New book: Practical Tableau

Anyone interested in data visualization with Tableau should take note of a new book being published this month: Practical Tableau — 100 Tips, Tutorials, and Strategies from a Tableau Zen, by Ryan Sleeper (published by O’Reilly). The book is a comprehensive and useful overview that can be used by complete beginners as well as by people with more advanced skills. Structured as a collection of 100 short “tip” chapters, it has multiple step-by-step tutorials to build a broad variety of chart types and introductions to working with filters, parameters, calculated fields, and other advanced options in Tableau. It also outlines principles of storytelling with data, using color, dashboards, etc. Overall, it’s an eminently practical guide that I can easily recommend (another great Tableau guide is this book by Ben Jones).

During our 5W Academy workshops (next in Washington D.C. and San Francisco), we do a few hands-on exercises with Tableau. It’s a powerful and intuitive drag and drop tool to build data visualizations.

Tableau has some shortcomings: a couple of examples are the less than optimal handling of responsiveness for different screen sizes, or the lack of map projections (although Tableau now works with spatial files such as shapefiles, GeoJSON, KML, etc.). And it’s a closed system. For simple charts/maps and limited datasets many users maybe be better served by using Datawrapper, Flourish or other recent and excellent open-source dataviz tools for non-developers, but Tableau’s robust and comprehensive data analysis capabilities still make it a preferred tool in many organizations. As an example, the United Nations just announced it’s adopting Tableau as their visual analytics standard across its multiples agencies.

Practical Tableau is due to be released this month as a paperback, and the Kindle version is already available.

 

 

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!

 

 

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.

 

Infographics for The Zoomable Universe

The Zoomable Universe is a new book by Caleb Scharf, the Director of the Columbia Astrobiology Center and an award-winning author of Astronomy books. We were lucky to create all the infographics in the book, which is a new take on the Powers of Ten idea. The book is a tour through all known scales of reality, beginning at the limits of the observable universe and ending in the subatomic realm. The book is packed with our infographics and also illustrations by RonMiller, famous for his space art at publications like National Geographic and Scientific American.

The Zoomable Universe is published by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Here are some of our graphics in the book.

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.

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.

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

Al-Jazari2.jpgAl-Jazari’s automaton musical band

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.

Al-jazari6_elephant_clock.pngElephant clock

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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.