Twenty-five infographics lessons from Malofiej 20

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  3. No. 1: Beauty leads to understanding

    Beauty draws you in, and a story gets told, says Bryan Christie, illustrator and artist who specializes in medical and scientific illustrations. Christie showed an early graphic depicting the affects of Anthrax poisoning. The figure was stiff, inhuman and, well, purple. On a vacation to Rome, and the Vatican, he saw Michaelangelo’s “Pieta.” It floored him, he said, bringing him literally to tears. His figures now capture the expressiveness of the human form. The beauty of the human form. Christie, who uses 3-D modeling programs emphasized that we must use the tools of drawing and photography to get the most out for our work. “These are photographic tools,” he said, “but in the end, it’s a drawing. And we’ve turned out back on drawing.”

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    Bryan Christie on 3D graphics: use the tools of photography, but endpoint is a drawing. Don’t lose sight of history of drawing #malofiej
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    Bryan Christie: Sometimes I go wild and use two colors. #malofiej
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    Bryan @bryanchristie has written a thoughtful post on See: bryanchristieblog.blogspot… It was wonderful to meet him in person
  7. No. 2: A system for thinking about dataviz

    A good data visualization must start with a clear purpose and that purpose has to be followed through the steps of developing the idea, scrubbing the data and executing the visualization, according to Andy Kirk, a freelance data visualization design consultant and trainer based in the UK. Kirk is also the founder and editor of the website

    Dataviz: 5 steps

    1. Identify the purpose of the data visualization

    2. Identify the questions you aim to answer

    3. Acquire, explore and prepare the data

    4. Conceive the visualization

    5. Construct and launch

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    Some excellent slides from #malofiej by @visualisingdata and @moritz_stefaner
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    Visualization should b considered a Discovery Tool whithin Big Data’s sheer volume, variety, velocity. Andy Kirk @visualisingdata #malofiej
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    RT @malofiej: Ultimo consejo: Mejorar la edicion; no olvidar la narrativa en el #dataviz, kirk says in #malofiej20 #fb
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    Ultimo consejo: Mejorar la edicion; no olvidar la narrativa en el #dataviz, kirk says in #malofiej20
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    Slides from #Malofiej talk, by Andy Kirk @visualisingdata #dataviz #stepbystep
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    Andy @visualisingdata calls ‘the best week of my professional life to date’ Glad you enjoyed it!
  14. No. 3: The 6-month rule

    Bryan Christie is so critical of his work, he has the 6-month rule. He waits 6 months before looking at it. If that’s not a lesson to take your work seriously, to push for perfection, what could that kind of lesson be?

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  16. No. 4: The best graphics take the best reporting

    The foreign graphics editor for the New York Times, Sergio Peçanha, gave an inside view to a few of his projects. Each one represented a simple journalistic lesson: Good old-fashioned reporting on a strong story trumps all. And great stories put large trends in the perspective of people, people who live in war zones and have their lives torn apart by large world events. For a photo-montage of a street in Misrata, Libya, which had been devastated by bombing, Sergio, tracked down sources to shoot photos of a stretch of the street and annotate the “normal” things that used to be there, from homes to cell phone stores. He found sources that could cross-check until the story was nailed. He did the same old shoe-leather work diagramming the progress of protests in Egypt, scanning thousands of images, tracking down sources and cross-confirming all the facts. It’s easy to forget, when sitting behind the computer that we have find a story and aggressively report it.

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    Peçanha: Siege of Misurata, Libya: difícil acceder a mapas y contactó un fotógrafo de los rebeldes pero no sabía si era fiable #malofiej20
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    Sérgio Peçanha (NYT) que está palestrando agora no #malofiej, escreveu para a mostra de infografia. Baixa!…
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  20. No. 5: Speaking of which, dataviz works better with some shoe-leather

    Simon Rogers, editor of the, a resource of raw datasets, and news editor on the Guardian emphasized a fast, journalistic take on using data for news. The Guardian’s work on the UK riots demonstrated a number of quick techniques to get data, crunch it and present it in a way that is useful for users. They used twitter feeds to show how people were communicating about the riots. They used court records, some they had to scan and collate to get a solid data set to show where arrests occurred and how that corresponded with poverty. They sued and got access for court records to show how those arrested in the riots were being treated as compared to average. Whatever the subject, the Guardian crew looked as data as a live story and took aggressive steps to get that story infront of users.

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    Simon Rogers ( In the future, what we do won’t be called data journalism. It will just be called journalism. #malofiej
  22. No. 6: And context helps, too

    Data and visualization can change the way people live their lives, especially when data is presented in an understandable way at a moment and point when people are making key decisions. Andrew Vande Moere, an associate professor at the Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning of the University of Leuven in Belgium, presented simple charting at someone’s house showing energy use as compared to a past benchmark. One key aspect was to have information presented to users in a natural and calm manner.

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    Andrew @infosthetics mentions Mark Weiser & John Brown “more information could be encalming… at @malofiej #visualization
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  27. No. 7: The hammer and the onion

    The hammer: Albert Cairo, lecturer at the University of Miami presents a blunt metaphor for infographics. “Infographics are a tool for understanding,” he says, brandishing a picture of  a hammer. They should explain a lot with as little as possible.

    The onion: But in delivering blunt-force of information, we should not shy away from embracing complexity. Like an onion, an infographic needs to have many layers, each one aiding clarity to a story it is telling.

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    Cairo: “La infografía no es solo para los infografistas profesionales, también es para los periodistas”… #malofiej
  29. No. 8: Readers can handle complexity

    New York Times cartographer and developer Matthew Bloch readers of the Times have been known to spend an average of around 5 minutes viewing interactive maps. That indicates that many readers are spending a lot more than 5 minutes.

  30. No. 9: For the love of code

    Some programmers, according to Bloch are naturally born and find making code exciting. For others it’s soul-destroying. “Sometimes I’m not sure which I belong to,” he said. For the Times’ html5 election map, there were 13,000 lines of code that included a Flash fallback for users with browsers that wouldn’t support html5.

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  32. No. 10: Curate your own style

    Former Wired art director Carl de Torres, now with his own studio in Oakland, Calif., uses simple shapes and colors to explain complex ideas. The approach had its roots at Wired where there was a constant need to explain complex stories about digital themes, in new ways. He has carried his bold, iconic style, inspired in part by early work by Anton Stanikowski, in editorial and advertising work. Torres’ approach adds punch and excitement to stories

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    De Torres: his work process @wired: sketching, jazz, coffee and let it flow, day and nite #malofiej20
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    Carl de Torres: IBM Smarter Planet graphs are “abstract representations of processes that go about in the world today” #malofiej
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    Completely mesmerized by the work of Carl de Torres, known from Wired and IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign #malofiej
  36. No. 11: And do it with some corazón

    Jaime Serra, columnist and director of infographics and Illustration at La Vanguardia demonstrated something very simple and beautiful as he read and showed some of his visual columns. A great story has heart. When the format comes together with text and images and sound, people are attracted to heart, to good stories that help explain the mysteries of the world.

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    Jaime @ja_serra at @malofiej: this presentation si simply mind-blowing. What a character!
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    Jaime @ja_serra at @malofiej: Letter to an ex-friend, visual column on how he stopped smoking during a trip in America…
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    Jaime @ja_serra at @malofiej: Eccentric vs. ‘normal’, orthodox people. A literary visualization…
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    Apasionantes los excéntricos orbitales de @ja_serra Una sociedad sin excéntricos no se mueve #malofiej #malofiej20
  41. No. 12: Keys to building a network diagram

    The keys to making an clear, beautiful data visualization network, according to Moritz Stefaner, a freelance “truth and beauty operator” in data visualization, with a background in Cognitive Science, is a mission that aims for a certain truth and execution that beautifully clear. This has to apply to how the links of the network are designed, as to the nodes, the overarching hierarchy and interface or interactivity.

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    #malofiej20 @moritz_stefaner present a coherent whole and let the user pick the focus
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    RT @JeffClark: Some excellent slides from #malofiej by @visualisingdata and @moritz_stefaner
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    Moritz @moritz_stefaner advice at @malofiej: explore your data, divide and conquer, before you design the art #visualization
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    @moritz_stefaner Trade off w/showing the big pic or the detail. And he asks for coffee 🙂 #malofiej20
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    Moritz @moritz_stefaner just gave a quick, full of substance presentation at @malofiej Such a nice person! Fun, witty, and talented
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    @moritz_stefaner asks audience who has created network diagrams and found it a pleasant experience. Few volunteer. #malofiej
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  49. No.13: Don’t forget — and this gets me every time — to eat dinner before a long night of drinking

    This applies to wherever you are, Spain or elsewhere. And it’s easy to get tricked by “heavy” Hors d’oeuvres. You’ve got to eat. Above, throngs enjoy dos euro pinchos in the old city.

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  51. No. 14: Art and science of maps

    Senior Graphics Editor for National Geographic Magazine, Virginia Mason, showed a selection of the magazine’s incredible maps. All of the maps are based on the science of cartography, through conceptualization, research and iteration. They are scientific expressions of the amazing stories being told by the magazine. They also push for clarity and beauty in how the pieces are designed.

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    Virginia Mason (National Geographic Magazine) at @malofiej: National Geographic’s history has always been tied to cartography
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: Sometimes we create ‘glorified locator maps’
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: Maps and graphics merge with text and photographs in our pages
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: discussing a story about the apostles…
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: talking about this map of Myanmar/Burma:…
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: Careful with the data that we put in maps. They were asked to leave figures out of…
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: sources didn’t want figures on the map because they showed that this is profitable…
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: we try to go beyond ‘glorified locator maps’ by adding more relevant information
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: What makes National Geographic so special is the attention to small details. Shows tons of drafts
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: Showing the enormous amounts of notes she got from copy-editors and researchers on…
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: do we design for print and then adapt to iPad or do we design for iPad and then adapt to print?
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    Virginia Mason (NGM) at @malofiej: talking about video maps they made for Japan tsunami based on researchers’ animation…
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  65. No. 15: Don’t forget to draw

    As Serra accepted the honor as Malofiej’s most influential graphics artists, and as the producer of the most influential infographics, “La ballena Franca,” Jaime reminds us all that what we do must have a soul. We can’t forget to draw the story, to present it with corazón, feeling and passion.

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  67. No. 16: What does the future hold

    Mario Tascón, Managing partner of the consultancy Prodigioso Volcán, diagrammed these 10 predictions for what lies ahead.

    1. Big data must help serve transparency and accountability

    2. Augmented reality is coming to a reality near you

    3. Infographics will need to be in real-time

    4. Video storytelling is here to stay

    5. Public art has an important role

    6. The new cartography goes where people go, brings the world to them

    7. Science and art must both play a role in how stories are told

    8. Twitter is a new language

    9. New screens and devices will continue to develop

    10. Infographics will become immersive, kinetic and involve all the senses

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  69. No. 16: Surviving the future

    The only way to survive a tsunami, Tascón says, is to take the wave. To go through it.

  70. No. 17: Work hard to keep our community together

    The gathering in Pamplona, at the University of Navarra, at the AC Ciudad hotel, at the Jumping Jester, and elsewhere in that wonderful city is indeed special, the site of much inspiration over the past two decades. One of the reasons is the unique community brought together every year. This year’s gathering included graphics minds from 30 countries — Russia and Argentina, Denmark and Dubai. In these challenging times we need to work hard to keep our community of infographics people working together. To share inspiration and work, to search for new ways of supporting and improving what we do, to make sure the most important parts of it, don’t get lost or compromised. We can do that better if we work together.

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  72. No. 19: And give back

    The most touching honor of the night went to John Grimwade, graphics director of Condé Nast Traveler Magazine. Grimwade has attended 18 of the 20 summits and taught at 15 of them. He’s met and mentored hundreds. We all need to concentrate on giving back to our community. Paying it forward.

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    Bryan @bryanchristie, at @malofiej: I went to John Grimwade’s and I realized that beauty leads to understanding
  74. No. 20: A robust process can guide you

    Sheila Pontis, a researcher and consultant from the UK, has studied how graphic designers work and diagrammed how each step of a process must further the goal of producing a clear infographic, from brainstorming to sketching to execution.

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    Sheila Pontis explaining a research project about information and graphic designers at @malofiej Let’s see what the outcomes are
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    Sheila Pontis at @malofiej: research project: she gave 5 designers a brief, and asked them to do an infographic on global warming
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    Sheila Pontis at @malofiej: Subjects in the study first analyzed the information, then organized it, and visualized it. Standard procedure
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    Sheila Pontis at @malofiej: interesting. The goal of the study was to make those 5 designers think about their processes more rationally
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    Sheila Pontis at @malofiej: and more interestingly, one of the designers who participated said he felt blocked and could not do anything
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    Sheila Pontis at @malofiej: a more rational approach to information design helps structuring projects and improves decision making
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    Sheila Pontis at @malofiej: Information design can do a lot for science, marketing, and other areas that are being blinded by tons of data
  82. No 21: You can do a lot with a small team

    Anne Gerdes and Nora Cronenberg, infographics designers from Die Ziet shared how they operate with a small team and took the group through some amazing projects.
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    First presentation this morning at Anne Gerdes and Nora Coenenberg, from ‘Die Zeit’ #malofiej #infographics
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    Coenenberg and Gerdes (‘Die Zeit’) at @malofiej: Die Zeit sells more than 500,000 copies a week. Smallest among the 4 weeklies in Germany
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    Coenenberg and Gerdes (‘Die Zeit’) at @malofiej: 26 pgs a week for Science, 24 for Culture, but just 12 for Politics. I want to work there!
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    Coenenberg and Gerdes (‘Die Zeit’) at @malofiej: they have a weekly page just with #visualization; an #infographics-only story
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    Coenenberg and Gerdes (‘Die Zeit’) at @malofiej: the section is called ‘Grafik’: a weekly news story told just with #infographics
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    Coenenberg and Gerdes (‘Die Zeit’) at @malofiej: sometimes they use comic-books for stories. Showing one on why dinosaurs went extinct
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    Coenenberg and Gerdes (‘Die Zeit’) at @malofiej: it seems that they have a lot of meetings a week! One for each section
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    Coenenberg and Gerdes (‘Die Zeit’) at @malofiej: Average output 5 Diagrams 6 maps, 3 pictograms, and 1 infographics page
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    Coenenberg and Gerdes (‘Die Zeit’) at @malofiej: clever use of animation during this talk indeed. I can imagine the amount of work behind it
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    Coenenberg and Gerdes (‘Die Zeit’) at @malofiej: showing portfolio now and how their style for maps has changed to make them more elegant
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    Coenenberg and Gerdes (‘Die Zeit’) at @malofiej: they use ‘miniature’ diagrams, small charts and graphs less than an 1 inch wide
  94. No. 22: Watch your chart junk

    Robert Kosara, Associate Professor of Computer Science at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, currently on Sabbatical with Tableau Software in Seattle, WA., talked about how all decisions an infographics designer makes affect the reader.
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  96. No. 23: Tell a story

    Make sure a graphic has a narrative, that it tells a story. Picanha’s graphics from the Times always focused on telling a specific piece of the story, putting it in human terms. How one street was affected. Where people went during a string of protests. How a raid was carried out. Those stories were then told visually.
  97. No. 24: Do something outside of working

    Nigel Holmes is embarking on a nifty project asking what infographics folks do when they are not making graphics. Holmes crafts some incredible toys out of metal and woods scraps. Lively and fun. The lesson here is that YOU should do something when you’re not working. It helps the mind. It’ll make you better at work to have a more full life.
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    Nigel Holmes at @malofiej: Making a point on the combination of words and pictures, using this crazy example…
  99. No. 25: How to be as good as the New York Times

    The Best of Show at Malofiej 20 went to the New York Times for two incredible graphics on Guantanamo detainees, online and in print. The Times also took home most of the top medals. The focus and quality fo the work coming from Steve Duenes’ department is utterly groundbreaking and everything they have won is truly and richly deserved. The rest of us should concentrate on learning from them, trying to beat them on our terms, at our places. The only way to be as good as the New York Times, is to work harder and smarter. Clearer stories, better execution, more unique and effective story forms and expressions. More passion. More heart.

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    RT @eagereyes: New on eagereyes: Malofiej 20 (or: How to Be as Good at Graphics as The New York Times)…
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    Great post @eagereyes Jonathan Corum writes about his Guantanamo Detainees graphic, which won Best in Show at #malofiej

About Jonathon Berlin

is graphics editor of the Chicago Tribune and a past president of the Society For News Design.

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