Category Archives: Infographics

Infographics at Their Best: Richard Johnson and The Everest Tragedy

Richard Johnson


When I first started blogging about data visualization in early 2013, one of the first posts I made was to show Richard Johnson’s eerily telling infographic 31 Days Later which depicted, using human shadow figures, how many gun-related deaths had occurred in the United States each day since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Mr. Johnson’s work has always been best at telling you an important topical story using beautiful illustrations and creativity.

On Richard’s person web site,, he discusses how he became an illustrator.

I was taught to draw by my grandfather. He started by teaching me to draw the shapes around things rather than the things themselves. This is a technique I still fall back on today, when I am struggling with proportions.

For me, drawing is about getting people to pay attention to something – to something they need to see clearly, to something studied and dissected and rendered and understood. So I draw. I draw what I see. I use that limited drawing skill, to hopefully stun people out of their daily reverie.

My grandfather’s spirit travels with me still.

Last week, Mr. Johnson provided a detailed and beautiful infographic for The Washington Post related to the Mt. Everest Tragedy. I have shared this infographic with you in this post.

I encourage you to visit Mr. Johnson’s web site to see other amazing graphics he has created as well as some wonderful photography by him.

Best regards,


Deadly Avalanche on Everest

At least 13 Nepali guides, most of whom were Sherpas, were killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest on Friday, making it the deadliest accident on the world’s highest peak. The avalanche occurred in an area nicknamed the “popcorn field,” which is surrounded by ice boulders along the route leading through the Khumbu Icefall. The avalanche struck at about 19,000 feet, just below Camp 1.

Avalanche on Everest kills 12

Source: Himalayan Database and Johnson and Anup Kaphle/The Washington Post. Published on April 18, 2014, 8:27 p.m.

Infographic: Bluefin-21 Being Used to Find Malaysia Flight MH370

Search for the missing plane has been using the sophisticated Bluefin-21, a robotic underwater vehicle which could travel up to 5km deep in the ocean.

Fact file on the Bluefin-21 undersea search vehicle. – AFP infographic, April 15, 2014.


WSJ DataViz: South Korea Ferry Disaster

South Korea Ferry

Source: Jeyup S. Kwaak in Jindo, South Korea, Min-Jeong Lee in Mokpo, and Jonathan Cheng in Seoul, South Korea Divers Carry Out Ferry Mission in Near-Total Darkness, The Wall Street Journal,
Updated April 21, 2014 9:24 p.m. ET,

Infographic: How Meb Won the Boston Marathon (The Washington Post)

Meb Keflezighi of San Diego outlasted a slew of younger, world-class runners to become the first U.S. man to win the marathon since 1983.

Boston Marathon


[1] Boston Athletic Association, Science of Sport. Bonnie Berkowitz and Richard Johnson/The Washington Post. Published on April 21, 2014, 9:54 p.m.,



Charles Apple: Two Recent Infographic Fails You Ought to Know About


Charles AppleI have been a big fan of Charles Apple’s work for a long time. I have blogged about him and his work in the past (see “Charles Apple” in my Categories on the right or do a search for “Charles Apple” on my blog).

Charles Apple (photo, right) is a longtime news artist, graphics reporter, designer, editor and blogger. The former graphics director of the Virginian-Pilot and the Des Moines Register, he spent five years as an international consultant and instructor. Currently, he’s Focus page editor of the Orange County Register.

I always like to reshare articles and blogs about what NOT to do in regards to data visualization and infographics. This morning, Mr. Apple posted a blog entry titled “Two recent infographic fails you ought to know about.” Charles has always shown a keen eye for detail and accuracy. He is also very reflective of his own work as today’s blog entry shows.

I hope you enjoy Mr. Apple’s thoughts as much as I do.

Have a great Good Friday and Happy Easter.

Best Regards,


Source: Charles Apple, Two recent infographic fails you ought to know about,, April 18, 2014,

Two recent infographic fails you ought to know about

A couple of charting debacles popped up this week of which you might want to take note.


First, Reuters moved this fever chart showing the number of gun deaths in Florida going up after the state enacted its “stand your ground” law in 2005.

Just one little problem: The artist — for some unknown reason — elected to build the chart upside down from the usual way a fever chart is drawn.1404GunDeaths01Meaning the chart appears to show the number of gun deaths going down… if you focus on the white territory and consider the red to be the background of the chart.

After a lively discussion on a number of forums — most notably at Business Insider — a reader volunteered to flip the chart right-side around for clarity’s sake.1404GunDeaths02Is that better? Most folks seem to think it is.1404GunDeaths03Three important rules about infographics that I’m making up right here:

Rule 1: A graphic must be clear. If it’s not clear, then it’s not doing its job and should probably be put out of its misery.

Rule 2: It’s OK for a graphic to offer the reader a longer, more complicated view that requires more time spent observing a piece. But that’s not typically the job of a freakin’ one-column graphic.

Rule 3: Occasionally, it’s OK to flip a graphic upside down. But you’d better have a damned good reason for doing it. Other than, y’know, “I thought it’d look cool.”

This graphic fails all three: It’s not immediately clear — at least to many readers — and it’s a small graphic. So it has no business getting fancy. If the artist had a reason for turning it upside down, that reason eludes me.

Read more about the debate over this piece at…


Full disclosure: I feel a little guilty criticizing this piece because I myself did something funky last week: I turned a map upside down:Unnamed_CCI_EPS

That ran in the middle of a page about John Steinbeck‘s the Grapes of Wrath. The intent was to show the route the fictional Joad family took in the book from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to what they hoped would be a better life here in Southern California.But vI really wanted to get those two pictures in there, which needed to read from left to right. I wanted those to sit atop my map showing the journey. I tried mapping it the usual way, but it was difficult to get the reader to stop — and then read this one segment of my page from right to left — and then resume reading the rest of the page from left to right.This would take quite a bit more vertical space and some very careful use of labels. And I was plum out of vertical space.So I elected to flop the map upside down. My logic: This time, it was more important to follow the narrative — to feel the twists and turns in the Joads’ journey — than to take in the geographical details of the trip. If the upside-down map was vetoed, Plan B would have been to kill the map and run the list of cities in a timeline-like format. There was just one problem with that: I already had a timeline on the page, just above the map:


We debated this and decided I was right to flip the map — This time. I can’t imagine too many times we’d ever want to run a map with the north arrow pointing down.And, y’know, perhaps we did the wrong thing. Another editor might have made a different choice.But the point is: We made a conscious decision here to let the map support the narrative. I don’t know what point Reuters was making with its upside-down fever chart. Whatever it was, it’s not apparent to me.It’s OK to make unusual choices. Just make sure your data is clear, your story is clear and readers don’t walk way from your piece puzzled as hell.


This seems like a good time to present the other infographics debacle this week: This one is by NBC News.1404DemographicsOh, dear. I was just talking about using a map when the map wasn’t the most important element.What we have here is another fever chart, but this one has been pasted inside a map of the U.S.  This has a number of effects that harm the greater good we do by presenting the data in the first place:Fever charts (and pie charts and bar charts and most other charts, for that matter) are all about showing proportions. If the proportions get screwed up — by, say, varying the widths of your bars or by covering up part of the chart — then the reader can’t make the visual comparisons you’re asking her to make.And that’s the case here: We see territory marked as “Asian” in the upper left of the chart and also at the upper right. But where is that set of data in 2010? I’m guessing it’s there, but it’s hidden outside the area of the map.

Rule 4: If you’re going to hide important parts of your chart, then your chart is no good. And, yes, it should be put out of its misery.

The data is displayed over a map. What is the artist trying to tell us? Where white people live in the U.S.? That Hispanics only live near Canada and Asians in Washington State and New England?No, the map is merely a decorative element. It has nothing at all to do with the data.

Rule 5: If you don’t need an element to tell your story, then eliminate it. Or I will.

Rule 6: If your decorative element gets in the way of your story, then not only do I demand you eliminate it, I also insist you come over here so I can smack you upside your head.

Rule 7: Don’t use a map if you’re not telling a story that includes some type of data that needs geographical context.

Oh, and don’t forget this last one:

Rule 8: Don’t tilt a map or turn it upside down. Not unless you have a good reason.

Go here to read more about the perils of rotating maps.

WSJ DataViz: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – The Depth of the Problem


Like many of you, I have been watch in utter fascination as various countries help in the efforts to find Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal posted this infographic I had to share with you. Not only does it give perspective of how deep the black boxes may be, it also provides historical information on other tragic flights that happened to end up in the ocean. To show that perspective, they have you scroll down through the infographic like you were traveling deeper and deeper to the ocean floor. The infographic is 16,035 pixels in height, which is close to 18 feet long!

I again want to send my prayers to the families of the people on board Flight MH370. This must be a very difficult time for them until we have some finite answers.

Best regards,


The Depth of the Problem [1]

After an Australian vessel, Ocean Shield, again detected deep-sea signals consistent with those from an airplane’s black box, the official leading a multi-nation search expressed hope Wednesday that crews will begin to find wreckage of a missing Malaysian airliner “within a matter of days.”“I believe we’re searching in the right area,” Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said.

The Depth of the Problem - WSJ


[1] Richard Johnson and Ben Chartoff (Graphic – The Washington Post)), The Depth of the Problem, The Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2014,

Infographic: The 10 Best College Football Stadiums in the Country

The 10 Best College Football Stadiums in the Country Infographic

Source:, The 10 Best College Football Stadiums in the Country,

Infographic: Dozens of Planes Have Vanished in Post-WWII Era

Two compelling infographics from Bloomberg Visual Data.

Author(s) of each infographic are noted at the bottom of each infographic.

Dozens of Planes Have Vanished Infographic

Where Could Malaysian Flight 370 Be Infographic

Infographic: Panama Canal Expansion to have Major Impact on Boston (Chiqui Esteban)


Too often I don’t provide commentary or my opinion to the infographics I blog about. I think this is in part my own insecurities about what I have to say and also that there are many experts out there who do it so much better like Alberto Cairo and Robert Kosara.

However, I want to go out of my comfort zone to discuss this beautiful infographic from Chiqui Esteban.

I have always loved the kinds of infographics that tell a story more so than the ones that just provide you a lots of graphs, statistics and numbers. Mr. Esteban has told a beautiful story with his graphic, which was published recently in The Boston Globe, regarding the Panama Canal Expansion.

I feel as we rely more on toolkits to create infographics, the art of telling a story with an infographic is getting lost in what, I feel, are paint-by-numbers infographics. We need more infographics like this one and other ones Mr. Esteban has published in the past to keep the bar raised on what a great infographic is.

I plan on revisiting other works by Mr. Esteban in the near future.

So, there it is. I took a bit of a risk and gave my opinion.

I hope you enjoy this story and infographic as much as I do.

Best regards,


Chiqui Esteban

Chiqui Esteban

Jose Maria “Chiqui” Esteban Gallego (aka Chiqui Esteban) originates from Cadiz (Spain). He currently works as a Visual Journalist at The Boston Globe, which is a regional newspaper serving New England area. He works on both print and online platforms, but is more focused in interactive graphics for and

Chiqui has more than ten years of experience in visual journalism and infographics. He has won more than 45 international infographics awards including Malofiej, SND, European Newspapers Awards and ÑH (regional SND awards). He has worked at local, regional, national and international media as an intern, designer, coordinator, department director and consultant, for print, online and tablet platforms.

His professional web site is

Panama Canal

Panama Canal Expansion

The Boston Global story, by Katie Johnston, follows this infographic.

[Click on image below to enlarge]

Panama Canal Infographic

Panama Canal Expansion to have Major Impact on Boston

Source: Katie Johnston, The Boston Globe, March 16, 2014,

COLON, Panama — Deep inside the massive hole at the Atlantic Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal, thousands of workers who appear to be the size of ants build the equivalent of a shopping mall every day.

Construction crews up and down the canal have worked around the clock for much of the past six years, racing against obsolescence as they expand the 100-year-old passageway to accommodate today’s megaships. When the project is completed over the next two years, the canal will be able to handle hulking ships capable of carrying 14,000 20-foot containers, nearly triple the size it can now accommodate.

The stakes are high for both the Panama Canal, which is rapidly losing shipping traffic to the larger Suez Canal in Egypt, and the eastern ports of the United States, which, along with Asia, have the most ships using the passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific through the Isthmus of Panama. In Boston, the canal expansion, combined with a plan to dredge Boston Harbor to accommodate larger ships, could generate thousands of new jobs and more than $4 billion in new business at Conley Terminal, according to the Massachusetts Port Authority.

In a sign of how significant the Panama Canal expansion could be to the state economy, Governor Deval Patrick plans to tour the canal Tuesday with Transportation Secretary Richard Davey and several Massport officials.

A ship passed through the canal’s locks.


A ship passed through the canal’s locks.

Local exporters such as International Forest Products LLC could particularly benefit from the canal expansion. A unit of the Kraft Group, which also owns the New England Patriots, International Forest Products ships most of its US-sourced goods such as recycled paper and wood pulp through the canal, and using larger ships would make operations more efficient, said Dan Moore, the chief operating officer.

“To keep US manufacturers competitive with European and Latin American competitors, I think the Panama Canal expansion is going to be important,” he said. “Without it, our competitiveness against the rest of the world will slowly erode. Every little bit counts.”

When the Panama Canal opened in 1914, allowing ships to avoid sailing around the tip of South America, it considerably shortened the time to transport goods between Asia and the East Coast of the United States. Today, about 3 percent of global maritime trade passes through the canal each year.

Some 40 ships a day make the 50-mile journey between oceans, taking up to 10 hours and costing each ship roughly between $200,000 and $400,000. One day last summer, locals and tourists crowded the fourth-floor viewing deck at the Miraflores Locks, on the Pacific side, watching a refrigerated Seatrade vessel called the Mexican Bay enter the canal.

Water poured into one chamber of the locks, slowly raising the ship to the level in the channel leading to the canal. In less than 10 minutes, the water levels on both sides were even; the 700-ton gate opened, and locomotives on tracks on both sides of the ship guided it through.

The Panama Canal is a man-made link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It vastly shortened the time required to transport goods between Asia and the US East Coast.

The Panama Canal is a man-made link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It vastly shortened the time required to transport goods between Asia and the US East Coast.

Ships are being built much bigger than they were a century ago, as carriers strive to save money by loading more goods on each vessel. Nearly a quarter of the world’s container ships, accounting for more than half of total container capacity, can’t squeeze through the Panama Canal today, according to Clarksons, a British shipping services provider.

As a result, the Panama Canal has lost market share to the Suez. Companies sailing between Asia and the Eastern United States increasingly favor the Egyptian canal, which connects the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, because it can comfortably handle the largest ships out there. Denmark-based Maersk Line, the biggest container shipping company in the world, announced last year that it would stop using the Panama Canal in favor of the Suez.

To accommodate bigger vessels, which are wider and longer, and ride lower in the water, the Panama Canal Authority embarked on a $5.2 billion expansion in 2007 that will double the capacity of the canal. The makeover involves constructing a new set of locks, dredging the entrance and navigation channels, digging a new access channel on the Pacific side, and raising the water level.

The new locks will use the equivalent of 19 Eiffel Towers’ worth of rebar and enough concrete to construct a major city’s worth of 20-story buildings. When the expansion is completed, now scheduled for early 2016, the canal would be able to handle about 97 percent of container ships in service or on order.

The expansion would open up the canal to different types of ships, namely liquefied natural gas tankers, and improve access to Asian markets for booming US energy production.

It would also give companies shipping to the United States a cheaper alternative. Carriers transporting jewelry and electrical parts from Hong Kong to New York, for instance, may opt to send ships through the new and improved Panama Canal instead of landing at West Coast ports, unloading containers, putting them on trucks or trains, and carrying them 3,000 miles.

“It’s a game changer,” said Oscar Bazan, manager of marketing and forecasting for the Panama Canal Authority.

But many US ports, including Boston, are not yet ready to play. Only about 10 of 150 commercial US ports can handle the largest, fully loaded ships that will be able to pass through the Panama Canal when the expansion is complete, according to the American Association of Port Authorities.

On the East Coast, Baltimore and Norfolk, Va., are ready for the bigger “post-Panamax” ships; Miami and New York/New Jersey are making billions of dollars worth of improvements.

In Boston, the 16th-largest container port on the East Coast, according to Clarksons, the Massachusetts Port Authority is pushing a $300 millionproject to dredge the channels to accommodate ships that can carry the equivalent of 10,000 20-foot containers, or TEUs (for 20-foot-equivalent units). Currently, the largest ship that can call at the Port of Boston carries 7,000 TEUs.

Ships passed through the Panama Canal’s Gatun Locks in Jan. 1, 1915. The canal opened in 1914 and was designed for ships much smaller than many of those built today.

Getty Images

Ships passed through the Panama Canal’s Gatun Locks in Jan. 1, 1915. The canal opened in 1914 and was designed for ships much smaller than many of those built today.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection approved the dredging in July, and Massport is waiting for Congress to appropriate $170 million, which could happen this spring. Massport and the state will split the rest of the cost. Design and construction would take about five years, putting the earliest date the port could be ready for post-Panamax ships at 2019.

There’s a lot riding on the expansion. Increased cargo volumes could make the Port of Boston profitable for the first time, said Thomas Glynn, chief executive of Massport, as well as add to the 7,000 jobs at the port, including longshoremen, ship-line workers, and Massport staff.

The dredging and related projects, including bigger cranes and longer berths at Conley Terminal, would allow the port to handle more than twice as many hides, furs, and lumber exports; beer, wine, and furniture imports; and frozen seafood traveling both ways.

An expanded Boston port also could capture New England-bound cargo that comes into the country through New York, which makes up about a third of all New England imports, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers, which would oversee the dredging. That could mean lower prices for local consumers.

“The more difficult it is to get here, the more expensive it is,” said William Eldridge, president of the Boston Shipping Association.

The expansion also is crucial to retaining the two major shipping lines that call on Boston, COSCO and the Mediterranean Shipping Co. The dredging project might not necessarily mean these companies will do more business out of Boston, said Allen Clifford, executive vice president of Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Co., but having the option to use larger ships makes it a more attractive port.

“The container operation is often the linchpin of a port,” said Deborah Hadden, port director at Massport. “It helps us compete in the global marketplace.”

Katie Johnston can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.


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