Last July was a crazy month full of flood news all over the world. I remember seeing impressive videos and images of the floods in China and Germany, and digging a little deeper I found many more reports about it from around the world. I tried to put some things together, but time and other projects played a trick and the project became material for #infofails.
Some times taking notes of things isn’t enough for me. One or two illustrator artboards with basic ideas have become the new “office whiteboard sessions” since we started remote work. Quick sketches and some data samples usually help me to organize myself better.
I collected some data from NASA including the PPS and MERRA-2 to visualize precipitation. It was so cool when I saw the data of total rainfall in a month over the planet. Is curious to see how dynamic our planet is isn’t?
Whenever I have a global data set, I always look at how things are for my family and friends in Costa Rica. I remember that in July I had seen videos of flooded areas in Turrialba, a region in the Atlantic region of the country. And yes, the accumulated data showed that intense blue layer near the border with Panama.
Of course, there were other much worse areas that saw terrifying amounts of precipitation causing dozens of deaths, western India for example was one of those areas. I continued to explore a bit more on the map and checking against the flood reports I found to find points of interest and to highlight later in the story.
The testing continued
One aspect to consider was how to visualize the data in the end. There was even a 3D spinning globe in the process… As you can imagine it was chaos displaying flood reports, animated rain data, and 3D navigation all at the same time.
However, one of my favourite pieces was not the maps. There were some small graphics to condense powerful messages had something interesting too. Within them was this simple stacked bar chart where each block showed the total precipitation each month in Zhengzhou, just by putting the amount of water they received on July 20 next to it was really impressive. This is real evidence of how extreme our planet’s climate is becoming.
BTW, there’s also a great graphic from the South China Morning Post friends explaining the huge amount of water that Zhengzhou received over the downpours [ check that story here ]
A few years ago I was working on a graphic about extreme temperatures of the earth, it was happening the 2019 polar vortex in the US and at the same time Australia was on 40° C on the other side. In my head, the perfect title was “Earth’s Goldilocks Climate.” It sounds crazy but it is actually very common, our planet is full of those strange contrasts all the time.
In July China was having its own ‘goldilocks’ event, or kind of, because wasn’t temperature. As enormous amount of water flooded train stations and caused chaos in Henan, south of there a nine-month drought hit Fujian province.
Similar situations occurred in the Middle East, in Afghanistan a long drought was worsening the already difficult situation of the Afghans. Ironically, extreme rains in the border areas also caused flash flooding, while the country as a whole has not seen any rain for months.
NASA’s MODIS/Terra offers also daily and monthly averages of surface temperature. This was some other stuff I was considering for this story. It’s incredible to see how high the temperatures go in the region. There’s also an other cool data set of monthly temp. anomalies here in case you want to explore the world too.
Anyway, none of these charts, maps or data made it into a true story on Reuters, but it was fun collecting, preparing and sketching ideas for it. And of course, in the end it became an average #infofails story here. Maybe later we will take back again this story, unfortunately extreme weather events are becoming more and more frequent
About #infofails post series: Graphics that are never formally published. Those are maybe tons of versions of a single graphic or some floating concepts and ideas, all part of my creative process. All wrapped up in #infofails, a compilation of my creative process and failures at work.
Did you like #infofails? Have a look to other #infofails 👇
That time of year is back, most infographic teams look back, making lists of work that left the year and highlighting their best stories.
I decided to make my own list of favourite details in the projects that I work on throughout 2020. But, before jumping in, keep in mind these are my opinions on small details out of context. Those little bricks are part of a bigger story.
I spent the first month of 2020 covering the Australian bushfires and little stories of a “new mystery virus”. If I need to pick just one single detail of those projects from January I’ll say the opening map of the story entitled Assessing Australia’s “ecological disaster”.
The map is superposition of the habitats species in Australia, follow by the areas burned by wildfires in 2019. I like this little details because at the end of the animation you can see how all the habitats blends and some white areas a left in the map as well, turning this map into a map of Australian wildlife diversity and the fires threatening the animals’ territories.
We knew very little about the virus back in February, not many people was worried about it and the major threat may was the people returning home from “ground zero”. Countries started to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan and later on from China. My favourite detail was this simple diagram I work on about each country evacuees known at the moment.
Among the Japanese evacuees, them 7 tested positive while in quarantine. I guess uncertain is the worst feeling while you are isolated with other people who could be positive, especially if you are “locked in” with a lot of people. This little diagram transmits a bit more than just a visualisation of “how many of them”…
No surprise: A little more about COVID-19 stories in March.
Anyway one of the most choking stories happened in South Korea. The “michin ajumma” was all over the news in Asia because the incredible level of negligence of this woman. South Koreans called this woman “michin ajumma” or “crazy auntie” in english becase she was a virus super-spreader including records of contacts for more than one thousand people while she was sick.
I like this diagram because allow you to see how this person went in and out from hospital for different reasons, including the need to attend a buffet in a hotel.
Some stories take more time than other to hatch, we need to take our time to conceptualise, produce, corroborate, edit, polish, promote… But among all the stories of the year, none took more time than “How coronavirus hitched a ride through China“. This crazy COVID ride across the vast lands of China reveal series of mind-blowing little stories to explain how the first cases of the virus arrived to each province of China.
My favourite little story, because the implications of the travel, is this 3,600km train-trip that Mr. Zhang did from Wuhan to Lhasa. Can you imagine be in a train for 3 days traveling sick and sharing a small place with many other people around? I guess no one knew anything about risk back then. This little story in itself could be a Hollywood movie.
Some events in our blue marble are big enough to be seen from space.
My favourite detail in May was one of the images we spotted with the Sentinel satellite. The image shows a bunch of cruise ships anchored in the Philippines with no guest but hundreds of crew still on board, trapped without a job guarantee; just waiting in limbo of the world’s largest cruise parking lot.
By mid year I turned my attention to other problems occurring in South America.
Illegal mining that tears down vast tracts of the Amazon rainforest threatens indigenous peoples and their way of life. Even illegal miners themselves endanger themselves by inhaling highly toxic waste from using mercury, even handling it with their bare hands.
My favourite details are those little illustration blocks explaining part of the problems. Staggering satellite images are proof of the magnitude of the problem in the region.
Have you ever see an ant farm as a kid? It was amazing isn’t? you can imagine what’s going on in the little world down there, all that crazy movement and structures rising trough the time.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about you may need to seethis piece we did in August about the mining sites of Rio Tinto in Australia.
“Mining Australia’s sacred sites” was a very serious topic actually. Some fo the destroyed areas have heritage history of over 20,000 years. The state-approved destruction carried out by the mining company sparked anger from indigenous landowners.
In this case, satellites were useful to provide evidence of the expansion of the mines. My favourite detail is the timelapse of Brockman 4 mine, because it looks just like an ant farm.
Many many things happened in August, we covered some breaking stories likeBeirut’s explosion,and the Japanese bulk carrier Wakashio which got struck a coral reef on the paradisiac island of Mauritius. But my favourite among all of them is a completely different story.
August marked the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombs. We took the opportunity to create a visual explainer of what happened in a document style adapted to the time. You may notice the special typography and a particular style on the maps too. But the best thing about this project was the Japanese version that was published shortly after.
The ninth month of the year was all about wildfires again. Just like we kicked off the year, but this time the flames were consuming the North American forest. We did some different pieces, but one of the most popular was the smoke story.
The globe animation at the top of the page was very popular on Twitter, for some reason that kind of visual is always popular… But among all the pieces, my favourites are the small multiples further down the page.
Those images frozen in time are some of the most relevant moments of the smoke dimensions. Something that you maybe miss in the animation if you don’t pay attention enough.
For a long time I wanted to do some graphic on wine, something about varieties, process, climate or so… But, I never tough that the chance will come because the vineyards were on fire.
“Up in smoke” is a story to visualise the damage caused by the fires in one of the most iconic wine regions of the world. Using some maps, dataviz, images and illustrations we tried to show what was going on there.
Doing research is a normal thing in all of our projects. But I guess because I really like wine, my favourite part of this project was the research phase. Reading so many articles, collecting so much data from everywhere, learn a lot to be able to explain later… and all that was about wine!
Yup, it was a nice experience, sad yes, but I learned a lot.
I really like to find the “woow” trigger in the stories. The “woow” happens when you give a little of context and show a visual of something that the reader wasn’t expecting, or even you in first instance.
In last November we were working in this story about the glaciers in the Tibet region. The page shows impressive drone images and how the glaciers are retreating rapidly, but my favourite part of this is to realise how much changes the region over a year. The original loop show a whole year of transition, below are shown just the extremes:
What a year! By December I was calculating which one of the projects I have the queue will see the light before the end of the year.
The monster-sized A68a iceberg that has been wandering in the ocean since 2017 made headlines when it began approaching an island full of penguins and other species. By then I already had some data sets in my “sources folder”. So in record time, we finished what turned out to be my favourite story of the month.
I knew the iceberg was huge, but one of the things that was spinning in my head was how much? Probably bigger than many islands or even countries!
That’s why size comparisons are my favourites in this story, it’s not just about saying it’s massive, but about demonstrating it by showing evidence and references.
Just a few days more of this crazy year are left, so many extreme stories have happened. This list is actually just a sneak pick of all the stuff we did over the year.
As I said at the beginning of this post, the little details in this list were pulled from the original context, I really encourage you to visit the full stories in the link at the end of each month’s entry to get a better understanding of the information.
About #infofails post series: I have a lot of beta graphics that never go public, it can be tons of versions of a graphic or just a few concepts as part of my creative process. So, where all those things go? well, ends-up in #infofails –a collection of my fails at work.
This 2019 is almost gone, big media is doing their “year in graphics” collections, meanwhile I’m in the rush hour trying to fit one more graphic in this year. I’m looking back trough this year, and it has been a crazy one; many unexpected things and lots of changes for me. That’s the case of this project I want to share with you, is one of those unexpected results, or un-result to be accurate.
Death rates at the Himalayas peaks
TheMount Everest project (screengrab above)started as a great opportunity for a data narrative, the story behind was the bloom in the climbers amount, many times resulting deathly for them; the whole team was doing pieces to get this story online, if you didn’t saw it, here’s the final result of the project: CLICK HERE. Have a look first, then come back to this story for a better context.
The fail story
My fails begun when I was trying to get an accurate model of the mountain, I first tried doing some elevation curves map, like the one on top of this entry. The main problem here was to get a good resolution, I was taking as base a 90m DEM produced by NASA, the files are great and works most of the times, but not to the level of detail I was looking for.
90m DEM by SRTM/NASA. This was the starting point.
This thing works for a general overview of the whole mountain system of the Himalayas. To me, it was look in a good shape. By exaggerating the elevation, the idea was to add a color range or some other texture to visualize the heights, so then point out the mountains other than the Everest were the climbers usually go.
Version #1 Himalayas peaks
You maybe noticed that usually I do 1-5 versions of the images to try different ideas, in this case, I didn’t went any further because in the middle of the production some other projects came in. Fortunately my teammates got some other ideas, they took the project from this stage forward. I just jumped in again at the end to collaborate with the finishing touches and adjustments, so I can’t take any credit.
But going back to my fails, I did a few more pieces before the no return point in this project, one of them, a preview of the contours growing-up:
Everest and surroundings, model based in 90m data by SRTM/NASA.
Also I try some more realistic look using a 30M DEM from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. That one was looking better, but I was already out of time:
C4D textured model based on 30m DEM data by SRTM/NASA
Basic shading. C4D model based in 30m DEM by SRTM/NASA
Color ramp by height, Himalayas system. C4D model based in 30m DEM by SRTM/NASA
Mount Everest close-up. C4D model based in 30m DEM by SRTM/NASA
There was also an other idea to show in this graphic. I was thinking that maybe will be nice to show the equipment that modern climbers uses today in comparison with the equipment of explorers from 60 yeas ago when the mountains were the final frontiers of the unknown. Is incredible that teams went there with heavy and basic equipment and yet make it to the mountain (with great help from the Sherpas of course).
Climbers equipment detail. Based in documentation of the British expedition of 1950.
Not sure if this graphic of comparisons will be published or not, so I’ll upload just a tiny little part without information or details, but who knows, you maybe see it next year either at Reuters website, or here as another of my fails for your entertainment haha.
It has been a pleasure to have your comments and readings this year, I hope we will read each other soon.
Did you like #infofails?
Have a look to other #infofails Chapters here:
Sometime ago I was googling and wondering where all that prediction data comes from. I mean, when you type on google any word or a few words instantaneously pop up 3-5 suggestions related to your search.
Many times the suggestions are simply hilarious, and not that many matches on what I trying to find.
Anyway, all that data must be stored somewhere, so I took a walk in to the Google’s API worlds and… yes there is a prediction API service based on users inputs, categorised by languages of query’s and accumulated through years of searching. That means when you type something on Google browser, the prediction results displayed are based in the language of input, the popularity around your location thought the time and recent searches you probably made. (Probably not in that order and not always only that)
I know, I know… I’m a little freaky when I found some nice data, but there is a long time since I made a graphic for blogging just for fun, so I collect data from some popular languages to create a new visualisation just for fun.
I made the same input in different languajes:
All those languages and some others crossed with keywords like the following:
Why Chinese girls…
Why Chinese guys…
The idea was to trigger the Prediction API and in some way reflect the users behavior, stereotypes and maybe some fun content as well. Sometimes the combinations didn’t goes very well and don’t have much sense, so onces filtered, I turned the responses into color patterns all together in a single visualization.
That work has been stored for a long time, part because the office is very busy but also because I was waiting to release a new project together with a good friend but finally last December we made it. So if you want to know more about this, take a look in to our new project: Wökpö Lab.
The nice part of this is having Wokpo now I can have a lot of fun more, go and check the digital version of this project, there you can input any keyword you want in any language and see by your self results of different cultures, their stereotypes, their fetish, or their curiosities here is the link again Wökpö Interactive Lab.
Some time ago while living there in Costa Rica, near my house were these tireless birds pecking lampposts, I always asked myself how could be that these birds will support all that stress on their heads without any problems.
Drill on wood with the peak would be like ourselves we were to take a door and hitting her with the nose to open a hole in it, not to mention the pain it can cause, the head injury is a real factor, but for some reason these bird is not. So I put myself behind the track that make me understand that about the woodpeckers and the reason of because they can do that, and actually there are several studies explained it, there is even information from other peculiarities of this bird that I found wonderful, so, I decided start this infographic with this information.
First draft of the woodpecker infographic
My initial idea was to talk about those particular things in the bird head, starting with the hyoid bone which happens to be one of those secrets of the Woodpeckers, and provide information of the population and its evolution time, but as sought was more particular details that could become new parts.
Process of the main illustration.
I usually work with data and abstractions, but in this case the information is also deserved a more visual and descriptive than quantitative contribution. I start the main illustration at 400% of the size that eventually would use to gain a little more detail in the finish, it was a good idea I thought the beginning… but ended up making the process very slow production, added to this, while in Costa Rica worked full time for La Nación news, also had my students and projects with the university there, and some other professional responsibilities drowned me the time to complete this work.
Up in the picture the original assets from photoshop, down in the picture the final presentation in illustrator.
All that changed suddenly when I left three days journey to a new life in Hong Kong, as it would have very long flights to get here, I found a space to work on this and to conclude what had begun months ago.
I love to do this kind of stuff because there are not tied to the daily work, I do it for the passion about infographics, because data and visual stories fascinate me and because I like to share that wonder that I feel to find complex information and hidden and to bring it to others in a effective visual way of consumption, and also feel that awe for the information that was there before.
Final infographic about the Acorn Woodpecker.
This probably is not the best way to deploy this chart because the difficult to read it, but if you want to see in detail, maybe just click this link to my drive and read it in detail.
I hope the information here is as interesting to you as it was for me, and enjoy the piece as I enjoyed building it for you.
Data visualization about the 2014 seismic activity in Costa Rica http://bit.ly/1yw8vCL use google chrome for translation. // Este es un análisis visual de los datos que ha generado la actividad sísmica sobre la cercana a Costa Rica durante el 2014.
seismic activity hours visualization [detail]
[detail] visualization about seismic concentration under Costa Rica.