About Juan Velasco

Founder and Creative Director of The 5W Velasco Design Group

Infographic on billionaires for The New York Times


How many billionaires there are in the world, and where are they? Where do they fortunes come from, and what are their hobbies? We just published a nice full-page infographic at The New York Times’ Sunday edition answering those and more questions. It’s based on research by Wealth-X, a firm that maintains a regularly updated database of information on the superrich.

By the end of 2015, there were 2,473 people with more than a billion dollars in wealth. If we compare the combined wealth of this select group with that of entire countries (measured by G.D.P as a proxy) they would be only behind the U.S. and China, and ahead of Japan, Germany and all other nations on the world. New York, Hong Kong and Moscow top the list of billionaires by city.

The U.S. has the most billionaires with 585 followed by China with 260. Looking at continents, Europe has the largest number with 806, but Asia (645) is showing the fastest growth.

The main visual in the infographic is an stylized cartogram with the size of countries (shown by squares) representing the number of billionaires in those countries that have at least one.

The are 8.4 billionaire men for each woman. 60 percent of the men’s fortunes are self-made but only 16.5 percent of billionaire women have self-made fortunes.

It was a nice project art directed by Corinne Myller and published on a special section on Wealth on Sunday February 26.


The Art of Design in Netflix


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!.

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


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.


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

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

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

Nizwa Fort (English)

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.



Beekeeping (English) 51@114823_Sup_20-11-2016_p06-p07(3).indd 51@114823_Sup_20-11-2016_p06-p07(3).indd 51@114819_Sup_20-11-2016_p02-p03(1).indd 1523520_645431735497860_1061389252_o 8d899e25882035-5634c391b516d Untitled-4

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.



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


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.

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 best world map projection ?


One of the most prestigious design awards, the GOOD DESIGN Grand Award from Japan, was awarded a few days ago to something quite unexpected: a new world map projection. The winning projection is called AutaGraph and its creator is Japanese designer and architect Hajime Narukawa, who leads a company with the same name. Here is his site.

The new projection (it’s actually over a decade old, but the prize has brought it to fame) is being labeled by news organizations as “the most accurate ever” or “finally faithful” with great hyperbole.

  • Projections

The representation of the world on a flat surface is a problem that has always challenged cartographers. It’s impossible to project a spherical object accurately on a flat surface and every single projection in existence has to make some trade-offs. The ubiquitous Mercator projector, created by Gerardus Mercator in 1569 is very accurate in the representation of shapes and small-area angles (this is what we call a conformal projection) so it was widely used by explorers and sea merchants. But as you move towards the poles areas are greatly distorted. Greenland appears larger than Brazil when it’s several times smaller in reality. It’s an old and inaccurate projection but a variation of it, the Web Mercator is actually the de facto standard for Web mapping applications as it keeps north up, and meridians are equally spaced vertical lines, preserving shapes and angles well. It’s what you want when you zoom into small areas like you would do in a city map with Google Maps or similar tools.

Mercator Projection

Mercator Projection

Many other projections more accurate than Mercator are used today. The Mollweide protection, for instance, is a well balanced one. In 1998, the Winkel Triple projection replaced the Robinson projection as the standard projection for world maps made by the National Geographic Society.

Winkel Triple Proction

Winkel Triple Proction

Using the right projections is always important. Smaller areas often require different projections that are most accurate for that view. Official United States maps, for instance, are often represented with the Albers equal-area projection. It’s used by the United States Geological Survey, the Census Bureau and many good news organizations. It’s a conicequal-area map projection (equal-area projections are those where areas are well preserved) that works well for extended areas in mid-latitudes.

In a conic map we choose two lines that frame the area of interest. It’s derived from the projection of the globe onto a cone placed over it. The cone intersects the globe at the standard lines (parallels) Distortion is minimal between the standard parallels, but increases away from them.


Albers Projection

From GISlounge.com

From GISlounge.com

  • How AutaGraph was made

Going back to the AutaGraph map, it was made by equally dividing a sphere into 96 triangles, transferring it to an inflated tetrahedron while maintaining areas proportions and unfolding it to the rectangle. Here is the step-by-step process:


And a TED Talk where Narukawa explains it:


The Autograph projection resembles the Dymaxion map invented in 1946 by Buckmisnter Fuller. The shapes and sizes of continents are fairly accurate, but the oceans are interrupted.

Dymaxion Projection

Dymaxion Projection

“AuthaGraph faithfully represents all oceans and continents including the neglected Antarctica,” says Narukawa. “These fit within a rectangular frame with no interruptions. The map can be tessellated without visible seams.”

Although conceptually it’s in the category of equal-area maps, Narukawa admits it needs more work (further subdivisions) to be a true equal-area map. According to his website, the mapping projection was selected by the Japanese National Museum of Emerging Science and innovation (Miraikan) as it official mapping tool and is used in official Japanese high school text books.

  • Our take

If the accuracy claims are true (no way these humble bloggers can verify it) it’s a remarkable achievement. As Narukawa points out, it’s less western centric and calls more attention to the poles in light of global warming and future issues like the exploration of Arctic resources, a major geopolitical concern.

But… It’s not a map we can expect will be widely used in the future. We wouldn’t. The orientation and shape is simply too unfamiliar and any thematic content you may display on it would be obscured by the distraction. Among other oddities, the gridlines take odd changes in direction, some shapes (such as Brazil or Alaska’s) seem severely distorted, and Australia appears to be as far from Antarctica as it is from Europe. Good information design is always the one where the content holder (the base map, in this case) recedes and remains invisible to bring forward the content with greater clarity.