Saturday, November 16, 2013

Learning from news illustrators

Infographic by Adolfo Arranz
When Nathan Yau kindly reviewed The Functional Art, he wrote that its main strength lied in my experience in illustration, storytelling, and journalism. This is true, even if I am not a great artist or designer. I feel a bit uncomfortable when people say that mine is a book about "data" visualization. It's not just about that, if we stick to a strict definition of that term.

I prefer to say that my writings are about "visualization" in general —some may disagree even with this— or "information graphics." My focus is on presentation, not on interactive exploration. And I don't work just with abstract or quantitative data, but with representations of physical phenomena in many cases. There's obviously a lot of overlap in terms of perceptual principles, rules of design, etc., but still.

Why the rambling? Because of that overlap. I believe that pure data visualization designers can learn a lot from classic news infographics. This is a point made by Robert Kosara, Andy Kirk, and Stephen Few after coming back from the Malofiej Infographics Summit (next one will be in March 23-28, 2014; don't miss it.) I was reminded of it when reviewing Visualoop's latest post a few minutes ago. It showcases an amazing infographic by Adolfo Arranz, a Spanish infographics designer who works for the South China Morning Post, in Hong Kong.

This morning I also saw Alessandro Alvim's latest project for O Globo (Brazil), a graphic on the growth of Rio de Janeiro between 1750 and 1906. Alvim is the author of many elegant infographics and illustrations, as I wrote a while ago. His work doesn't fail to surprise me, particularly when it is as simple and unpretentious as this one. He has not updated his blog for quite a while, but it's worth a visit just to enjoy his posts on process. Many of his sketches are as impressive as the final pieces.