Digital works

My fav little details of 2021 on Reuters

That time of year has come once again, the best of the year in my opinion. All us is doing the list of the best of the year to give a glimpse of what 2021 was like and, of course, to give a final push to their stories as well. So, like last year, I want to do a quick rundown of my favourite details of the 2021 projects. Keep in mind the pieces in this entry are out of context and you may want to take a look into the full story for better understanding.

January: The amazing Amazon rainforest

The 2021 kicked off strongly, during the first month of the year I worked various projects including some breaking news. My favourite details of January was a small graphic part of the project titled “Jungle Lab”. The graphic itself isn’t a super complex visualisation, actually it’s just a simple illustration, but the message behind it is very powerful. It makes you realise the relevance of the virgin rainforest right away. I truly believe that our work on infographics is not about fancy effects but powerful messages to our readers.

January highlight [ link HERE ]


As I said before, January was a busy month. Here are some other details that I also enjoyed working on, mostly breaking news.

You may remember the story of miners who were trapped in a mine after an explosion in Northeast China [link here]. There’s a small graphic showing dimensions of the rescue shafts dug by rescuers, that’s something really difficult to imagine without a familiar reference.

Aside from the miners, you may also remember the tragic accident of the Indonesian flight SJ182 [link here]. I recon working with those bathymetric maps helped to explain why recovering the black boxes was a difficult operation. Also kind of shocking to see a few incidents of airplanes around the same area.

February: Sand.

After a tight January, news continued to pop up everywhere, lots of stories with great potential for a visual project. I have the opportunity to do some experimentation with 3D assets using amazing high resolution images courtesy of Planet Labs. We created a detailed story of the massive landslide in India [link here]. Here’s also a short recording of the piece running in C4D: [Drive video].

However, a much larger project was published in February. For a long time we worked on a series of projects on a topic that impressed me. To be honest, I never thought about it before: Sand mining.

Sand mining and trade is a whole world itself, this commodity is unnoticed present in our daily lives. It have a dark side of illegal trafficking and mafias too and even it have sparked diplomatic issues for some countries.

But one key thing that came to mind when I started working on this was this: Why we don’t use desert sand to feed our huge demand? There’s plenty of it!

Well… the explanation is a little more complex, but in short, desert sand grains are too small and rounded. That is why we are dredging rivers, digging abysses in mountains and making beaches disappear.

February highlight [ link HERE ]

March: Rain.

2021 broke some records with extreme weather events, in fact I did an entry here about a 2021 failed project on floods. You probably remember the floods in Germany and China, but there were many more events like that throughout the year.

In March, eastern Australia suffered what the Australian government called the worst flooding in 60 years. That week I was working in a daily-graphics shift, so I did a quick small map to visualise the event, here’s a small part of the graphic:

Also in March, I did a small collaboration on the nice project “Bats and the Origin of Outbreaks”. I really enjoyed working on that piece in every aspect, from the story angle to the opportunity to work with a custom style. You may also want to take a look at that piece:

April: Volcanoes awakening.

April surprised us with a breaking news story, the Le Soufriere volcano violently covered St. Vicent island in ash, devastating the island infrastructure and prompting a sea and land evacuation of thousands of residents. It also released emissions at spectacular heights into the atmosphere. It was like the omen of a year full of massive volcanic eruptions around the world.

I collaborated in the story with different pieces, but my favourite piece was Simon’s map showing buildings, shelters and risk areas among others. Here is a small detail of that map:

April highlight [ link HERE ]

May: Space!

One other frequent topic on my daily work this year was space exploration. I did a good amount of small pieces on telescopes, comets, asteroids and spacecraft.

May saw the landing of the Martian explorer ‘Tianwen-1’ develop and successfully landed in the red planet by the Chinese. Here is a little detail of that graphic:

June: Olympics.

My favourite from June was the singular Olympic sports story. Can’t imagine the adrenaline rush of a 200m obstacle swimming competition. Jumping over boats and diving again to be the fastest hurdle swimmer of all times, they sure had a lot of fun there.

Here’s a small diagram of the course of the Paris games of the year 1900:

June highlight [ link HERE ]

July: Space! (again)

By mid year the news put me back thinking in the outer space. The Hubble Telescope was literally an eye-opening for the scientific community and for all of us in general. Even more so if you stop to think that this magnificent achievement of science was designed with technology from the 80’s. I can’t believe how the old computer from the 80’s still worked there. Here’s a small detail from a daily basis graphic that explains where the telescope problem was. ( The 80’s computer SIC&DH )

This 2021, I spent a little more time making small single-day graphics. I enjoyed the small break from big projects, and the quick and intensive research part you have to do to get it done in a single day. However, I think the best part was going back to the long-medium term projects that were almost done to finish them, with my mind clear and fresh.

August: Wildfires & aircraft data

August was a very busy month too. One of my favourite pieces was this sad new record: For the first time in the records, smoke from the fires reached the north pole. Check out the graphics thread below. There’s a third graphic in that thread, click on it if you want to see some temperature records too:

The second part of the month was infused with the chaos surrounding the US departure from Afghanistan. We did a few pieces on this, overall my favourite was the spaghetti drawn by the aircraft around the airport. It’s really cool how when you are digging into the data many stories pop up, and often many questions more.

August highlight [ link HERE ]

September: Ice.

Like what happened to me this year with the sand, there are things that you never expect to be so interesting. Ice is more than frozen water, ice cores are cool stuff. These things can help to retrieve ancient records, they are like windows to the past of our planet. On September we published this story about that.

The sad part is that we are loosing those records due global warming, and it’s not slowly loosing them, it happens at freaking vertiginous fast speed. The graphic above shows the average of how much ice melts in the world EVERY DAY! The amount is equivalent of placing a gigantic 273m-high ice cube in NY’s Central Park.

September highlight [ link HERE ]

October: Rainforest.

The forests stories returned in October. This project took many days of 3D scene testing, hundreds of calculations to put thousands upon thousands of trees in place, modelling objects and illuminating leaves to show how quickly we are removing the things that are keeping us alive. We are nuts isn’t?

Not just ice, but we are also losing trees on an incredible rate. On average, 67,000sqm of rainforest is lost EVERY MINUTE. The following video begins at ground level, right in front of 3 people and a logging tractor, all to scale. In order to see the portion of the forest that we lose, you see people and tractors as ants.

There were also other quick projects on this month, one of them was the story of the Chinese incursions on the Taiwanese ADIZ. Since then, many more events had happened and tensions only continued to escalate between both sides. Thinking about the region that has been my home for so many years, I hope this doesn’t go any further. Unfortunately, there are always chances that this will get out of control.

October highlight [ link HERE ]

November: Pollution.

India is a very particular place. During the last months of each year, northern cities are suffocated by pollution trapped at the foot of the Himalayas. There are many reasons behind this such as seasonal crop fires, fireworks celebrations, and many others. However, southern cities avoid polluted skies. That was the subject of a one-day quick map, here’s a detail of it:

December: spin, spin and throw it.

Back to outer space news! …or kind of.

Near the end of last month (Nov.) I was working in one more of those small pieces for the daily basis. This time my mind blowed up with this idea of launching things into space without rockets.

The idea is to spin a projectile in a vacuum chamber, gain momentum, and propel it into orbit around the Earth. I imagine something like throwing a hammer at the Olympics, but on an enormous scale. Here is a small detail of the graphic in mention:

My 2021 list of graphics

Just a few days more of the 2021 are left, so many stories have crossed under my Wacom and keyboard, it was a great year. Hope you enjoyed this sneak pick of all the stuff I worked on over the year. I hope you also considered visiting the stories mentioned, just hit the link at the end of each month’s entry to get a better context of each of the details highlighted here.

2021 was a great year, I’m very grateful to Reuters for all the good things, also to my teammates, for everything we did together and how much I learned. There is no better way to say goodbye to this year.

Animation by @Kirun via Giphy

See you all in 2022, Merry Christmas!