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Exploring a new approach to sonification

By Duncan Geere & Miriam Quick


The once-defunct tool combines the humanity and tactility of hand-drawn visualisations with the precision of digital control

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A few days ago I released a new project. I used a pen plotter to explain the history of oil prices and production over the last half-century. I’ve had a great response to it, and so I wanted to talk a little about plotters and why I think this particular format has great potential for data visualization.

First, it’s probably worth watching the video if you haven’t already:

A quick history of plotters

Pen plotters are basically just a robot arm with a pen on the end. They differ from printers in that they draw lines, rather than laying down dots. …


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The history of the influential planetary boundaries diagram raises the question: Can a single chart show the health of the entire planet?


A conversation about favourites, how to approach learning a new tool, and why data sketching could change your life

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Reimagining the classic storytelling guide for data visualization

Three glyphs of different colours, representing the three parts of the process.
Three glyphs of different colours, representing the three parts of the process.

Good things come in threes. Flavours in a tub of Neapolitan ice cream. Underpants in multipacks. Bears. There’s something about the magic number three that’s endlessly satisfying to the human brain. That’s why good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Three equal-ish parts, which give a story balance. Which make a story satisfying.

Much is written about the value of storytelling in all walks of modern life, from pitching an investor to buying a cup of coffee. In data visualization these days, it’s practically a religion. And this is no bad thing.

But there’s a problem. The classic beginning » middle » end model doesn’t map so well onto the goals of data visualization, because a data viz is very rarely the end of a story. Much of the time, you want the viewer to do something specific afterwards. You want them to make an informed decision, or buy something, or sometimes just sign up to a mailing list. …


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It’s been almost two months since we launched Nightingale, and we’ve learnt a lot in that time.

We’ve learnt that there’s a real appetite for high-quality articles about information design. We’ve learnt that people aren’t as confused about the name as we feared they might be. And we’ve learnt that our most successful articles are those in which we solve problems.

That problem might be “How do I get started with dataviz?”, which Krishna P from Gramener tackled for us a couple of weeks ago.

It might be “What do I need to consider while building a physical dataviz?”, …


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This week, alongside episode five of our How We Get To Next series the ID Question, we’re also publishing a detailed analysis of the world’s endangered languages. It’s a project that I’ve been working on for the last couple of months. You should check it out if you haven’t already:


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Image credit: Darren Garrett

On the slopes of the seven hills that surround the city of Medellín in Colombia, life is pretty good. Children play in the streets. Retirees relax in the parks. Workers bustle to and fro as street vendors hawk arepas — maize pancakes topped with cheese, avocado, and more. When I visited the “City of Eternal Spring” in 2014, named for its year-round balmy temperatures, I found its steep residential neighborhoods filled with spaces for art and theater, verdant parks, schools, and public libraries.

It hasn’t been this way very long. In the 1980s and 1990s, Medellín was the most dangerous city in the world. An urban war involving multiple drug cartels, including the Medellín Cartel led by Pablo Escobar, spiked the city’s homicide rate to more than 800 per 100,000 people in 1993. In barrios like Santo Domingo, which were largely built by refugees from the surrounding countryside, crime was a daily fact of life—and police that tried to intervene paid with their lives. …


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Credit: This Is Mairaj

For a couple of years now, I’ve been using a simple system to track the projects I’m working on.

As a freelancer juggling lots of assignments, it’s super important for me to be able to see at a glance which ones need urgent attention and which can be put off until later.

To do this, I use a nifty service called Trello, which lets you create lists of lists and work with them across many platforms. You can check it out and sign up for a free account here.

There are loads of ways you can use Trello, but the system I’ve created works really well for me, so I figured I’d share it in case it helps others. …

About

Duncan Geere

Writer, editor and data journalist. 100% carbon-neutral. Email me at radio.edit@gmail.com

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