About Juan Velasco

Founder and Creative Director of The 5W Velasco Design Group

Free data journalism courses in Learno

Here is a very useful quality resource for anyone interested in data journalism, data visualization and journalism on the web. LEARNO.NET is a website with free video courses for media professionals, journalism students and “anyone with a public-interest mission and a journalistic mindset”. LEARNO.NET is an initiative of the European Journalism Centre (EJC), a non-profit foundation dedicated to strengthen journalism by providing tools and resources, including training.

EJC also runs DataDrivenJournalism.net, a hub for news, resources and networking in data journalism.

Many of the available courses are related to data visualization and infographics, with a focus on how to effectively work with data and produce compelling data stories. They range from simple introductions to advanced skills. Instructors are among the very best in their specialties, including Alberto Cairo, Maarten Lambrechts, Simon Rogers and more.

The list of available courses is short but very compelling. Three are very recent:
Cleaning Data in Excel, by Maarten Lambrechts
Data visualization, journalism and the web: mistakes we made so you don’t have to, by Jonathon Berlin
Going viral using using social media analytics, by Stijn Debrouwere

And these are the rest:
Doing journalism with data: first steps, skills and tools, by Paul Bradshaw, Alberto Cairo, Steve Doig, Simon Rogers and Nicolas Kayser-Bril
Charting tools for the newsroom, by Maarten Lambrechts (upcoming)
Verification: the basics, by Craig Silverman and Claire Wardle
Managing data journalism projects, by Jacopo Ottaviani
Google search for journalists, by Nicholas Whitaker
– Bulletproof data journalism, by Stijn Debrouwere

It’s great initiative and we are hoping to see more courses in the near future.

 

 

Turning doodles into drawings with Google’s AutoDraw

 

Many people who get interested in infographics ask us if you can create them without knowing how to draw. Definitely yes! Or at least the vast majority of infographics (data visualizations and charts, maps, timelines, graphics with schematic illustrations, and many others) don’t require strong drawing skills.

Something that is more difficult you would actually think is drawing simple icons or pictograms. They are invaluable to add some visual interest and to summarize categories and groups in tables, text-based designs and different kinds of infographics. They must be simple yet elegant and recognizable.

And speaking about icons here is something interesting from Google’s AI labs. AutoDraw is a web-based tool that turns your quick doodles into nice and elegant pictograms you can use with your designs and infographics. As you start drawing, the application will start matching your doodles to its library of objects, in a similar fashion to the auto-correct feature we are familiar with when we type text. It’s pretty accurate!

Objects can be colored, resized, rotated and moved. At the end, you can download a png file with your drawing or share it with other people.

The app is free and it works on any phone, computer or table. Google calls it “fast drawing for everyone”, and it’s one of their several machine learning experiments. You may chuckle a little at the simplicity of the drawings and yes, the tools is still pretty basic. But it’s not hard to imagine that with the current strong push in artificial intelligence and machine learning in few years we’ll see pretty amazing things in this field. Hopefully AI won’t put us out of business!. You can contribute to the growing collection of AutoDraw drawings here.

Here is video explain AutoDraw:

ArcGIS maps in Illustrator and Photoshop

Design and communication professionals should be really excited about a recent development in mapping: ArcGIS maps for the Adobe Creative Cloud.

GIS (Geographic Information System) software links location information in the form of databases with latitude and longitude coordinates to different types of information: demographic data to census tracts or divisions, election results to states, land use to natural or urban areas, etc. The user decides what layers (which may come from government or private sources) are going to be combined in order to visualize, analyze, and interpret the data to show relationships, patterns, and trends. As I mentioned in a previous post, GIS packages such as ESRI’s ArcGIS are rarely used by designers or news infographics departments as they are expensive, difficult to learn specialized tools normally used by GIS analysts and cartographers. With very, very few exceptions, those designers and graphics editors limit themselves to fairly basic mapping techniques that don’t take advantage of the power of GIS to uncover patterns through spatial analysis of large datasets.

The partnership between ESRI and Adobe offers ArcGIS functions within Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop via an extension or plugin. Designers can access thousands of data-driven map layers inside the Adobe programs as vectors or raster files, and play with colors, layers and styles to customize the maps using the familiar tools of Illustrator and Photoshop.

Creating maps with the extension is fairly straightforward. Without leaving Illustrator and Photoshop you define the area extent, size and scale of the base map, then search for data map layers (street maps, political boundaries, terrain, satellite images, election data, demographic information, economic indicators, environmental, etc), and finally you add/download the map to your Adobe workspace. It’s then already arranged in layers and ready to edit and polish by manipulating colors, appearance and fonts with the usual Illustrator and Photoshop tools.

You can get the beta version here. It has been available for a while, and the first full version is slated for release in the second Quarter of 2017, with no specific date yet (it’s been delayed before). Some of the functions are clunky and/or slow, but it is definitely great news and I can imagine how in few years this may become an essential tool for infographics designers to create and publish advanced data maps. You do require a subscription to ArcGIS Online (pricing info here) to be able to sign in but there is a trial version available.

Here is an introduction showing the capabilities of the plugin and how it works, and a longer, more recent video with added detail:

All images by ESRI

 

 

 

 

Workshop for New York Life MainStay Investments

We were in New York last week doing a corporate workshop for New York Life MainStay Investments. The investment management company is part of New York Life, the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States, and one of the largest insurers in the world.

As with other clients we work with, New York Life MainStay Investments produces large amounts of complex information that needs to be communicated with efficiency, precision and an attractive design. They market securities and different financial instruments and meed to provide advisors and clients with reliable information about performance, risks and how different investments compare to others though a variety of brochures, factsheets, fund “snapshots”, online dashboards, PowerPoint presentations and so on.

In the two-day workshop we discussed the difference between insightful charts that help clarify information and the decorative presentations that add little value and are commonplace everywhere; content and visual choices, alternative approaches to telling stories visually, overall design issues, achieving style consistency across an organization’s output of charts and graphics, and more. We typically mix presentations with hand-on exercises that emphasize hand sketching, and also introduce participants to the creation of online data visualizations with Tableau.

For information on our corporate workshops, reach us at contact@5wgraphics.com.

New York Life Mainstay Investments is located in Jersey City in an iconic building right across Manhattan:

The views of the Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline are stunning!

Annual report for UNICEF USA

We recently finished a nice project designing the infographics and charts for the 2016 Annual Report of UNICEF USA. 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.

All the online winners of the Malofiej Infographics Awards

We just found a fantastic site by J. A. Álvarez (@infoiguacel) that compiles all the online winners of the 25th edition of the Malofiej Infographics Awards. You can filter by type of award, country, and readership. What a source of inspiration! Big thanks to @infoiguacel for putting this together.

The winners of the Malofiej Awards were announced a couple of weeks ago. The Malofiej Summit is held every year in Pamplona (Spain) and is still, in my opinion, the best event in the world if you want to know what is happening in the field of information graphics and data visualization. Since they are for the most part journalistic work, the graphics have a strong focused on being clear, explanatory and insightful to clarify news events. They are the “Pulitzer of Infographics”. It includes the competition of print and online infographics (over 1300 entries from 134 organizations in 31 countries participated), a 2-day conference that attracts professionals from all over the world and a three-day workshop called “Show Don’t Tell”. The workshop for professionals is taught by Fernando Baptista of National Geographic, Xaquín Gonzalez from The Guardian and John Grimwade from the University of Ohio. It doesn’t get any better than that! I was fortunate to be an instructor for the workshop for 10 years.

This year there was also a workshop for students, taught by Michael Stoll, Professor of the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences.

There is a special bonus from Malofiej. Every year they publish a fantastic book with all the award winners. There is no better source of inspiration for print and online infographics and to see the state of the art, trends and work from different countries.

This year the top prizes (Best of Show) went to Corriere della Sera (Italy) and The New York Times (USA), for the print and online categories respectively, with the graphics ‘Journey of Foreign Fighters’ (shown below) and ‘Olympic Races Social Series’.

Over the years, we at 5W have been lucky to win a few Malofiej Awards (from our previous jobs at the NY Times, National Geographic, Fortune or directly with 5W’s work. Here is my Terracotta Warriors graphic for National Geographic (in collaboration with Pure Rendering GmbH) that won the Best of Show a few years back:

By the way, everybody asks this: what does Malofiej mean? Alejandro Malofiej was an Argentinian cartographer considered to be a pioneer in infographics, who died in 1987. The event was named after him as a tribute. The 25th anniversary is an important milestone. Here is a video tribute to Javier Errea, the President of the Spanish Chapter of SND, who has been the head of Malofiej for the last 17 years. A well deserved recognition!

 

Workshops in Singapore and Mumbai

Just a few days ago we came back from another good trip teaching workshops in Asia. We spent the first week in Singapore, our “base” in Asia since we have been there so many times. We keep good clients and friends in the city-state.

The first workshop was the public course we hold every few months in Singapore: The Power of Infographics, hosted by our friends at Methodology. The two-day workshop is a broad overview of the concepts and techniques behind infographics and data visualization, with plenty of hands-on sketching and exercises (including the creation of some online interactives with Tableau). The workshop attendees are public servants from different branches of government, as well as designers, students and educators.

The next two workshops were private two-day courses for one of the largest banks in Asia. We did the first one in Singapore and the second one in their offices in Mumbai, India. They have previously invited us to Jakarta and Kong Kong as well.

Large organizations have to deal with massive amounts of data, written reports and presentations, for internal communications or for public outreach. There is a growing interest in learning about how infographics can help find insight and reveal the key messages in a visual and more effective way.

To know more about our workshops visit our website or send us an email to contact@5wgraphics.com

By the way, we found a nice surprise while browsing at Kinokuniya, a great bookstore in Singapore: our book “Look Inside” was in the shelves! It’s exciting to see that is well distributed and selling well.