Sunday, November 23, 2014

Online graphics

The department has also had a busy year building online graphics, ranging from HTML packages combining static graphics with narrative to more code intensive interactives.

Below are a few examples the Reuters Graphics team has put together.

Australia wine
This page looks at Australia's vineyards and the affects of climate change. More wineries are choosing to move to the cooler climate of Tasmania.

China's corporate debt
Chinese company debt hit record levels earlier this year and looked likely to accelerate a wave of domestic restructuring and trigger more defaults, as credit repayment problems arose. Our interactive analysed the landscape of company debt in China, showing the extent of the problem. The graphic also allowed a detailed look at each sector as well as information on individual companies.

Gaza damage

This piece took a closer look at UNOSAT data and satellite imagery which was released during the crisis in Gaza earlier this year.

U.S. border crisis

The U.S. has been facing a surge of unaccompanied children arriving from violence-torn El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. This package of graphics accompanied the ongoing story.

The Fed's balancing act
This interactive compares Janet Yellen's first day with past Fed Chairmen and shows how they managed the dual mandate of low inflation and low unemployment. For a detailed write-up on the making of this graphic read this article.

Special reports

Graphics also feature prominently in Reuters Special Reports which investigate the people, trends and issues that are defining the news. Driven by deep, proprietary reporting, Reuters Special Reports uncover new facts and shed new analytical light on topics of international interest.

These stories appear on multiple platforms but they also appear in a variety of formats. The articles are moved and displayed in the same way as regular stories but with two additional formats:

If there are a number of Special Reports on the same subject that make an ongoing series then a microsite is often used to give readers greater access. These microsites are rich in multimedia including both static and interactive graphics. Some of these sites can be accessed here through our Reuters Investigates page.

This piece below, titled "Water's Edge", is a Reuters analysis that finds flooding is increasing along much of the U.S. coastline, forcing many communities into costly, controversial struggles with rising sea levels. The report is based on a Reuters analysis of NOAA tide gauge data. 

Here are some other examples: 

The articles are also laid out in well designed PDFs.
This Fukushima special report shown below revealed that contractors are hiring homeless men to work at Fukushima and shortchanging them on wages amid scant regulatory oversight of the most ambitious radiation clean-up ever attempted. This exclusive Reuters investigation detailed how Japan finds people willing to accept minimum wage to work on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout.

The network diagram below was key to explaining the way contracts are broken down through many layers of subcontractors. This shows the contract structure in Naraha town.

A year at Reuters

It's been well over a year since my last post so I thought it was time for an update. As you may already know I am now Deputy Head of Graphics at ThomsonReuters. I'm based with the graphics team in Singapore, but also working closely with graphics desks in New York and London. In this role, I will focus on strengthening and growing Reuters’ global graphics service to media and financial clients. While I’ll be responsible for managing and directing some of the graphics, I'm still finding the time to work on some projects myself.

(All opinions and statements are my own)

First I'll just give some background to the role graphics play here at ThomsonReuters. We publish to a number of different platforms and in a number of formats. Below are some examples.

Thomson Reuters Eikon

Information graphics are used to accompany stories on ThomsonReuters Eikon, a platform delivering a powerful mix of news, analytics and financial content to desktop and mobile. Eikon has built in charting functions which allow the reader to view and analyse data on thousands of companies, indexes, commodities, currencies and more. See the short videos on charting and interactive mapping via the link here. Custom information graphics are also displayed with stories published through the news section of the platform. 

Media clients

Reuters News Graphics Service (RNGS) is a subscription or pay-per-use infographic service for news publications. Available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic, the service has been trusted and used by news publications around the world  for many years.

RNGS transmits around 5 to 15 graphics per day. Our goal is to produce quality graphics that use reliable data and charting, accurate mapping, clear diagrams and illustrations to cover a range of topics including breaking news, financial and company news, sports, environment, science, features and advance packages for major events. 

Some examples
Below are a few examples of different types of graphics we create. At present, all files transmitted to media clients are static, editable eps files (interactives to come in another post).

Breaking news

Even though it was a year ago, I couldn't touch on breaking news and not mention the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. This interactive is the easiest way to see what graphics we created during the disaster. All of the elements in here were also published to media as static maps and graphics as the news broke.

The department was kept as busy with internal mapping as it was publishing graphics. A lot of details such as distances to/from locations, directional headings, coordinates, navigational waypoints and remote islands were reported during unfolding developments. It was equally important for our own journalists and editors to understand this geography as it was the readers. We contributed to the reporting with a lot of geographical calculations and a lot of this work helped provide accurate detail and sometimes even shape stories.

Daily charts

Here are some examples of the kind of charts we create on a daily basis. The graphic below shows the size of China's' Yuan swap lines with central banks.

This chart shows the extreme temperatures that caused play to be suspended in the Australian Open earlier this year.

Here are some more charts from the department. 

Illustrated graphics

This Fukushima graphic accompanied an in-depth analysis on how the spent fuel will be removed from reactor no. 4. 

The graphic below accompanied a story on GM's ignition switch recall.


This simple but effective chart showed how Tiger Woods regained top spot as golf's no. 1... 

... and this is a similar interactive version we created afterwards.

We published the chart below when Gareth Bale broke the transfer record with a fee of 85 million pounds. We discovered that this was actually less than Ronaldo's fee in 2009 if adjusted for inflation.

We also issued a number of graphics before, during and after major events such as the Tour de France, World Cup and the Olympics but I'll come back to those in a later post.

Features and analysis

Sometimes we can provide background or analysis to an ongoing story such as the Israeli-palestinian conflict as shown below. The chart shows every documented fatality as a result of the conflict.

On a lighter note, this feature graphic (below) documents Marvel Studios' expanding film franchise after the release of Guardians of the Galaxy. It includes lifetime box-office earnings and budgets of films based on Marvel superheroes, including those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Expect some more posts on work from myself as well as work from the rest of the team at  @reutersgraphics

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Picasso's Paintings

This post looks at the work that went into the Picasso graphic which won a gold medal at this year's Malofiej International Infographics awards. It was probably one of the most challenging and labour intensive pieces I've created. 

An exhibition of famed artist Pablo Picasso’s classic work came to  the Heritage Museum in Sha Tin, Hong Kong, last year. But the paintings and sculptures on display were just a tiny fraction of the work the Spaniard produced in his lifetime. The public may be aware of a few of his famous paintings which sold for millions at auction but we wanted to show his prolific career in more detail. 

Making the graphic

We decided to focus mainly on his paintings rather than go into detail on all of his other work. There were two reasons for this. First of all, the exhibition in Hong Kong was almost all paintings so it would be more relevant at the time. The second is that showing all types of work could overcomplicate the graphic, which was already becoming an ambitious piece to portray clearly. 

I wanted the main part of the graphic to work as a timeline showing all of his paintings and the styles he used. After some research we noticed the yearly painting count fluctuated quite a lot and so did the materials used to paint with. This is where I started. 

The source for this information was the Online Picasso Project, a comprehensive database of all documented Picasso artwork and artefacts by Dr. Enrique Mallen, a professor at Sam Houston University in the U.S. Every painting had a detailed profile including materials used, dates, dimensions and so on. After contacting Dr. Mallen I was allowed access to the data which we then processed and compiled into a spreadsheet, which took quite a while. I had some help from our graphics coordinator/researcher on this too. From there I laid out the data in a few different types of chart, experimented but decided to go with a representation of each individual painting as a dot, stacked by year.

The main reason for this is that I wanted to show information on each painting individually. We had access to this very detailed information so it would be a waste just to combine all of these paintings into a yearly total, a bar chart for example. Having each as a dot also allowed me to keep them in chronological order. This would help show any patterns or stories that may emerge as I worked further into the graphic.

First of many spreadsheets. This one for totals - dots

Counting dots

One piece of information we could include on each painting was the material used to paint it. So I went through and split the dots into two colours depending on whether they were mostly oil, watercolour or gouache. Some were a combination so in this situation I used the medium which was listed as being used most or most dominant. Any pieces which used neither such as purely pen, pencil, pastel etc fell into a different category so weren't counted as paintings.

Another layer of information we wanted to include was prices which his paintings sold for. The source for this would be ArtPrice, an online subscription company which compiles and updates art reference databases that cover art auction prices and images from its library of 290,000 auction catalogs.

We had to go through every Picasso painting they had on record and match it to the paintings listed in order on the chart and spreadsheet. Again, this was a huge amount of work as they all had to be sifted through manually using a combination of photos of the painting, dates, title of the piece and sometimes things like exact dimensions and registered owners. Some paintings had the same title and looked similar so they needed extra checking to be absolutely sure we had the correct match.

After all of this was compiled I experimented with ways to show the auction price data, including different weight/shades of the dots, but decided softer separate circles was the way to go. They were drawn up one year at a time then placed on the correct dots.

One year's circles drawn up

I decided on circles because it is easier at first glance to pick out big sales and also dense areas of sales where circles are close to each other or overlap, suggesting popular periods of his work at auction. 

Other information we wanted to include was which paintings were actually on show at the museum in Hong Kong. This would just be a secondary layer and not shown in too much detail so not to clutter the graphic. The names of those paintings were left off but highlighted using a thin black line around some of the dots. This gives a sense of when those particular pieces were painted and oil or watercolour/gouache. It is just as important to show restraint and know what to leave out of a graphic as it is to know what to include.

Picasso's paintings only account for around a quarter of his lifetime's work. A breakdown of his other works such as sculptures, ceramics drawings etc. was addressed with a simple but clear bar chart near the top of the graphic.

Of course all of these elements didn't just slot into place nicely. It takes hours, sometimes days of playing around with them. Trying things in different locations, order and size. Specially the key. This is one of the most important parts of the graphic. If the key isn't clear to the reader then they won't understand the rest of the graphic. I also think it's good to put a few words explaining the concept behind the graphic and how to read it.

Under the timeline we wanted to show more general periods of his work rather than individual pieces. Picasso's style of painting and use of colour changed a lot over his long career. We thought it was important to explain this thoroughly and also show some examples of his paintings. This would also help the reader connect the dots to real artwork. Rather than looking at only the data. A lot of attention was given to the annotation here with plenty of edits. We show information visually but when text is included it's just as important to try and perfect.

 The graphic ran as a full broadsheet back page during the exhibition.