Author Archives: Nigel Hawtin

About Nigel Hawtin

Information designer and visual communications expert with over 30 years experience. Specialising in science communications. Available for freelance, contract work, consultancy and training. Specialising in visual storytelling for media organisation and corporations to improve the clarity and efficiency of their visual communications and can provide hands-on training, seminars and consulting

Latest work for Scientific American

Once again I have just managed to get my hands on the latest SciAm issue for August.

Jen Christensen (Senior Graphics Editor)  commissioned me to produce a couple of charts for the feature ‘Health check for Humanity’ looking at cancer rates and chronic kidney disease int he developing world. Pleased to see them in print and to be amongst other great illustrations and graphics.


Chronic Kidney Disease Cancer rates in developing world

18 August 2016






Improving your own graphics

It’s always good to see innovation when it comes to data visualisation and infographics. We never stop learning and therefore looking and seeing what others are doing is a great way to learn and improve out own standards.

We should all be looking at what others are doing from all over the world every day. We can gain insights into how  styles are changing and what the thought processes of others in the field are by looking at what has been done. I find it’s also good to wonder how I would have done anything differently to help me understand it better or easier.

This is one from last week posted by Ipsos MORI looking at the reactions to Brexit across Europe as well as a few other countries outside of the EU.

Nothing fundamentally wrong with the graphic. I could see that, as the header says, Spain is top when looking at whether they thought the decision was wrong or right for Britain. But looking more closely, and especially trying to compare those who thought it wrong to those who thought it was right, I found it hard to work out, because of the use of the stacked chart.
I wasn’t the only one who was thinking along these lines – a couple of us had a discussion about this on twitter!

I also felt the dark grey was rather off-putting as the colours used were of similar intensity.

So I had a go at it myself to see if I could make it easier for me to compare wrong with right.

I haven’t included all the numbers but I have put the ‘Don’t knows’ in the middle of the ‘Wrong’ and the ‘Right’. This allows me to see, more easily, the proportion who think it was the wrong decision AND the proportion who think it was the right decision. Making it easy to compare the two figures and therefore the majority decision. I also made the grey “Don’t know’ a lighter, less intrusive, grey colour to make the separation easier to see.

The text that accompanied the tweet was ‘Was Brexit right or wrong for Britain? Only majority of Russians say right’ , which is fine, but it’s difficult to see that in the original, whereas my version makes it clearer that Russia is the only country that has a majority that thought it was the right decision

There are other ways of showing the data as there are in many instances, such as this but this version excludes the ‘Don’t know’ data

We can all learn and so re-imagining or adjusting works by others is a great way of learning. I advise you all to go and have a try. Many thanks to ipsosMori for ‘supplying’ this one for me.

What do you think?

Added 10 August. Hannah Williams Ipsos MORI’s Creative Director and I discussed this yesterday after which, I have to add (and agree with her, here) that as with most polling questions, the ‘Don’t know’s are as important as the ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ or Yes and No’s. So my second attempt is really not relevant.

As with all stacked bars charts, actually trying to compare a specific element across a range of categories, will always be a compromised because of the stacking  of the bars.


15 August 2016

Migration routes of the Cuckoo

Cuckoo graphics

I am working with the good folks at the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) on some of the graphics across their wide range of publications in print and online.

Cuckoo BTO

Yesterday their latest research ‘Cuckoo declines linked to migration routes to Africa was published in Nature Communications.

To coincide with the publication I produced a graphic for the publication online showing the different routes used by the tagged Cuckoos on their way to Africa and back.

Cuckoo migration graphic

For sharing on social media we also produced an animated gif showing the same information. This was produced to be readable on a mobile screen and a useful thing to do for promotional purposes. The animation doesn’t work here so please look at


Thanks to all at the BTO including Mike Toms and Viola Ross-Smith for all their help and a great paper.




European Drug Report launched

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Yesterday, the EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction) launched its latest report, the European Drug Report 2016: trends and developments in Europe’s drug situation (download here) 

I have been working with the teams in Lisbon, looking at the visual design and graphics included in the report, especially how we can improve the storytelling aspect, giving the data more of a focus and appeal to the reader, both policy makers across the EU and the public.

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It’s a comprehensive and fascinating report, looking at health risks of high-potency products, the emergence of new substances, and changing patterns of drug use.

As well as the report, they also have online sections, focusing on specific drugs, such as Cocaine trafficking routes and the cannabis market as well as a study on wastewater analysis

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Thanks to all the team at EMCDDA

1 June 2016

My first year…

This is an old post but thought I should move it from its own page to a post.



Life after a ‘proper job’ – A year of freelancing

It’s been a year now since I left New Scientist magazine to pursue a career running my own business and working for myself – and what an interesting year it has been.

Leaving a secure job after 25 years is a major step. You get very used to the office environment and a monthly wage, so stepping away from that is hard and a worry. Will I survive? Will I get any work? Will I like working for myself? but I needed to do something else…

It was something that I had been thinking about for a while and so had been building up my freelance contacts and presentation skills in London and abroad.

My final day at New Scientist was Christmas Eve, so I left with a fuzzy head ready for a new start on January 1st – as it happened I was busy from day one.

Christmas was spent setting up my company and registering 

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I hit the ground running with a couple of projects designing graphics for a company report as well as consultancy work – a brilliant feeling – I actually had work and the prospect of money coming in. Since that first commission, I have rarely stopped.

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So life after a ‘proper’ job is good. I have been extremely lucky to have had plenty of interesting work in my first year,

C4E59195-0811-4EA1-80C2621F371114D9_landingbanner        GlobalCarbonBudget2015

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from one-off projects, regular consultancy and training days, to working alongside talented teams of designers and coders.

Life is certainly more interesting. New opportunities appear all the time and when I do get some free time, I can update and improve my skills, as well as being able to jump in the car and do some walking and birdwatching – what could be better!

BTO Breeding Birds Survey 2015

BTO Breeding Birds Survey 2015

Many thanks to all those who have commissioned me this year as well as to the teams of talented people I have worked with. There are too many to mention, but you know who you are.

It had been rewarding, exciting and a bit nerve-wracking to be honest, but I am looking forward to more of it in 2016…

Have a look at my blog or latest projects to see what I have up to lately and I look forward to designing more story-telling data next year.

Here’s to 2016