 2009, so a complex graphic looking at three ways of scrubbing CO2. Lots of information in both 3D realistic looking form and 2D graphic explanatory form.
Two graphics looking at peddling across the Atlantic in a fish-like submarine. The hook we had for this was ‘sub-human’. The first one showing how the machine would propel itself – nice technical drawing type grid effect on blue. The second graphic is really just an excuse to show what we could do with Cinema 4D and filled a double page spread with text around it. It could do with some movement effects on the fin though. Ted Ciamillo went on to develop the monofin!
I see a change in headline style over these few graphics so maybe we are beginning to update the style guide? Will see if it persists in next months graphics…
01 Feb 2019
The final month for 2008. The final issue of the year was always a double issue, which meant fewer graphics (normally) but some more festive and fun ones if we could.
So for December 2008, we have off-grid electricity, cosmology, wine tasting, present packaging, and the world’s first computer from 65BC.
So, lets start with a donut chart. Yes, we all like to moan about these, but I do use them when appropriate. So an example of when not to use them – a bar would have made it much easier to see the data and the differences, plus the colours are atrocious!!!! No coherence, nothing to let me know why that segment is red or that one purple…bad
A graphic that I am slightly happier with here. Cinema4D put to good use showing renewable tech within a household…nice!
Some cosmology now. I remember this as something that took a lot of explaining to me, and much gnashing of teeth, to get the concept across. It’s a subject matter that I go back to many times in my career…and am still revisiting now. Quite nice and helps to expain the details int he story.
A reminder that in 2008 we were looking at the costs of mobile phones and text messaging…well before 4G and wifi was really accessible to everybody easily.
A good attempt at showing this overlap between the reproductive years of mothers across species. Can think of a few better graphic choices now to show this overlap…but not a bad start
Let’s look at a couple of graphics from the Christmas issue. The first is a bit of Christmas maths using mince pie and Christmas pudding icons (or chart junk, depending on how you look at it) to show how to pack things in the most efficient and smallest parcel size. The second, one of my favorite subjects, wine. Can you make your cheap plonk taste better or more palatable by zapping it with electricity?…
…apparently so by zapping it with 600V/cm for 3 minutes!. Don’t think I’ll bother… but nice glass illustrations and I like the star ratings. I do think the voltage symbols are too large and overshadow the results stars. 3D rules in 2008!
Hope you enjoyed the last one for this year. Happy holidays and I look forward to sharing more in 2019…cheers
Looking through the images, November was obviously a slow month. Subject matters range from creepiness, through energy, to relativity…
A little bar chart type thing that is trying to show our perception of creepiness when comparing different creatures – from spiders to butterflies. I like the fact that that it was split into the different creatures but feel that little icons would be of more help, rather than having to look at a key all the time.
Keeping with the natural world, a 3D ‘star wars’ type chronological chart looking at the evolution of flowering plants. Quite like this. I was trying to get the feeling of going back in time (which is always a problem when looking at our Earth’s history, and the fact that the images are trying to look like fossils!
Still in its infancy, we look and explain what reCAPTCHA is all about. A reasonable piece of explanatory visual storytelling, explaining what goes on in the process. Think I missed a trick with the coloured bars at the bottom – 83.5% vs 99.1% – as they could have been done to scale to give more of a visual cue.
HIV testing. Have included this graphic as a good example, in my opinion, of how not to do something. There seems to be many ways that this could have been done in a way that would help me to take on board the information. It is done chronologically but the key is redundant as I could have put the text next to the section it refers to. There are countries mentioned so it could have included something map-like to help. Lots of numbers mentioned that could have been visualised, male and female mentioned plus the colour scheme doesn’t work for red/green colour deficiency…so there you go…lots of room for improvement!
Can maths reproduce Einstein’s relativity? More gratuitous use of Cinema 4D, (and why not?) in trying to portray and explain Relativity…enjoy this one and see if you can understand it (answers on a postcard please…)
More next month for the run up to Christmas…
Looking back at what I was producing in October 2008.
We have Anyons, brain regions, landfill breakdowns, search engine history, and cancer drugs.
So let’s start off with a bit of gratuitous 3D work and some physics that I find hard to work out – I obviously understood it at the time! In physics, an anyon is a type of quasiparticle that occurs only in two-dimensional systems, so therefore I drew it in 3D
The human brain and its complex regions linked with exceptional talents. I used this model of the brain which we originally made in Strata, many times. Again that grey background so common in 2008!
Quite like this use of 3D. What goes into a landfill site? Look at the proportion of paper…would be interested to see this data now. This one based on data from a site in Sweden. A stacked bar chart would have worked as well but wouldn’t have had the truck and the gulls flying around at the top to put it into context.
How things have changed! A table/timeline of the history of search engines up to 2008, including the launch of Google
And to finish off with this month, a double-page graphic looking at cancer and its target-specific drugs. Lots of work went into this, getting the look, feel, accuracy and layout working with the text around it
Thank you for looking, comments always welcome. Looking forward to seeing what I came up with next month from November 2008
September flew by and we are now into October and so time to look at what I was producing ten years ago.
This month we have sea-level rises, genetic make-up, Hubble’s repair mission and a look at a the popularity of a podcast.
Can’t work out why the chart, or indeed the population numbers, are in the order they are! Ordering on a chart is important so what was I thinking, plus missing a big opportunity to show the population exposed to the sea-level rise
Small multiple pie charts..never thought I would say that in a positive way – but think these work quite well…comments please.
3D effects still a popular thing to include in graphics! The early days of podcasting and we were wondering if they would take off in popularity
An effective graphic looking at what was to be replaced or repaired on the then, upcoming Hubble space telescope repair mission
And to end with, a simple, clear, history of Earth. Could probably do with a ‘Earth starts here’ pointer but hey…
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