Blue collage of Florence Nightingale imagery.
Blue collage of Florence Nightingale imagery.

May her light forever shine bright.

Founder of modern nursing. Feminist champion. Celebrity entrepreneur. Passionate statistician. Political operator. Data visualization pioneer. Florence Nightingale was all of these, yet none capture Nightingale’s seminal effect — something better felt through her prose:

It is as criminal to have a mortality of 17, 19, and 20 per thousand in the Line, Artillery and Guards, when that in civil life is only 11 per 1,000, as it would be to take 1,100 men out upon Salisbury Plain and shoot them.

The Englishwoman who wrote take 1,100 men out upon Salisbury Plain and shoot them. …

A torn paper metaphor brings non-zero baselines to your reader’s attention. This intentional design flourish is inspired by one of data visualization’s pioneers who, 100 years later, is still showing us how to do more with data.

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Zero has special significance for many axis scales. If you are traveling at zero miles per hour then you are standing still. If you have zero dollars then you are broke. The zero line is often emphasized accordingly by making it thick. Willard Cope Brinton explains in 1939’s Graphic Presentation:

The horizontal axis, zero line or other line of reference, should be accentuated so as to indicate that it is the base for comparison of values. There is no such base of comparison for the time scale in a time-series chart, however, there being no beginning or end of time. … The zero line or other base of comparison should never be omitted when the interest is in relative amount of change between points on the same curve. …

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One question bugs me more than any other:

“So, how long does it take you to do one of these things?”

And I get that question a lot. Usually the questioner is referring to one of my data stories, and is being very generous by showing interest not only in what I do, but also in how I do it. They are innocently trying to strike up a conversation using the most common value-currency we have: time.

I usually respond by muttering something about how each piece is different, how work is done in uneven spurts of energy, or how I prefer to not think about how long it takes. And all of these are true. …

5 easy ways to be joy for the world

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Keith Haring-inspired illustration by RJ Andrews

You tuned your slow-carb diet, monitor every step and streamlined your inbox. But what happens when you broaden your high-efficiency tips and tricks beyond self-improvement? What are lifehacks that bring others joy?

This is a short list of no-pain tweaks you can make right now to delight others, no matter where you are in life. Collectively I think of them as platonic CIVIC FLIRTING. Flirting because each is playful, light, interactive and most importantly, creates a shared sense of warmth and excitement. Each is simple, zero-cost, and guaranteed to bring smiles.

Start waving. Driving is a black-magic box that takes friendly pedestrians and turns them into pedestrian-hating rage machines. Connect and signal with your hand more often, especially when it comes to automobiles. Anything we can do to make driving more pleasant and more human should be encouraged — and waving goes a long way. …

with lessons from master storytellers

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As a professional data storyteller, I use pictures to show you numbers. Sometimes the pictures are really pretty, sometimes the numbers are controversial — but the pursuit always is to humanize a complicated and complex world into a package that you can more easily appreciate. To create these experiences with data I have learned a lot from different master storytellers across many media: myth, science, comics, radio and film.


RJ Andrews

Humanizing data at

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