Creating The Book

A lot of people have been emailing asking how I create these images, what software I use and so on. So I thought I’d share a bit of my process with you. I hope you find it helpful.

general approach

As a general rule, I create the images by hand in Adobe Illustrator CS4. It’s an amazingly powerful drawing package. Adobe have a fully functional 30-day trial version to download if you want to take it for a spin.

Data visualization wise, it can output a few basic graphs, but otherwise, it doesn’t render data.

That means, yes, I have to hand position every data point on every single image I create. And, yup, I am that anal.

To be honest, most times, you get a much better, designed, organic result working by hand. Although other times, it’s just an arse.

Hand-creating information designs gives you a better connection to the information you’re working with. It helps you make decisions on the fly while you’re drawing. Above all it’s meticulous and fun. Like painting with data.

Personally I feel that most data needs a degree of sculpting, shaping, editorialising to make it approachable, or useable, or to allow the interesting story or pattern inside to be revealed.

some examples

Timelines: TimeTravel in TV and Film
Yup, we went through 36 drafts of this. Yes, I am a rampant perfectionist. Yes I can be difficult to work with.

Information is Agonizing: Designing The Cover of the book
Creating the UK cover for Information Is Beautiful was an agonizing yet gloriously creative pain in the ass involving over 90 – yes nine-ty – different versions.

Versioning: Because Every Design Is Good For Something
How do you flag and label 142 countries on a single map without choking the result? With great difficulty.

Executing The Exos
200 million stars, 26,000 light year, over 500 planets discovered outside our solar system. How do you visualize that?

More process stuff later. If you have any thoughts or recommendations, feel free to drop me an email. Thanks! David