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.

Latest D3 Work


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.

The Cutaway Illustrations of Fred Freeman

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During the two-year research
for our book LOOK INSIDE we discovered many amazing illustrations and artists that, for one reason or another, did not make it into the final version of the book. It would be a pity to leave these forgotten on a drawer, so during the next few weeks we will present here some of these masters of the cutaway.

A while ago we wrote here about Frank Soltesz, an American illustrator active from the 30’s to the 60’s, and author of a marvelous series of architectural cutaways appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. Today we want to pay homage to another artist of the same epoch: Fred Freeman.

Fred Freeman started his career in the 30’s. By this time cutaway illustrations were becoming a tool that popular magazine would often use to covey to their readers detailed information about technical topics. Commercial illustrator were often asked to produce cross-sections and cutaways for various publications, sometimes with striking results.


Collier 3.14.1953-Cover-Emergency in space travel.jpg

Fred Freeman was an accomplished American illustrator who designed and illustrated books on naval history, space exploration and other technical subjects. What impressed us most during our research was the wonderful series of cutaway illustrations he created for Collier’s magazine between 1952 and 1954, all of them for the series “Man Will Conquer Space Soon”. The spectacular, full color, spread or full-page illustrations depict in stunning detail cutaways of space stations, spacecraft, space emergency devices, and other aspects of the future of space exploration. The images illustrate the ideas of the then director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, at NASA, Wernher von Braun, a space travel visionary who was already insisting by then on a manned mission to Mars.

It is surprising and disappointing how little information is out there about such a wonderful artist as Fred Freeman. Please let us know if you have any more information about him and we will publish it as an update here.

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Collier 10.18.1952-p57-Spaceship for he Moon-2.jpg

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Collier 3.7.1953-p62-Training simulated space station.jpg


The brilliance of 8 by 8 magazine

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Editors and designers of large, well established icons of magazine design like Wired and New York were stunned a few days ago when the SPD (Society of Publication Designers) gave its prestigious Magazine of the Year award to a little magazine produced by a few volunteers.

Eight by Eight is a wonderful quarterly publication dedicated to global football (soccer for U.S. followers) that has been consistently delivering beautiful design and great stories. They use a lot of illustration and striking typography. It’s refreshing to see it now that magazines hardly use great Illustration anymore. They are beautiful and add a layer of commentary on the topics and personalities involved that a photo would never achieve.


With our friend John Grimwade as contributing Graphics Director, you can always expect brilliant, clear infographics with original ideas. Regardless of whether you enjoy the sport, the work of Editor in Chief Robert Priest and Creative Director Grace Lee (the founding partners of design studio Priest+Grace, who also designed Howler, more focused on North American soccer) and the rest of the team deserved such recognition. Congratulations! Here a few nice pages.

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Is Lego the future of infographics?

Probably not. But I just discovered these two videos by Brookings (an influential think tank in DC) that use lego bricks to illustrate the fundamental issue of inequality in the U.S. I couldn’t help thinking how apt a tool lego bricks can be to represent numerical concepts and, being a lifelong lego fan, just how beautiful they look! No, I do not think they are the future or graphics, but I’d love to see more of these!

SND Digital Awards and upcoming conferences


The Society for News Design (SND) has just announced some of the winners of their “Best of Digital Design” competition. Stay tuned for a complete database of winners and the nominations for the World’s Best awards (the winners will be announced on April 11 at the SND’s annual workshop in Washington, D.C.

Here is a partial list with the Gold and Silver medals. All the usual suspects are represented, with awards going to The New York Times, ProPublica, National Geographic, Los Angeles Times, NPR and more.

We haven’t had a chance to look at all the winners, but we were really happy to see one of our favorite pieces of the year has been awarded. It was illustrator Christoph Niemann’s very original story on the Brazil World Cup and the famous “Curse of Maracaná” of the 1950 tournament, for The New York Times.


We’ll be involved in the judging of the parallel Student Society of News Design competition.

Other important events in media design, graphics and data storytelling are coming up in the next few weeks:

The Tapestry Data Storytelling Conference is a one day event by invitation only in Athens, Georgia. It will take place on March 4. Here are the attendees (they like to keep it to about 100 people) and a link to request an invitation.

The main event in the world of infographics is also just a few days away. The 23rd Malofiej infographics conference and awards will take place at the University of Navarra in Pamplona (Spain) on March 18-20. The conference is preceded by the Show Don’t Tell workshop, led by instructors John Griwmade, Alberto Cairo and Geoff McGhee (I won’t be an instructor this year).

OpenVis, a highly recommended web data visualization conference takes place on April 6-7 in Boston. I was the closing keynote speaker in 2013 and really enjoyed the event.

Finally, the Asian Media Awards 2015 will take place on April 28-30, in Bangkok. They are organized by The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). We’ll follow this one closely as we are working more and more with Asian media, and we’ll be involved in the judging as well.


New Book: Infographic Designers’ Sketchbook

A few months ago I got an email from the great Steven Heller. He was preparing a new book (not really a surprise!) for his sketchbooks series. He has already published sketchbooks books for typography, graphics design, and comics. This time the book was going to be about the sketches of Infographic artists, and he would like to include some of my own, and of other members of 5W. I felt very honored. I never thought much of my own sketches, and often I get rid of them after a job is finished. But I got to work, found a few I did not dislike too much, and sent them to Steven.
The book, titled Infographic Designer’s Sketchbooks, by Steven Heller and Rick Landers, has just been published. It is a magnificent large tome, 350 pages long, lavishly illustrated with the most beautiful graphics and, to my surprise and delight, it dedicates six pages to us (see pictures below). It showcases  the sketches and finished work of more than 70 infographic artists from the U.S., Italy, Germany, U.K., France, The Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Slovenia, and South Korea. It includes classics such as John Grimwade, Nigel Holmes and Massimo Vignelli. 
Browsing through this book is the closest thing to be inside an Infographic artist’s head. Artists sketches are the immediate, unadulterated product of the act of creation, and looking and these you can almost hear the creativity cranking up. 
This book will be agreat addition to your infographics book collection.