The Art of Design in Netflix

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A little break from infographics with something that will appeal to anyone who loves design in all its manifestations: Netflix has just announced a new documentary series about design. Abstract: The Art of Design will premiere on Netflix on February 10. The 8-episode series highlights the work of leading designers that shape the world around us. Scott Dadich, Editor-in-Chief of Wired, is the executive producer of the project. He says:

If we’ve done it right, Abstract will help you understand the future by seeing the intent behind the objects that surround us—and the beauty in the decisions that led to them.

The series will explain the creative process behind Bjarke Ingels (architect), Christoph Niemann (illustrator. I’m especially looking forward to this one), Es Devlin (stage designer), Ilse Crawford (interior designer), Paula Scher (graphic designer), Platon (photographer), Ralph Gilles (automobile designer) and Tinker Hatfield (Nike shoe designer). You can watch the trailer below. We are looking forward to it!.

Latest D3 Work

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When it comes to create data-driven interactive infographics, charts and maps for the web our tool of choice is D3. This JavaScript library can connect data to graphic elements in the page and create data-driven, dynamic transformations for them. The possibilities are enormous. D3 was created by Mike Bostock, a computer scientist at Stanford University. Until 2015 he was also working at The New York Times creating some of the best interactive graphics out there. According to Martin Velasco, our Director of Web Development, “D3 is possibly the most powerful and flexible tool out there for creating sleek and precise data visualizations for the web. We really enjoy working with it”.

During the last few months we had the opportunity to experience once again the power of D3 while developing several  graphics for Urban Institute, a think tank in Washington D.C. that do research on economics and social policy. One of the more interesting is this data-intensive electoral map that connects the recent election of Donald Trump to several social indicators of financial insecurity. It is truly remarkable how D3 allows you to work with massive amounts of data (about 50,000 in this case) and transform them into beautiful rich, smooth-moving graphics. We are looking forward to more D3 work.

Our book LOOK INSIDE featured in Fast Company’s Co.Design

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CO.DESIGN is great website about the intersection of business and design created by the team of FastCompany  magazine. They just published a nice review of our book Look Inside, by Meg Miller, including some nice samples. You can read it here.


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Our new book about cutaways, LOOK INSIDE: Cutaway Illustrations and Visual Storytelling is a showcase of the best, most beautiful and fascinating cutaway illustrations ever created, from historical times to now. Cutaways, exploded views, and cross sections, are explored across a wide range of applications and disciplines. Architectural renderings, anatomical illustrations, machine diagrams, and even fantasy illustrations are just a few of the various subjects presents in this compilation.

LOOK INSIDE is published worldwide by Gestalten and can be ordered in Amazon, at the Gestalten online store or wherever books are sold.

Workshops in Singapore, Jakarta and Hong Kong

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We have just returned from a two-week trip teaching infographics and data visualization workshops in Asia, where we are traveling more and more often. There is tremendous energy, and a strong interest in infographics and dataviz. We started in Singapore with the sixth (I think. Lost count!) edition of our Power of Infographics public workshop. The event is hosted and organized by our friends at Methodology and this time we added a third day focused on hands-on practice with Adobe Illustrator and Tableau. Our regular two-day workshop includes theory/lectures and lots of hand sketching, and there had been interest in spending time getting to know some of the tools used in print and online infographics.

We also conducted two in-house workshops for DBS Bank in Jakarta and Hong Kong. We had two previous runs in Singapore, the home country of  DBS. The bank is the largest in South East Asia and one of the largest in Asia. DBS does a great job of offering training opportunities to its workforce (their headquarters in each country has a full floor dedicated to training). The ability to communicate information visually and to bring insight and clarity to data with infographics and data visualization, both internally and externally, is critical for large organizations. We are regularly involved in helping corporate clients with workshops tailored to their specific needs and goals. If it’s your case, find us at contact@5wgraphics.com.

 

 

 

The infographics of Times of Oman

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A few years ago, anyone interested in news infographics started to notice the work of a newspaper doing really smart and creative infographics. And it came from the unlikeliest of places: the Sultanate of Oman, an Arab country on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The Times of Oman (in English) and its sister publication Al Shabiba (in Arabic) have been winning every important award in the field for years. Led by Design Director Adonis Durado and Graphics Director Antonio Farach, they have assembled a multinational and multitalented team that is is comfortable mixing data visualization, superb hand-made and digital illustrations and a unique mastery of graphic design.

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Their original thinking gives fruits like the three-dimensional World Cup Dataviz Ball published ahead of the last World Cup. Here is a great explanation of the process to create it by Antonio Farach.

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As of late 2014, the team included three illustrator-designers (Winie Ariany, Lucille Umali and Isidore Vic. Carloman), one graphic designer (Sreemanikandan Satheendranathan), and two graphic editors (Antonio Farach and Marcelo Duhalde).

The New Tableau 10

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Our Infographics and Data Visualization workshops always include spending a few hours using the free Tableau Public software to create interactive data visualizations with charts and maps on the web. Tableau is a great first step for those interested in data visualization online since it’s fairly easy to learn. The newest version (Tableau 10) was released three months ago and has really nice improvements including a long overdue addition of device responsiveness to visualize data across multiple devices.

We use Tableau during the workshop because it doesn’t require the coding skills necessary to use sophisticated tools such as D3.js, the tool behind many of those amazing interactives of The New York Times and others (although today you can code a nice data visualization in R, for example, with just a few lines of code). Tableau is a great exploratory tool that lets you quickly evaluate different options to visualize you data. We actually use it for print graphics as well after saving files as PDFs.

Tableau is a powerful tool but also a great way of starting to think about key concepts in interactivity: about how to use filters, buttons, navigation tool tips or exploratory dashboards to let readers dive deep in your content. It’s used by thousands of corporations as a Business Intelligence/Analytics tool to visualize their data. The free version is a useful tool for individuals and organizations interested in making data public (remember that with Tableau Public you can’t save files locally, they are all saved to Tableau server and available for anyone to see and to download, including the datasets used. You may prefer the Tableau Desktop version but it’s not cheap).

Some of the new features in Tableau 10 include:

  • Device responsiveness. You can now generate visualizations optimized for desktop, tablet, and mobile phones. Although far from perfect, it’s a big step forward in Tableau.
  • Ability to connect to data stored in Google Sheets. You can set to your visualization to refresh automatically every day, if the underlying data in your Google Sheets file changes.
  • A “highlighter” feature gives users added possibilities to sort, find and highlight specific data for ad hoc views and comparisons.
  • Cross-database joins: you can join different data sources within the program.
  • Custom Territories: Create custom areas in maps using the data built into the geocoding database.
  • And finally, a cleaner interface with new iconography, fonts and colors, sporting a cleaner, less cluttered look that I find much nicer.

In addition, the just released Tableau 10.1 includes:

  • JSON support. JSON is common file format for web based data, widely used for API-returned data. This means you can download web-based JSON files and start to visualize them right away.
  • Automatic clustering is very interesting. Tableau helps identifying interesting patterns from the data by automatically generating clusters based of the groupings/categories specified by the user.
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Clustering feature. GIF from Tableau Public website

Tableau’s website include great learning resources. If you are looking for a good book to learn it, here is the one I found most useful.

Crime in Milwaukee 3

 

 

The 800-year-old Cutaway Graphics of Ismail Al-Jazari

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In the introduction to LOOK INSIDE we mention the mechanical engineer, artist, inventor, mathematician, artisan and scholar Ismail Al-Jazari (1136-1206) as the first person in history to make extensive use of cutaways with the clear intention of revealing how something works. In the book we mentioned him briefly, and did not have the chance to show any of his illustrations. We will do so here.

Badīʿ az-Zaman Abū l-ʿIzz Ismāʿīl ibn ar-Razāz al-Jazarī (Ismail Al-Jazari for short) lived in what is today Turkey. Very little is known about his life beyond the fact that he belonged to a family of artisans and engineers, and that he served as the chief engineer for the local ruler, just as his father did before him. His fame rests mostly in a book he wrote and illustrated in 1206 titled “Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices”. In this book Al-Jazari describes many machines, often of his own invention, with instructions on how to built them. More than an engineer in the modern sense he was a mechanical artisan that assembled his machines by trial and error, rather than by mathematical calculation.

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Hydropowered perpetual flute

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Mechanical peacock fountain

The machines described in his books include several automata, such as drink-serving waitress, a hand-washing servant, and a musical robot band, and many types of clocks and several pumps and water-rising mechanisms. In his book Al-Jazari cites the previous authors that have inspired several of his machines, and how he improved them. Many of the machines though are original inventions than employ novel techniques and mechanisms.

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Candle clock

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Hydraulic mechanism

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Water-serving automaton

Most importantly for us, wonderful cutaway drawings in color illustrate the functioning for most of the machines. The precise and beautiful diagrams look remarkably modern, and are drawn in a clean lineal style, and include labels indicating the name for each part of the mechanism.

There are many good articles online about Ismail Al-Jazari. This one include extensive references and is a great place to start if you want to lean more about this medieval genius.


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Our new book about cutaways, LOOK INSIDE: Cutaway Illustrations and Visual Storytelling is a showcase of the best, most beautiful and fascinating cutaway illustrations ever created, from historical times to now. Cutaways, exploded views, and cross sections, are explored across a wide range of applications and disciplines. Architectural renderings, anatomical illustrations, machine diagrams, and even fantasy illustrations are just a few of the various subjects presents in this compilation.

LOOK INSIDE is published by Gestalten and will be released in the U.S. in November 21st. It can be preorder in Amazon, or, if you are in Europe, can be ordered at the Gestalten online store.