Zones of noninfluence, new map for Foreign Policy magazine

“Well over a year into U.S. President Donald Trump’s tenure, the State Department is in disarray”, says the latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine. Dozen of key positions, including 38 ambassadorships, remain unfilled. In filled positions, many are political appointees rather than career diplomats. And former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was recently fired by the President. Our map for the April issue of Foreign Policy shows the status of American ambassadorships around the world, highlighting the most conspicuous absences such as Mexico, Saudi Arabia, North Korea or the European Union. We worked with Chief Creative Officer Adam Griffiths on this project.


SND Infographics Summit and workshop in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is hosting a great infographics summit next week. The event is organized by the Society for News Design (SND) in collaboration with the award-winning infographics team of the South China Morning Post, undoubtely one of the best news graphics teams in the world with their great combination of illustrated infographics and data visualization.

I was planning on attending right before my next workshop in Singapore, but unfortunately my dates have moved (now I’ll be in Singapore on May 24-25)

The SND Hong Kong event is hosted by the prestigious Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong (HKU). I taught a workshop in Shanghai’s location of HKU a few years back, they have excellent Journalism programs.

The event starts on April 13 with a one-day series of conferences. The list of speakers includes representatives from many of organizations creating the best news graphics in Asia, such as the South China Morning Post, Bloomberg, Reuters, AFP, The Wall Street Journal and more, and other panelist of the caliber of Javier Errea from Errea Comunicacion and Alberto Lucas from National Geographic. See the full agenda here.

The summit will be followed by a two-day workshops at HKU. Attendees will visit selected sites on Hong Kong Island to develop a visual story, guided by the South China Morning Post infographics team. The workshop is already sold out.

Let’s hope this initiative becomes a regular event in the infographics calendar!




Workshop for Mediacorp in Singapore

I was in Singapore a few days ago teaching a 2-day workshop on Interactive Infographics and Data Visualization for the staff of Mediacorp. The course was organized by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Mediacorp is the largest media broadcaster in Singapore with multiple radio and television channels (including its flagship Channel NewsAsia, one of the main TV news channels in the world), as well as digital news sites. It’s the main media company in the country along with Singapore Press Holding (SPH), the publisher of Straits Times.

Mediacorp stopped printing its newspaper Today last year and is now entirely focused on digital content, training its news staff to adapt to digital storytelling. Over the two days of the workshop, conducted at the gleaming new Mediacorp campus, teams for digital news in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil language focused on different forms of digital storytelling through infographics and dataviz. We looked at animations and storyboarding, designing graphics for smartphones, concepts of interactivity and navigation in different platforms, graphics in social media, trends in the field, tools of the trade and more. The course involves plenty of hand-sketching to invite participants to focus on brainstorming and analyzing different approaches to telling a story, rather than on software use. But we also had a chance to do some hands-on work creating online data visualizations with free tools that require no coding skills such as Tableau Public and Flourish.

Our next workshops will be in Washington D.C. (April 26-27) and San Francisco (May 10-11)



New 5W Academy workshops in Washington and San Francisco

5W Academy is heading to Washington D.C. and San Francisco for our next Infographics and Data visualization workshops in the US. We’ll be in Washington on April 26-27 and in San Francisco on May 10-11. Before that, we’ll be in Singapore in March and again in April for other workshops, partnering with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and with our friends of Methodology.

Regarding our own 5W Academy workshop, click here for details on the Washington workshop, and here for the San Francisco workshop

We received great feedback from our NYC workshop in January. A combination of local and out-of-state participants from publishing companies, design studios, NGOs and other organizations got together for two days.

The two-day workshop is a comprehensive introduction to the creation of infographics and data visualization. With a mix of theory and practice, the workshop is aimed at professionals and students interested in developing the skills to produce engaging, insightful visual storytelling with their content.

We will learn how to gather and prepare data, the Do’s and Dont’s of working with numerical information and charts, and the principles of visual hierarchy, color, typography, illustration, and narrative to create impactful infographics.

Attendees will sketch out infographics, storyboard motion graphics and create / publish their interactive data visualizations and web maps with the help of Tableau Public. The class will discuss award-winning projects and offer an overview of tools and strategies for creating infographics and data visualization.

At the same time, we are keeping busy in Asia. We’ll be back in Singapore in late March for a private workshop for a news publisher, working with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). And we’ll be there again in April for a series of public and private workshops hosted Methodology. We’ll publish more details about these events soon! 

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

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.