Flourish, a great new tool for data visualization

The data visualization community is abuzz with talk about Flourish, a new tool that allows users to easily produce data visualizations online without any need for programming skills.

Flourish was created by the founders of the visualization studio Kiln, based in London, with the goal of allowing non-coders to create projects normally out of their reach in terms of technical complexity. Although other tools already exist with that premise (such as the well-established Tableau), Flourish’ ease of use and innovative features make it an immediate contender as one of the best tools out there. It’s entirely web-based (no program to install, you just need a browser) and has a free public version.

Flourish workflow starts with pre-created templates showing example visualizations that are used as starting points to upload your data from Excel or other spreadsheets. The template collection will surely grow quickly but you can already see interesting examples like a Sankey diagram, a scatterplot with a time slider, a 3D map with events plotted over time, a fancy 3D globe to use as a flow map, chart grids, etc. It’s great to see that you can create a U.S. county map in the Albers equal-area projection, a much more adequate/accurate projection for U.S. maps (used by the United States Geological Survey, the Census Bureau and good news organizations) than the ubiquitous web mercator projection (this a really weak point of Tableau, for instance).

The templates can be customized by developers, which can also create their own.

Alberto Cairo has published a series of video tutorials, available for free with corresponding datasets on his site, The Functional Art and also in this YouTube playlist. If you watch them you’ll get a sense of how easy it is to build visualizations and so-called stories (step-by-step maps/charts that explain stories sequentially). In those stories, Flourish makes beautiful transitions between different graphics. See a nice example:


Flourish’ free version allows you to publish and share visualizations, or to embed them in your website. Same as in Tableau, the information will be public and available to anyone once published, which is good for journalists and bloggers, but certainly not for any company dealing with proprietary/internal information. There are paid personal and business versions that will let you to download the HTML code and host it on your own server.

Flourish seems an ideal tool for newsrooms since it allows journalists to easily create visualizations but also enables developers to create custom templates and code. In fact, it has partnered with Google News Lab to make it completely free for newsrooms.

With any version of Flourish, you can download an .svg file which you can open and edit in Adobe Illustrator. This makes Flourish a powerful tool for print/static infographic as well.

We salute any effort to make data visualization easy for anyone, and we are looking forward to see how Flourish evolves. Its really promising. Give it a try!



New infographics book: Visual Journalism

There is a new addition to our library. We just got a copy of the recently published Visual Journalism, Infographics from the World’s Best Newsroom and Designers. The book is co-edited by Javier Errea and published by Gestalten, the German publisher of art, design and visual culture titles (our recent book Look Inside is also published by Gestalten. See some samples here).

Javier Errea is one the leading newspaper designers in the world, and the coordinator of the World Summit and Malofiej Infographics Awards, surely the best infographics event out there (I was an instructor at their Show Don’t Tell workshop for 10 years). In the book he presents a compilation of the best infographics and data visualizations from news organizations over the last 25 years.

The relevance and quality of the examples sets an example of what makes great insightful infographics and journalistic data visualization at a time when so many poor and merely decorative “infographics” seem to be popping up everywhere you look. Click on the images to see a larger version:

The book includes articles, interviews and profiles of some of the best practitioners and experts in the field: John Grimwade, Alberto Cairo, Amanda Cox, Simon Rogers, Steve Duenes or Nigel Holmes, just to name a few.

Our own work is included too! This the China Supercaves graphics I created for National Geographic along with Martin Gamache, Lauren James and Stefan Fichtel from Ixtract GmbH.

The large hardcover volume has Gestalten’s usual high printing and paper quality, and worldwide distribution. You can find it with a great discount in Amazon. A must have!



Graphics for the Politico 50 Survey

We don’t work on graphics about Politics very often, but in the past few years we have enjoyed doing a few assignments with the team at Politico Magazine. Politico is a political journalism company that covers politics and policy in the United States and internationally. Its coverage in Washington, D.C., includes the U.S. Congress, lobbying, media and the presidency.

The Magazine has great design and illustration, led by Creative Director Janet Michaud. On occasion of President Trump’s State of the Union speech and his perennially low approval rating, we are unearthing our most recent graphic for the Politico 50 Survey, published every September. The yearly survey is a questionnaire that aims to provide a glimpse into the opinions, predictions, fears and hopes of the most influential minds in American politics.

Click on the links to see larger images:

Graphics for the American Museum of Natural History

For the last couple of years we have been involved in creating infographics for Rotunda, the official magazine of the American Museum of Natural History in New York (AMNH).

The museum was founded in 1869. Located across Central Park in Manhattan, New York City, it’s one of the largest museums in the world with more than 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2). The museum averages about five million visits annually. Its collections contain over 33 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and human cultural artifacts, of which only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time. Precisely, one of our graphics consisted of showing a breakdown of the entire collection:

The magazine is distributed among AMNH members. The double-page graphics cover a variety of Science and Nature topics, often associated with ongoing exhibitions in the museum. Most of them are illustration-based. Here are a few examples:




Maarten Lambrechts’ list of 2017 visualization lists

Here is an extremely useful resource for anyone interested in graphics and data visualization. Maarten Lambrechts is a data journalist, designer and visualization consultant from Belgium. He creates great visualizations and is a speaker and instructor (check out his free data journalism training videos in Learno.net).

He has compiled a List of 2017 data visualization lists, which links to the best work created in 2017 by many of the newspapers and organizations that are doing the best graphics. It’s great to see the work of the NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Reuters, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, and many others in one place. Luckily, more and more news organizations are presenting these compilations at the end of each year. They involve a lot of effort and quality journalism, and its great to discover those we missed when they were first published.

The list also includes examples made with tools like Tableau and Carto, charts from the World Bank, satellite imagery and a wonderful compilation of the best illustration published by The New York Times in 2017.

Thank you Marteen. Make sure to visit his site!


Working with UNICEF USA

In the last year we have been working on multiple projects with UNICEF USA, including maps, graphics, style guides and reports. We recently worked on the infographics and charts for the 2017 Annual Report, as well as the Annual Report for UNICEF Kid Power. With a UNICEF Kid Power app or wrist band, kids transform their physical activity into lifesaving nutrition that UNICEF delivers to severely malnourished children around the world. (the UNICEF Kid Power Band was named by TIME Magazine as one of the ‘Best Inventions’ of 2016).

As we did in the 2016 Annual Report, we worked under the creative direction of UNICEF’s Anna Christian to create a series of simple, bold data and information visual summaries.

UNICEF USA helps save and protect the world’s most vulnerable children. Rated one of the best charities to donate to, 90% of every dollar spent goes directly to help children. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is a United Nations programme that provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.


FAQ: Our Infographics and Data Visualization workshop

UPDATE: TAKE 20% OFF the registration (only until January 11). Enter the code 5WNYC at registration to apply the discount.

Our next infographics and Data Visualization workshop will take place in New York City on January 22-23, and it’s still open for registration. We are often asked about the content of the workshop (see a complete schedule by clicking on the “schedule” tab), whether participants need previous experience, and a few other things. Here are some quick answers:

  • What will I learn?

You keep hearing about the power of infographics and data visualization, and wonder how you can use them with your content. The purpose of our 2-day workshop is to explain the principles and practical guidelines that will enable you to create powerful visual stories that illuminate concepts for your readers. And to practice them hands-on. The workshop is not about designing pretty decorative presentations but rather about discovering insightful stories hidden behind your text and data, and telling relevant stories with them with high visual impact and accuracy.

Infographics and data visualization are broad fields and we’ll cover all the most important aspects to give you the whole picture:

  • Finding the visual potential hidden in written reports
  • The Do’s and Dont’s of accurately plotting numbers and statistics
  • Telling stories with maps: types and uses of geographic and thematic cartography
  • Sketching and planning explanatory diagrams
  • Design principles: hierarchy, color, type, narrative flow and page integration
  • Storyboarding efficient motion graphics
  • Key concepts in interactive data visualization on the web, including mobile
  • Overview of tools and available resources
  • Who should attend?

Anyone interested in knowing how infographics and data visualization can help transform their stories to make them engaging and insightful through the use of images, maps and data. Graphics designers, journalists, editors, researchers, marketing specialists; professionals of NGOs, Government, Finance, PR working in public outreach to explain initiatives and programs, or seeking to improve the efficiency and creativity of their internal or external communications.

  • Is it theory or practice?

The workshop is a mix that includes presentations on all the different aspects of infographics/dataviz, discussion, and group practice. There will be short exercises scattered throughout the workshop, and a larger project where groups will put together detailed sketches for a large infographic containing multiple elements.

Throughout the exercise the participants will experience the entire workflow of a typical infographic:

  • Brainstorming for editorial and presentations ideas
  • Data collection
  • Making visual choices
  • Designing an effective narrative
  • Putting it all together and making final choices on editing and presentation.

On the first day, the goal of the group exercise will be creating a sketch for print or online static infographic/dataviz. On the second day, we’ll take the same topic to re-think and re-design it as a motion graphic (by creating a storyboard), or as an interactive data visualization (working on structure, navigation, layering and interactivity). The interactions during exercises get really animated and fun.


  • Who are you and what are your credentials?

We have created and published several thousand infographics/data visualizations over our careers, mostly in journalism where rigorous accuracy and clarity are paramount. We (Juan and Samuel Velasco) founded 5w Infographics in 2001. 5w Infographics is an award-winning design and consulting company that specializes in information-driven projects. Today, we have offices in New York, Washington D.C., and Madrid. 5W Academy is our education initiative and organizes the workshop.

Juan was the Art Director of National Geographic magazine from 2008 to 2014. Previous to National Geographic, he worked as a graphics reporter for El Mundo (Spain) and as the Graphics Art Director for The New York Times.

Samuel was one of the original founders of the daily newspaper El Mundo (Madrid), in 1989. El Mundo’s art department quickly became the center of a “boom” of infographics in Europe. In the U.S., he became an Art Director at Fortune magazine.

5W Infographics has won over 150 national and international awards for its work on information design. Clients include The New York Times, National Geographic, Time magazine, Fortune, The Economist, the Smithsonian Museums, and the National Academy of Sciences, among others.

Over the last three years, we had nealy a thousand attendees to our workshops in Washington DC, New York City, Amsterdam (Netherlands), Berlin (Germany), Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai (China) Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Bangkok (Thailand), Manila (Philippines), Jakarta (Indonesia), Delhi and Mumbai (India), and others. We have over 10 years of previous experience as instructors and speakers.

Taipei (Taiwan), November 2017

Workshop in Amsterdam, June 2016

Amsterdam, June 2016 (hosted by Graphic Hunters)


Washington DC workshop, October 2016

Singapore, March 2016 (hosted by MaitreAllianz)

Singapore, March 2016 (hosted by MaitreAllianz)

  • Do I need any previous experience doing charts or infographics?

No. The workshop is definitely suitable for beginners and you don’t need any previous experience with infographics. It’s a broad introduction to infographics and data visualization where we’ll look at how to work with data, charts and mapping in print and online, and how to design complex infographics with multiple elements.

  • Do I need to know any software experience?

No. Most of our hands-on exercises will be done with hand sketching. We want to emphasize the process of making decisions about the source data, choosing between different visual alternatives to present it, and using color, hierarchy and typography to put it all together as a piece of visual storytelling. It’s about brainstorming, thinking visually, and making editorial and design decisions rather than software details, which would distract from the essence.

You’ll use a laptop (bring your own, optional) to do some general research (looking for source data and background information) for some of the exercises. And on the second day we’ll spend a couple of hours creating interactive data visualizations and maps with the free Tableau Public, for which you also don’t need previous experience. You won’t master the software but will get started and understand its potential.

  • Will I learn any Illustrator/PowerPoint/Coding tricks and skills?

This is not a software training class. We believe that learning the principles of data visualization and how to think and explain using visual concepts is different and more important than learning any particular tool. However, you’ll leave the workshop with a good knowledge about what tools are used today in the field, why, which ones may suit your needs, what they do, and how to expand your knowledge about them.

  • So I can start doing my own infographics right after the workshop?

We think so! If you have a minimal knowledge of Excel/PowerPoint and/or Adobe Illustrator you can be up and running armed with the practical knowledge on which types of charts/diagrams are best suited for your data, how to design your infographics/visualization and some key design guidelines. Plus you’ll be able to think visually in a way that gives you a new perspective on your content, and look critically at the infographics and data visualizations you encounter every day (so many bad ones surround us!)

  • What are the logistics” (venue, registration, lunches, cancellations, etc.)?

Please see our workshop page and click on the “practical information” tab.

  • Will you give any handouts/materials?

Yes, we’ll give you a few summaries or “cheat sheets” of the content of the workshop to remember the main points, as well as the entire presentations (a wealth of great infographics examples and tips) as PDF or Keynote files, and a very comprehensive list of print and online resources to allow you to expand your knowledge about data presentation, mapping, infographics, etc. after the workshop. You’ll also obtain a diploma/certificate.

  • Can I reach you for additional questions?

Please do! Email us anytime at academy@5w-consulting.com

Workshops in India with WAN-IFRA

I’ll be in India on December 12-20 teaching workshops for local newspapers and journalists, organized by WAN-IFRA (World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers). This is the schedule:

  • December 13, Bangalore: One-day print infographics for Prajavani (Kannada language daily newspaper) and Deccan Herald (English daily).
  • December 14-15, Hyderabad: Two-day public workshop on infographics and data visualization (one day print, one day online).
  • December 16, 17, and 19, Kottayam (Kerala state): Three-day workshop with two days of online infographics and one day of print infographics for Malayala Manorama Daily (Malayalam language newspaper), The Week (English language magazine) and Manorama online (online portal).

I’m looking forward to look at the quickly changing landscape of Indian infographics after my previous workshops in India almost three years ago.


Infographics for The Zoomable Universe

The Zoomable Universe is a new book by Caleb Scharf, the Director of the Columbia Astrobiology Center and an award-winning author of Astronomy books. We were lucky to create all the infographics in the book, which is a new take on the Powers of Ten idea. The book is a tour through all known scales of reality, beginning at the limits of the observable universe and ending in the subatomic realm. The book is packed with our infographics and also illustrations by RonMiller, famous for his space art at publications like National Geographic and Scientific American.

The Zoomable Universe is published by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Here are some of our graphics in the book.

Workshops in Taipei

I’ll be in Taipei next week (Nov 27- Dec 2) teaching a couple of corporate workshops on infographics and data visualization organized by our friends at Methodology, the Singaporean company that organizes excellent public and corporate workshops on different aspects of design and the creative process. The first will be with Gamania Group, a Taiwanese online game and digital entertainment company that is a leader in online gaming in Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and Korea and is expanding its reach to  news media, mobile payments, e-commerce, crowdfunding, social marketing and more. In addition to the two-day workshop, Gamania will host us for a public talk on infographics.

The second workshop will be with DBS Bank Taiwan. DBS, the largest bank in South East Asia, and Methodology have invited us for a series of workshops in the different DBS headquarters in Singapore, Shanghai, Mumbai, Hong Kong and Jakarta, and now it’s Taipei’s turn. As part of DBS’ continuous training, we are aiming at helping their staff understand the potential of infographics and data visualization to bring clarity and insight to their internal and external communications.