Mining statistics

June 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Nothing out of the ordinary here. Just wanted to share a source for production and reserves of various commodities:

This is the source of the Wall Street Journal graphic above.


SSND online design winners

April 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Student Society for News Design announced its awards for online design April 19. Syracuse and Missouri had strong showings. (Above is the splash page from Syracuse student David Miller’s piece, “Jerry’s Cabin.”

Among the winners:


Web sites:

Circles of influence

November 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

For years, the Washington Post has produced “inner circle” charts that portray the individuals surrounding powerful political figures, such as President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and now Republican Leader John Boehner.

The diagrams show levels of influence as concentric rings, and categories, such as staff or college classmates, as wedges of the circle. The graphics reporter assembling the diagram needs a deep knowledge of the politician in order to assign a level of influence to each associate. The connections and coalitions are equally hard to arrange and often require reliable sources near to the politician to help with the placement.

The final trick is to get photographs of the dozens of people in the diagram, many of whom may be obscure despite their connections to powerful people.

Keep an eye out

May 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

I was walking along a path on the Delaware River when I stumbled across some good infographics. Dirt covered the pathside display, and I almost missed them. I cleared them off with my hands and spent about five minutes taking in the information. Three graphics, interspersed with a chronology and other narratives, showed the mechanical operations of the lock system at a canal, the elevation to which each lock carried a boat and the locations of the locks along the river. Keep an eye out for smart infographics. They’ll turn up when you least expect them. (Click on each of the photos for a larger version)

White House floor plan

December 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

Floor plans often make great infographic fodder. For instance, the Washington Post’s interactive White House corridors of power diagram provides a solid inside look at the Obama administration. (

Often a flat blueprint works fine, but sometimes you might want to take a more stylized approach. Using Illustrator’s 3D tools, you can make a quick-and-dirty extrusion of the blueprint’s walls (like in the White House example) without having to move into a raster 3D program.

Here is a decent tutorial on the Vector Tuts site that shows you how to make a simple 3D floor plan.

Some of the numbers the author uses for rotation angles don’t seem to match what he’s showing, but he presents the basic concepts clearly.

Flight paths

November 5, 2009 § Leave a comment


After a plane crashes, news infographics departments immediately turn to the Web for flight-path data to serve as the basis of a map or explainer graphic. There are a bunch of different sources for flight paths. I haven’t figured out which is the easiest to use or which provides the best information. But here are four examples of news maps made from four different flight-tracking sites.

Above: Map of US Airways flight that crashed in the Hudson

Data from FlightView


Above:  Wall Street Journal map of Northwest flight that overshot its destination in Minneapolis.

Data from Flightaware


Above: New York Times map of same Minneapolis flight.

Data from Flightwise

Above: Washington Post maps of Sept. 11 attacks.
Data from Flight Explorer


DeltaGraph vs. Illustrator charting tool

July 15, 2009 § Leave a comment


This is a pretty arcane topic, but I’ve chewed this over enough with colleagues (nobody agrees) that I sense it might interest at least a few visual journalists.

I prefer the Illustrator charting tool for bars, pies, sized circles and simple lines. I prefer Deltagraph for step charts and complex fever charts.

Here’s why:

Illustrator charting tool
Pros: It’s fast and easy to use, you can do the plotting of the chart and the aesthetic details all in one program. The charts are clean without a bunch of compound paths or other junk that needs to be deleted.
Cons: Will not import .xls files, sometimes chokes on big datasets or long numbers, few options for the tick marks and won’t read numbers as the category axis.

Pros: Works with big numbers and datasets, plays well with Excel data, has lots of flexibility on axis labeling and tick marks, makes just about any kind of chart
Cons: You need a separate design program to make the charts publication-ready, exports some cumbersome paths along with the chart that need to be removed, some functions are hard to figure out at first.

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