A new start

After 24 years and around 6000 graphics (I haven’t counted them all) I can announce that today was my last day as graphics editor of New Scientist.


From the first hand drawn graphics, produced using CS10 paper and Rotring pens through to the graphics of today for the magazine and visualisations for the web site and app, I have a had a fantastic time working alongside a dedicated and enthusiastic staff.

I’ve learnt so much and still so much more to learn, and so have decided to set up on my own.

I hope to be able to bring my experience and expertise to the scientific and business world, where there is still much to do.

I would like to thank everybody I have worked with at New Scientist over the years and wish them all the success for the future.

Watch this space for more…

Paper and graphic accepted for publication

Had some good news this week. Have just heard that a paper I have been working on, with Christopher Kaiser-Bunbury over the past few months entitled ‘The nutrient economy of Lodoicea maldivica– the plant that produces the world’s largest seed, has been accepted for publication by New Phytologist journal.

The initial brief was to produce one graphic to cover all of the data produced in an interesting and accessible way. In the end, and after many redraws and sketches, we decided to break up the graphic into the more illustrative part showing water retention and soil uptake and keep the more data-driven graphics separate but still easily read, telling the story as you read through the whole graphic.

A couple of the working drawings…

data CdM sketch

and the final version


Thanks to all involved in this project

Data Visualisation Summit, London

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Last Tuesday and Wednesday I attended and presented at the Data Vis Summit in London organised by the Innovation Enterprise. It was two day event aimed at businesses interested in doing more with their data.

I only had the time to attend the first day, but it was an interesting time. We heard from, amongst others, Louise Blais, Principal Data Architect of the Royal Mail, looking at how visualising data can help work flow amongst managers, Macmillan eduction on how we can better understand schooling and marking plus visualisation at the Times, looking at the iPad graphics and a great presentation from Kenneth Cukier from the Economist looking at big data visualisations.

I was on just before lunch and because things were coming up a bit short I managed to speak for 50 minutes on ‘Infographics and the Communication of Science’ plus lots of great questions after the presentation.

I met lots of great people and learnt a lot, so thank you to the organisers for inviting me, hopefully I can come back next year. Unfortunately, or fortunately, you need to register to see the vid and slides but the link is here https://ieondemand.com/

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 10.06.44and a couple of slides from the presentation


Be wary of imagery in your charts…don’t let the data down

I was alerted today by Alberto Cairo to a piece by Kaiser Fung of Junkcharts talking about (the state of) datavis teaching.

Kaiser cites an example that a reader sent in, from a recent course she had attended, on data visualization for academics.

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This example was held out as an example of good work and the quote that stood out for junkcharts and indeed me, was…

“always try to find a graphic that relates to your subject, like the bullets here representing military spending, and use it in the chart.”

I have spoken to academics and researchers about graphics for the scientist and non-scientist, from my perspective, and have spoken about giving the reader something tangible to relate to. In this case I feel the data has been lost in the execution.

So, is this really a data visualization or just some pictures with numbers printed next to them?

Even if the figures were to be represented by the height of the bullets, it is still portrayed incorrectly. I quickly charted the data to see what it looked like…

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 14.00.27

so quite different from the original. Junkcharts went even further and looked at some more meaningful metric. A scatterplot plotting GPD per head against Military spending per head.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 14.32.34

What this shows is the importance of knowing your data and knowing what you are wanting to show – and more importantly don’t forget the data, its more important than the imagery.

I’m looking forward to seeing what else was sent in

The Atlas of Infographics

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Just heard today that the latest infographic book from Taschen books “Understanding the World. The Atlas of Infographics” featuring 6 or 7 graphics by New Scientist amongst many others, has just been launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Really looking forward to receiving my copy. Thanks to Sandra Rendgen at Taschen for asking me to submit some graphics.

Will post some pictures of the book and pages when I get my hands on it


A history of infographics at New Scientist (well, sort of)

Last week I was clearing up my desk in preparation for an office move in October, when I came across some of my first graphics completed for New Scientist way back in 1990. At that stage I was freelancing for the magazine and had great foresight to keep everything I did and paste them into a ‘scrapbooks’.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 10.05.25

At that stage everything was done on CS10 paper using Rotring pens of various sizes and scraping out mistakes and corrections. Text was printed out from a basic Macintosh II and pasted using cowgum onto an acetate overlay. Colours were specified to the printer as acetate overlays as well – happy days of ink everywhere and the smell of cowgum.

2 1

I posted a couple of the graphics on twitter and LinkedIn to many comments, so I thought I should post a couple here. I will photograph many more and try and catalogue the styles through the years when I get time, but in the meantime enjoy…


To explain is to narrate: How to visualise scientific data. Editorial published

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Just been notified that an editorial has just been published (Italian) in Recenti Progressi in Medicina, taken from my presentation for associali.it annual meeting



Many thanks for all that translated my mumblings into a cohesive form and publishing them including the video

Google translate does a good job if you want to read it