nature graphics



MAKING CONNECTIONS
Background: In our recent issue, Hongkui Zeng and colleagues present the first brain-wide, mesoscale connectome for a mammalian species — the laboratory mouse — based on cell-type-specific tracing of axonal projections.
Design challenge: This amazing visualization obviously took a lot of work. This from Zeng on how it was created:
"This image shows the brain-wide axonal projection patterns from 21 distinct cortical areas (differentially color coded). This represents 21 mapping experiments selected from the Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas to sample the entire cortex. High resolution images from each experiment are quantified and co-registered into a common 3-D reference space using automated methods. Each of the viral tracer injection sites (source regions), which are in the right hemisphere only, is indicated by a cluster of round spheres. The connectivity paths are created by virtual tractography, namely, each sampled target location (squares) is computationally traced through the highest signal density path back to the injection site. The 3-D visualization is generated using the Brain Explorer(r) program."
-Kelly Krause

MAKING CONNECTIONS

Background: In our recent issue, Hongkui Zeng and colleagues present the first brain-wide, mesoscale connectome for a mammalian species — the laboratory mouse — based on cell-type-specific tracing of axonal projections.

Design challenge: This amazing visualization obviously took a lot of work. This from Zeng on how it was created:

"This image shows the brain-wide axonal projection patterns from 21 distinct cortical areas (differentially color coded). This represents 21 mapping experiments selected from the Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas to sample the entire cortex. High resolution images from each experiment are quantified and co-registered into a common 3-D reference space using automated methods. Each of the viral tracer injection sites (source regions), which are in the right hemisphere only, is indicated by a cluster of round spheres. The connectivity paths are created by virtual tractography, namely, each sampled target location (squares) is computationally traced through the highest signal density path back to the injection site. The 3-D visualization is generated using the Brain Explorer(r) program."

-Kelly Krause

HOW TO KEEP A SECRET
Background: Can you keep secrets safe from eavesdroppers? Yes you can, according to the authors of this paper in our recent issue. 
They argue that recent developments in quantum cryptography, coupled with the fact that we still possess free will, suggest that truly private communication will always be possible, even in a world with access to as yet undiscovered code-breaking technologies.
Design challenge: How to visualize quantum cryptography? We gave this brief to the amazing Andy Potts, who created the stunning cover design (above). The illustration features Alice and Bob (stalwarts of cryptography plots everywhere) and some magic coins, all of which are featured in the piece.
A fascinating read.
-Kelly Krause
 

HOW TO KEEP A SECRET

Background: Can you keep secrets safe from eavesdroppers? Yes you can, according to the authors of this paper in our recent issue. 

They argue that recent developments in quantum cryptography, coupled with the fact that we still possess free will, suggest that truly private communication will always be possible, even in a world with access to as yet undiscovered code-breaking technologies.

Design challenge: How to visualize quantum cryptography? We gave this brief to the amazing Andy Potts, who created the stunning cover design (above). The illustration features Alice and Bob (stalwarts of cryptography plots everywhere) and some magic coins, all of which are featured in the piece.

A fascinating read.

-Kelly Krause

 

PRACTICAL MAKES PERFECT
Background: This week we published an analysis of the state of microfluidics. Lab-on-a-chip microtechnologies have made progress in recent years, and are picking up steam.
Design challenge: When we decided to feature the microfluidics piece on the cover, the question facing us was: photography or illustration? There are some gorgeous devices out there, so photography could have worked.
We reached out to one of the authors, David Beebe, for image suggestions, and he pointed out that it might be more appropriate to do an illustration rather than showing one specific technology in a photograph. 
From Beebe: “The impact will likely come in many areas/fields of research or conversely there is unlikely to be a single ‘killer application’  … we don’t want to convey a bunch of gee whiz cool widgets, rather that the field is moving now towards practical implementation and real impact”
Beebe sent over a quick sketch of how we might take a more conceptual, illustrative approach (second image).
We took Beebe’s advice and concentrated on doing an illustrated concept cover, to convey the idea of a field of science that is moving towards a more practical phase, with many solutions.  I gave the brief to one of the designers in Nature’s art team, Jasiek Krzysztofiak, who came up with the brilliant idea of using a Swiss army knife as a metaphor.
The final cover art shows a generic microfluid chip design, as the base of the ‘knife’ (in red), with the familiar tools of the Swiss army knife completing the visual. The blue wavy background is a clever nod to the presence of fluids.
-Kelly Krause PRACTICAL MAKES PERFECT
Background: This week we published an analysis of the state of microfluidics. Lab-on-a-chip microtechnologies have made progress in recent years, and are picking up steam.
Design challenge: When we decided to feature the microfluidics piece on the cover, the question facing us was: photography or illustration? There are some gorgeous devices out there, so photography could have worked.
We reached out to one of the authors, David Beebe, for image suggestions, and he pointed out that it might be more appropriate to do an illustration rather than showing one specific technology in a photograph. 
From Beebe: “The impact will likely come in many areas/fields of research or conversely there is unlikely to be a single ‘killer application’  … we don’t want to convey a bunch of gee whiz cool widgets, rather that the field is moving now towards practical implementation and real impact”
Beebe sent over a quick sketch of how we might take a more conceptual, illustrative approach (second image).
We took Beebe’s advice and concentrated on doing an illustrated concept cover, to convey the idea of a field of science that is moving towards a more practical phase, with many solutions.  I gave the brief to one of the designers in Nature’s art team, Jasiek Krzysztofiak, who came up with the brilliant idea of using a Swiss army knife as a metaphor.
The final cover art shows a generic microfluid chip design, as the base of the ‘knife’ (in red), with the familiar tools of the Swiss army knife completing the visual. The blue wavy background is a clever nod to the presence of fluids.
-Kelly Krause

PRACTICAL MAKES PERFECT

Background: This week we published an analysis of the state of microfluidics. Lab-on-a-chip microtechnologies have made progress in recent years, and are picking up steam.

Design challenge: When we decided to feature the microfluidics piece on the cover, the question facing us was: photography or illustration? There are some gorgeous devices out there, so photography could have worked.

We reached out to one of the authors, David Beebe, for image suggestions, and he pointed out that it might be more appropriate to do an illustration rather than showing one specific technology in a photograph. 

From Beebe: “The impact will likely come in many areas/fields of research or conversely there is unlikely to be a single ‘killer application’  … we don’t want to convey a bunch of gee whiz cool widgets, rather that the field is moving now towards practical implementation and real impact”

Beebe sent over a quick sketch of how we might take a more conceptual, illustrative approach (second image).

We took Beebe’s advice and concentrated on doing an illustrated concept cover, to convey the idea of a field of science that is moving towards a more practical phase, with many solutions.  I gave the brief to one of the designers in Nature’s art team, Jasiek Krzysztofiak, who came up with the brilliant idea of using a Swiss army knife as a metaphor.

The final cover art shows a generic microfluid chip design, as the base of the ‘knife’ (in red), with the familiar tools of the Swiss army knife completing the visual. The blue wavy background is a clever nod to the presence of fluids.

-Kelly Krause

MEET THE DROPLETONS
Background: New quasiparticles are rare but here’s one.
(The cover paper: Quantum droplets of electrons and holes.) 
Design challenge: How to visualize something completely new? The cover picture illustrates our first glimpse at the quasiparticle the authors discovered, called the dropleton, that consists of a tiny liquid-like bubble of electrons and holes. The step-like structure shown in red and blue shading stems from the dropleton’s quantized energy levels, each having a different number of rings in the quantum-mechanical distribution (overlaid). [Note: thanks to Mack Kira for the explanation.]



 



 

Cover artist Brad Baxley explains his creative process:
"Quite often, deciding which aspect of quantum research to visualize is the toughest part. The choice lies between depicting reality and representing reality. I have found each taps a different mode of creativity. In trying to depict reality, there might be an effort to imagine what it would be like to be very small and right in the middle of what is going on down there. In representations, we develop conventions to communicate certain ideas. 
This cover design is a representation that was generated using a rather vast workflow (custom method of working involving multiple software and the mitigation between them) in order to use key data outputs, directly from the investigators, and arrange them in a way that attempts to reveal certain relationships. Ultimately, I think we arrived at a rather elegant solution.”
Agreed!
-Kelly Krause 

MEET THE DROPLETONS

Background: New quasiparticles are rare but here’s one.

(The cover paper: Quantum droplets of electrons and holes.) 

Design challenge: How to visualize something completely new? The cover picture illustrates our first glimpse at the quasiparticle the authors discovered, called the dropleton, that consists of a tiny liquid-like bubble of electrons and holes. The step-like structure shown in red and blue shading stems from the dropleton’s quantized energy levels, each having a different number of rings in the quantum-mechanical distribution (overlaid). [Note: thanks to Mack Kira for the explanation.]

Cover artist Brad Baxley explains his creative process:

"Quite often, deciding which aspect of quantum research to visualize is the toughest part. The choice lies between depicting reality and representing reality. I have found each taps a different mode of creativity. In trying to depict reality, there might be an effort to imagine what it would be like to be very small and right in the middle of what is going on down there. In representations, we develop conventions to communicate certain ideas.

This cover design is a representation that was generated using a rather vast workflow (custom method of working involving multiple software and the mitigation between them) in order to use key data outputs, directly from the investigators, and arrange them in a way that attempts to reveal certain relationships. Ultimately, I think we arrived at a rather elegant solution.”

Agreed!

-Kelly Krause 

DEATH OF A COMET

Background: This week we take a look at the dramatic death of the sun-grazing comet ISON. (All of the Solar System’s comets travel around the Sun, but sun-grazers are those that fly within about three solar radii of the star’s centre, some 1.4 million kilometres above its surface). 
As ISON sailed into the inner Solar System, expectations grew quickly among astronomers and amateur skywatchers. But it was to end in tragedy for poor ISON, as the comet disintegrated spectacularly in November, just hours before it was set to sweep past the Sun.
Read the full story here.
Design challenge: The challenge was to tie a collection of images—shots from telescopes that were watching the comet ISON as it passed into the Solar System toward the sun, and then disintegrated on the other side—with a graphic that showed the path of ISON from the distant Oort Cloud and then on through the Solar System.
We started with a sketch (bottom image).
For accuracy: There are many pictures of the comet ISON available, as there were thousands of telescopes trained on the comet as sped towards the Sun.  There were also videos from space telescopes, as well as NASA animations available which had projected the path of ISON through the Solar System.
The challenge was to give a snapshot graphic of the comet and its path towards the Sun that combined telescope images with information about the location of the space telescopes. One of the most interesting aspects for me was that ISON was videoed passing Earth by the STEREO telescopes that were on the other side of the Sun to Earth. I really wanted to convey this in the graphic.
(More info about the position of the STEREO telescopes.) 
Final design: I decided to show the telescope images in a linear arrangement, tagged to a graphic of ISONs route through the solar system. Then I showed the positions of the space telescopes that gave the near-Earth and -Sun images in an inset, and link these to the images in the timeline.
-Nik Spencer

DEATH OF A COMET

Background: This week we take a look at the dramatic death of the sun-grazing comet ISON. (All of the Solar System’s comets travel around the Sun, but sun-grazers are those that fly within about three solar radii of the star’s centre, some 1.4 million kilometres above its surface). 
As ISON sailed into the inner Solar System, expectations grew quickly among astronomers and amateur skywatchers. But it was to end in tragedy for poor ISON, as the comet disintegrated spectacularly in November, just hours before it was set to sweep past the Sun.
Read the full story here.
Design challenge: The challenge was to tie a collection of images—shots from telescopes that were watching the comet ISON as it passed into the Solar System toward the sun, and then disintegrated on the other side—with a graphic that showed the path of ISON from the distant Oort Cloud and then on through the Solar System.
We started with a sketch (bottom image).
For accuracy: There are many pictures of the comet ISON available, as there were thousands of telescopes trained on the comet as sped towards the Sun.  There were also videos from space telescopes, as well as NASA animations available which had projected the path of ISON through the Solar System.
The challenge was to give a snapshot graphic of the comet and its path towards the Sun that combined telescope images with information about the location of the space telescopes. One of the most interesting aspects for me was that ISON was videoed passing Earth by the STEREO telescopes that were on the other side of the Sun to Earth. I really wanted to convey this in the graphic.
(More info about the position of the STEREO telescopes.) 
Final design: I decided to show the telescope images in a linear arrangement, tagged to a graphic of ISONs route through the solar system. Then I showed the positions of the space telescopes that gave the near-Earth and -Sun images in an inset, and link these to the images in the timeline.
-Nik Spencer

DEATH OF A COMET

Background: This week we take a look at the dramatic death of the sun-grazing comet ISON. (All of the Solar System’s comets travel around the Sun, but sun-grazers are those that fly within about three solar radii of the star’s centre, some 1.4 million kilometres above its surface).

As ISON sailed into the inner Solar System, expectations grew quickly among astronomers and amateur skywatchers. But it was to end in tragedy for poor ISON, as the comet disintegrated spectacularly in November, just hours before it was set to sweep past the Sun.

Read the full story here.

Design challenge: The challenge was to tie a collection of images—shots from telescopes that were watching the comet ISON as it passed into the Solar System toward the sun, and then disintegrated on the other side—with a graphic that showed the path of ISON from the distant Oort Cloud and then on through the Solar System.

We started with a sketch (bottom image).

For accuracy: There are many pictures of the comet ISON available, as there were thousands of telescopes trained on the comet as sped towards the Sun.  There were also videos from space telescopes, as well as NASA animations available which had projected the path of ISON through the Solar System.

The challenge was to give a snapshot graphic of the comet and its path towards the Sun that combined telescope images with information about the location of the space telescopes. One of the most interesting aspects for me was that ISON was videoed passing Earth by the STEREO telescopes that were on the other side of the Sun to Earth. I really wanted to convey this in the graphic.

(More info about the position of the STEREO telescopes.) 

Final design: I decided to show the telescope images in a linear arrangement, tagged to a graphic of ISONs route through the solar system. Then I showed the positions of the space telescopes that gave the near-Earth and -Sun images in an inset, and link these to the images in the timeline.

-Nik Spencer

DOWNHILL FORECAST
Background: This week in Nature we take a look at how rising temperatures are affecting ski resorts around the world. Desperate measures have been taken to ensure suitable conditions for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi where despite 10 degrees C  (50 F) winter temperatures, the snow is being guaranteed by stockpiling over previous winters and through the use of various chemically-cooled indoor arenas.
The future of the Winter Olympics is uncertain and climatologists predict that even under a best-case scenario almost half the venues that have hosted the Winter Olympics over the last century could be unable to do so by 2080. 
(Read the story here. Find a high resolution PDF of the graphic here.)
Design challenge: We set out to create a graphic was to: 1) provide a view of how climate change is affecting ski conditions differently in several resorts across the world; and 2) take a closer look at a few key areas such as the Alps, the Rockies and New Zealand.
Page design
We decided to use a world map as the main structure for the spread which would act as a locator and also contain more specific data about the Winter Olympic sites. I drafted a very quick rough layout with some basic ideas for the graphics and where they would all sit on page (second image from top).
At the start, the graphics included: a global overview of the snow extent in the Northern Hemisphere and how it has dropped over the past decade; the locations of previous Winter Olympic host cities and projections for how reliable the snow conditions will be in 2080; a focus on Aspen Mountain with it’s predicted receding snow line; the forecast for the length of the ski season across resorts in the alps and finally an undecided graphic for ski conditions in New Zealand.
Graphic challenge
For the New Zealand graphic, we finally settled on showing the projected change of the snow depth at two different elevations. I thought this was an opportunity to have some fun with the graphic style so I decided to try a 3D view with the data acting like snow ramps for little snowboarders (bottom image, left).
Unfortunately, the data I used wasn’t quite right for the message we wanted to convey. The ‘correct’ data unfortunately didn’t allow me to create quite the same effect but I wasn’t going to give up that easily!
I only had 3 data points for 3 different projection so in the end I decided to plot these as a 3D model with height on the x-axis and number of snow-days on the z-axis. The y-axis here is technically arbitrary but I thought the final aesthetic worked well and created an interesting visual, highlighting the changing snow conditions in New Zealand (bottom image, right).
The final touch was to change the silhouette snowboarder into a more detailed illustration, jumping off the New Zealand slope.
-Wes Fernandes

DOWNHILL FORECAST
Background: This week in Nature we take a look at how rising temperatures are affecting ski resorts around the world. Desperate measures have been taken to ensure suitable conditions for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi where despite 10 degrees C  (50 F) winter temperatures, the snow is being guaranteed by stockpiling over previous winters and through the use of various chemically-cooled indoor arenas.
The future of the Winter Olympics is uncertain and climatologists predict that even under a best-case scenario almost half the venues that have hosted the Winter Olympics over the last century could be unable to do so by 2080. 
(Read the story here. Find a high resolution PDF of the graphic here.)
Design challenge: We set out to create a graphic was to: 1) provide a view of how climate change is affecting ski conditions differently in several resorts across the world; and 2) take a closer look at a few key areas such as the Alps, the Rockies and New Zealand.
Page design
We decided to use a world map as the main structure for the spread which would act as a locator and also contain more specific data about the Winter Olympic sites. I drafted a very quick rough layout with some basic ideas for the graphics and where they would all sit on page (second image from top).
At the start, the graphics included: a global overview of the snow extent in the Northern Hemisphere and how it has dropped over the past decade; the locations of previous Winter Olympic host cities and projections for how reliable the snow conditions will be in 2080; a focus on Aspen Mountain with it’s predicted receding snow line; the forecast for the length of the ski season across resorts in the alps and finally an undecided graphic for ski conditions in New Zealand.
Graphic challenge
For the New Zealand graphic, we finally settled on showing the projected change of the snow depth at two different elevations. I thought this was an opportunity to have some fun with the graphic style so I decided to try a 3D view with the data acting like snow ramps for little snowboarders (bottom image, left).
Unfortunately, the data I used wasn’t quite right for the message we wanted to convey. The ‘correct’ data unfortunately didn’t allow me to create quite the same effect but I wasn’t going to give up that easily!
I only had 3 data points for 3 different projection so in the end I decided to plot these as a 3D model with height on the x-axis and number of snow-days on the z-axis. The y-axis here is technically arbitrary but I thought the final aesthetic worked well and created an interesting visual, highlighting the changing snow conditions in New Zealand (bottom image, right).
The final touch was to change the silhouette snowboarder into a more detailed illustration, jumping off the New Zealand slope.
-Wes Fernandes

DOWNHILL FORECAST
Background: This week in Nature we take a look at how rising temperatures are affecting ski resorts around the world. Desperate measures have been taken to ensure suitable conditions for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi where despite 10 degrees C  (50 F) winter temperatures, the snow is being guaranteed by stockpiling over previous winters and through the use of various chemically-cooled indoor arenas.
The future of the Winter Olympics is uncertain and climatologists predict that even under a best-case scenario almost half the venues that have hosted the Winter Olympics over the last century could be unable to do so by 2080. 
(Read the story here. Find a high resolution PDF of the graphic here.)
Design challenge: We set out to create a graphic was to: 1) provide a view of how climate change is affecting ski conditions differently in several resorts across the world; and 2) take a closer look at a few key areas such as the Alps, the Rockies and New Zealand.
Page design
We decided to use a world map as the main structure for the spread which would act as a locator and also contain more specific data about the Winter Olympic sites. I drafted a very quick rough layout with some basic ideas for the graphics and where they would all sit on page (second image from top).
At the start, the graphics included: a global overview of the snow extent in the Northern Hemisphere and how it has dropped over the past decade; the locations of previous Winter Olympic host cities and projections for how reliable the snow conditions will be in 2080; a focus on Aspen Mountain with it’s predicted receding snow line; the forecast for the length of the ski season across resorts in the alps and finally an undecided graphic for ski conditions in New Zealand.
Graphic challenge
For the New Zealand graphic, we finally settled on showing the projected change of the snow depth at two different elevations. I thought this was an opportunity to have some fun with the graphic style so I decided to try a 3D view with the data acting like snow ramps for little snowboarders (bottom image, left).
Unfortunately, the data I used wasn’t quite right for the message we wanted to convey. The ‘correct’ data unfortunately didn’t allow me to create quite the same effect but I wasn’t going to give up that easily!
I only had 3 data points for 3 different projection so in the end I decided to plot these as a 3D model with height on the x-axis and number of snow-days on the z-axis. The y-axis here is technically arbitrary but I thought the final aesthetic worked well and created an interesting visual, highlighting the changing snow conditions in New Zealand (bottom image, right).
The final touch was to change the silhouette snowboarder into a more detailed illustration, jumping off the New Zealand slope.
-Wes Fernandes

DOWNHILL FORECAST

Background: This week in Nature we take a look at how rising temperatures are affecting ski resorts around the world. Desperate measures have been taken to ensure suitable conditions for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi where despite 10 degrees C  (50 F) winter temperatures, the snow is being guaranteed by stockpiling over previous winters and through the use of various chemically-cooled indoor arenas.

The future of the Winter Olympics is uncertain and climatologists predict that even under a best-case scenario almost half the venues that have hosted the Winter Olympics over the last century could be unable to do so by 2080. 

(Read the story here. Find a high resolution PDF of the graphic here.)

Design challenge: We set out to create a graphic was to: 1) provide a view of how climate change is affecting ski conditions differently in several resorts across the world; and 2) take a closer look at a few key areas such as the Alps, the Rockies and New Zealand.

Page design

We decided to use a world map as the main structure for the spread which would act as a locator and also contain more specific data about the Winter Olympic sites. I drafted a very quick rough layout with some basic ideas for the graphics and where they would all sit on page (second image from top).

At the start, the graphics included: a global overview of the snow extent in the Northern Hemisphere and how it has dropped over the past decade; the locations of previous Winter Olympic host cities and projections for how reliable the snow conditions will be in 2080; a focus on Aspen Mountain with it’s predicted receding snow line; the forecast for the length of the ski season across resorts in the alps and finally an undecided graphic for ski conditions in New Zealand.

Graphic challenge

For the New Zealand graphic, we finally settled on showing the projected change of the snow depth at two different elevations. I thought this was an opportunity to have some fun with the graphic style so I decided to try a 3D view with the data acting like snow ramps for little snowboarders (bottom image, left).

Unfortunately, the data I used wasn’t quite right for the message we wanted to convey. The ‘correct’ data unfortunately didn’t allow me to create quite the same effect but I wasn’t going to give up that easily!

I only had 3 data points for 3 different projection so in the end I decided to plot these as a 3D model with height on the x-axis and number of snow-days on the z-axis. The y-axis here is technically arbitrary but I thought the final aesthetic worked well and created an interesting visual, highlighting the changing snow conditions in New Zealand (bottom image, right).

The final touch was to change the silhouette snowboarder into a more detailed illustration, jumping off the New Zealand slope.

-Wes Fernandes

ATOMIC SECRETS
Background: This week features a special issue marking the 100th anniversary of X-ray crystallography. The importance of crystallography in modern science cannot be overstated, but it’s not exactly a household term, so if you are not familiar with the topic, here is a fun, short explanatory video by the Guardian.
Design challenge: We decided to create a graphic spread (top image above, and pdf here) that would show the evolution of crystallography over the past century. 
The spread was to contain: 1) a timeline of major discoveries and and technological advances; 2) a graphic explaining the basic science behind crystallography; and 3) graphs to show the rise in structural discoveries over the years, and the improvement in resolutions achieved over time.
We started with a few sketches by the editor (second image above).
Design:
The first challenge was to filter through a vast amount of information and establish how much we could fit onto a double-page spread. I outlined a split-page arrangement, with a guide to the number of timeline entries we could have along with pictures, and positioned the intro text with explainer graphic on the left, and the data graphs on the right. These were aligned in the same timescale as the timeline below. This structural alignment of time had to be made clear in the final layout, otherwise it was in danger of being missed behind all the information on page.
Intro illustration (last image above):
Here the challenge was to produce an attractive graphic, that combined the basic experimental set up used in early crystallography experiments, the technical aspects of x-ray interference through crystal structures, and the concept of diffracted x rays then being detected on a screen. We also wanted to include a real x-ray diffraction pattern from the first crystallography experiment. Because of the complex science involved, arranging these elements together took many iterations and revisions.
If you visit the graphic online, you can either download the print spread, or view some of the images as 3D videos.
-Nik Spencer
(PS. The story behind the 100th anniversary cover illustration can be found here.) ATOMIC SECRETS
Background: This week features a special issue marking the 100th anniversary of X-ray crystallography. The importance of crystallography in modern science cannot be overstated, but it’s not exactly a household term, so if you are not familiar with the topic, here is a fun, short explanatory video by the Guardian.
Design challenge: We decided to create a graphic spread (top image above, and pdf here) that would show the evolution of crystallography over the past century. 
The spread was to contain: 1) a timeline of major discoveries and and technological advances; 2) a graphic explaining the basic science behind crystallography; and 3) graphs to show the rise in structural discoveries over the years, and the improvement in resolutions achieved over time.
We started with a few sketches by the editor (second image above).
Design:
The first challenge was to filter through a vast amount of information and establish how much we could fit onto a double-page spread. I outlined a split-page arrangement, with a guide to the number of timeline entries we could have along with pictures, and positioned the intro text with explainer graphic on the left, and the data graphs on the right. These were aligned in the same timescale as the timeline below. This structural alignment of time had to be made clear in the final layout, otherwise it was in danger of being missed behind all the information on page.
Intro illustration (last image above):
Here the challenge was to produce an attractive graphic, that combined the basic experimental set up used in early crystallography experiments, the technical aspects of x-ray interference through crystal structures, and the concept of diffracted x rays then being detected on a screen. We also wanted to include a real x-ray diffraction pattern from the first crystallography experiment. Because of the complex science involved, arranging these elements together took many iterations and revisions.
If you visit the graphic online, you can either download the print spread, or view some of the images as 3D videos.
-Nik Spencer
(PS. The story behind the 100th anniversary cover illustration can be found here.) ATOMIC SECRETS
Background: This week features a special issue marking the 100th anniversary of X-ray crystallography. The importance of crystallography in modern science cannot be overstated, but it’s not exactly a household term, so if you are not familiar with the topic, here is a fun, short explanatory video by the Guardian.
Design challenge: We decided to create a graphic spread (top image above, and pdf here) that would show the evolution of crystallography over the past century. 
The spread was to contain: 1) a timeline of major discoveries and and technological advances; 2) a graphic explaining the basic science behind crystallography; and 3) graphs to show the rise in structural discoveries over the years, and the improvement in resolutions achieved over time.
We started with a few sketches by the editor (second image above).
Design:
The first challenge was to filter through a vast amount of information and establish how much we could fit onto a double-page spread. I outlined a split-page arrangement, with a guide to the number of timeline entries we could have along with pictures, and positioned the intro text with explainer graphic on the left, and the data graphs on the right. These were aligned in the same timescale as the timeline below. This structural alignment of time had to be made clear in the final layout, otherwise it was in danger of being missed behind all the information on page.
Intro illustration (last image above):
Here the challenge was to produce an attractive graphic, that combined the basic experimental set up used in early crystallography experiments, the technical aspects of x-ray interference through crystal structures, and the concept of diffracted x rays then being detected on a screen. We also wanted to include a real x-ray diffraction pattern from the first crystallography experiment. Because of the complex science involved, arranging these elements together took many iterations and revisions.
If you visit the graphic online, you can either download the print spread, or view some of the images as 3D videos.
-Nik Spencer
(PS. The story behind the 100th anniversary cover illustration can be found here.)

ATOMIC SECRETS

Background: This week features a special issue marking the 100th anniversary of X-ray crystallography. The importance of crystallography in modern science cannot be overstated, but it’s not exactly a household term, so if you are not familiar with the topic, here is a fun, short explanatory video by the Guardian.

Design challenge: We decided to create a graphic spread (top image above, and pdf here) that would show the evolution of crystallography over the past century.

The spread was to contain: 1) a timeline of major discoveries and and technological advances; 2) a graphic explaining the basic science behind crystallography; and 3) graphs to show the rise in structural discoveries over the years, and the improvement in resolutions achieved over time.

We started with a few sketches by the editor (second image above).

Design:

The first challenge was to filter through a vast amount of information and establish how much we could fit onto a double-page spread. I outlined a split-page arrangement, with a guide to the number of timeline entries we could have along with pictures, and positioned the intro text with explainer graphic on the left, and the data graphs on the right. These were aligned in the same timescale as the timeline below. This structural alignment of time had to be made clear in the final layout, otherwise it was in danger of being missed behind all the information on page.

Intro illustration (last image above):

Here the challenge was to produce an attractive graphic, that combined the basic experimental set up used in early crystallography experiments, the technical aspects of x-ray interference through crystal structures, and the concept of diffracted x rays then being detected on a screen. We also wanted to include a real x-ray diffraction pattern from the first crystallography experiment. Because of the complex science involved, arranging these elements together took many iterations and revisions.

If you visit the graphic online, you can either download the print spread, or view some of the images as 3D videos.

-Nik Spencer

(PS. The story behind the 100th anniversary cover illustration can be found here.)

WHY BIRDS FLY IN A ‘V’ FORMATION
Background: Today’s issue contains research that elegantly explains why some birds fly in a V formation. It has long been speculated that birds fly in a ‘V’ to save energy, but this paper answers the question in a rigorous study, with some surprises as well.
 The data reveal a sophisticated and dynamic process of in-flight control. Birds in the V phase their wing-beats to path-match, allowing a trailing bird to exploit the aerodynamic upwash from the bird in front. A bird flying directly behind, however, flaps with opposite phasing in order to minimize the detrimental downwash from the leader’s wings. All this must require the birds to have developed a range of phasing strategies to cope with the dynamic wakes produced by flapping wings. 
(See news story here for an excellent summary.)
Design challenge, cover:
To study the behaviour of Northern bald ibises during migratory flight, Steve Portugal and his team of researchers mounted custom-built data loggers on 14 ibises that accurately measured the body position and flapping dynamics of each bird. The cover photograph was taking during a human-led migratory flight, so what you don’t see in this particular shot is the aircraft used by the research team to observe the birds. What you can see, however, if you look closely, are the data loggers mounted on the birds.
The team did a fantastic job of documenting their research with quality, high resolution photography, allowing us to showcase their work on our print cover. A similar photo is used in Fig 1 of their paper.
Using a photo from the study over a possibly more stunning stock image of a V formation on the cover was a no-brainer. It’s really amazing to see the actual ibises at work. (Photo by M. Unsold.)
Design challenge, graphic:
This from Jasiek Krzysztofiak, who created this explainer graphic for the News and Views piece on the paper:
"The aim of the graphic (last image) is to show the air flow behind leading bird in the perspective view. Coloured surfaces indicate the trail of birds’ wings where red represent upwash and blue downwash air flows. Arrows going around the wings explain how the circular wingtip vortex is generated during the flight. Inset at the bottom shows both birds in the front view. The trailing bird moves its right wing through blue upwash area created by the leading bird, resulting in more energy saving movement.
There may have been a better way of showing this than using a gradient, but in the end we all agreed that it effectively explained the process.”
Design challenge, animation:
This from Chris Ryan, who created the animated explainer portion of this excellent video.
"Here in the Nature art dept we love collaborating with our pals in the video team.
When they suggested we put together an animation to help explain the mechanics of bird flight, well it sounded like a lot of fun.
Browsing through tutorial sites revealed lots of tips and tricks to ‘fake’ the appearance of a bird flapping its wings using Adobe After Effects. However none of the examples I found looked convincing enough for our purpose.
Luckily I had been given a book on hand-drawn animation techniques for Christmas so I referenced one of the exercises contained within to put together a very messy approximation of a Northern Bald Ibis flapping its wings on 9 consecutive pages of my sketchbook (see animated gif and sketch, top images).
I then photographed each page with my phone in order to bring the frames into Photoshop to tidy them up and add some colour.
From that point exporting the frames as an image sequence to be imported into After Effects was very easy. Once inside After Effects the animation could be looped, repeated and moved around the screen to create multiple flapping birds.
The yellow wave which represents the wing tip path of the leading bird was simply created by drawing a straight line and then applying After Effects’ Wave Warp effect to generate a sine wave.
Many thanks to Jim Usherwood at the Royal Veterinary College for his expert advice.”
-Kelly Krause, Jasiek Krzysztofiak, and Chris Ryan WHY BIRDS FLY IN A ‘V’ FORMATION
Background: Today’s issue contains research that elegantly explains why some birds fly in a V formation. It has long been speculated that birds fly in a ‘V’ to save energy, but this paper answers the question in a rigorous study, with some surprises as well.
 The data reveal a sophisticated and dynamic process of in-flight control. Birds in the V phase their wing-beats to path-match, allowing a trailing bird to exploit the aerodynamic upwash from the bird in front. A bird flying directly behind, however, flaps with opposite phasing in order to minimize the detrimental downwash from the leader’s wings. All this must require the birds to have developed a range of phasing strategies to cope with the dynamic wakes produced by flapping wings. 
(See news story here for an excellent summary.)
Design challenge, cover:
To study the behaviour of Northern bald ibises during migratory flight, Steve Portugal and his team of researchers mounted custom-built data loggers on 14 ibises that accurately measured the body position and flapping dynamics of each bird. The cover photograph was taking during a human-led migratory flight, so what you don’t see in this particular shot is the aircraft used by the research team to observe the birds. What you can see, however, if you look closely, are the data loggers mounted on the birds.
The team did a fantastic job of documenting their research with quality, high resolution photography, allowing us to showcase their work on our print cover. A similar photo is used in Fig 1 of their paper.
Using a photo from the study over a possibly more stunning stock image of a V formation on the cover was a no-brainer. It’s really amazing to see the actual ibises at work. (Photo by M. Unsold.)
Design challenge, graphic:
This from Jasiek Krzysztofiak, who created this explainer graphic for the News and Views piece on the paper:
"The aim of the graphic (last image) is to show the air flow behind leading bird in the perspective view. Coloured surfaces indicate the trail of birds’ wings where red represent upwash and blue downwash air flows. Arrows going around the wings explain how the circular wingtip vortex is generated during the flight. Inset at the bottom shows both birds in the front view. The trailing bird moves its right wing through blue upwash area created by the leading bird, resulting in more energy saving movement.
There may have been a better way of showing this than using a gradient, but in the end we all agreed that it effectively explained the process.”
Design challenge, animation:
This from Chris Ryan, who created the animated explainer portion of this excellent video.
"Here in the Nature art dept we love collaborating with our pals in the video team.
When they suggested we put together an animation to help explain the mechanics of bird flight, well it sounded like a lot of fun.
Browsing through tutorial sites revealed lots of tips and tricks to ‘fake’ the appearance of a bird flapping its wings using Adobe After Effects. However none of the examples I found looked convincing enough for our purpose.
Luckily I had been given a book on hand-drawn animation techniques for Christmas so I referenced one of the exercises contained within to put together a very messy approximation of a Northern Bald Ibis flapping its wings on 9 consecutive pages of my sketchbook (see animated gif and sketch, top images).
I then photographed each page with my phone in order to bring the frames into Photoshop to tidy them up and add some colour.
From that point exporting the frames as an image sequence to be imported into After Effects was very easy. Once inside After Effects the animation could be looped, repeated and moved around the screen to create multiple flapping birds.
The yellow wave which represents the wing tip path of the leading bird was simply created by drawing a straight line and then applying After Effects’ Wave Warp effect to generate a sine wave.
Many thanks to Jim Usherwood at the Royal Veterinary College for his expert advice.”
-Kelly Krause, Jasiek Krzysztofiak, and Chris Ryan WHY BIRDS FLY IN A ‘V’ FORMATION
Background: Today’s issue contains research that elegantly explains why some birds fly in a V formation. It has long been speculated that birds fly in a ‘V’ to save energy, but this paper answers the question in a rigorous study, with some surprises as well.
 The data reveal a sophisticated and dynamic process of in-flight control. Birds in the V phase their wing-beats to path-match, allowing a trailing bird to exploit the aerodynamic upwash from the bird in front. A bird flying directly behind, however, flaps with opposite phasing in order to minimize the detrimental downwash from the leader’s wings. All this must require the birds to have developed a range of phasing strategies to cope with the dynamic wakes produced by flapping wings. 
(See news story here for an excellent summary.)
Design challenge, cover:
To study the behaviour of Northern bald ibises during migratory flight, Steve Portugal and his team of researchers mounted custom-built data loggers on 14 ibises that accurately measured the body position and flapping dynamics of each bird. The cover photograph was taking during a human-led migratory flight, so what you don’t see in this particular shot is the aircraft used by the research team to observe the birds. What you can see, however, if you look closely, are the data loggers mounted on the birds.
The team did a fantastic job of documenting their research with quality, high resolution photography, allowing us to showcase their work on our print cover. A similar photo is used in Fig 1 of their paper.
Using a photo from the study over a possibly more stunning stock image of a V formation on the cover was a no-brainer. It’s really amazing to see the actual ibises at work. (Photo by M. Unsold.)
Design challenge, graphic:
This from Jasiek Krzysztofiak, who created this explainer graphic for the News and Views piece on the paper:
"The aim of the graphic (last image) is to show the air flow behind leading bird in the perspective view. Coloured surfaces indicate the trail of birds’ wings where red represent upwash and blue downwash air flows. Arrows going around the wings explain how the circular wingtip vortex is generated during the flight. Inset at the bottom shows both birds in the front view. The trailing bird moves its right wing through blue upwash area created by the leading bird, resulting in more energy saving movement.
There may have been a better way of showing this than using a gradient, but in the end we all agreed that it effectively explained the process.”
Design challenge, animation:
This from Chris Ryan, who created the animated explainer portion of this excellent video.
"Here in the Nature art dept we love collaborating with our pals in the video team.
When they suggested we put together an animation to help explain the mechanics of bird flight, well it sounded like a lot of fun.
Browsing through tutorial sites revealed lots of tips and tricks to ‘fake’ the appearance of a bird flapping its wings using Adobe After Effects. However none of the examples I found looked convincing enough for our purpose.
Luckily I had been given a book on hand-drawn animation techniques for Christmas so I referenced one of the exercises contained within to put together a very messy approximation of a Northern Bald Ibis flapping its wings on 9 consecutive pages of my sketchbook (see animated gif and sketch, top images).
I then photographed each page with my phone in order to bring the frames into Photoshop to tidy them up and add some colour.
From that point exporting the frames as an image sequence to be imported into After Effects was very easy. Once inside After Effects the animation could be looped, repeated and moved around the screen to create multiple flapping birds.
The yellow wave which represents the wing tip path of the leading bird was simply created by drawing a straight line and then applying After Effects’ Wave Warp effect to generate a sine wave.
Many thanks to Jim Usherwood at the Royal Veterinary College for his expert advice.”
-Kelly Krause, Jasiek Krzysztofiak, and Chris Ryan WHY BIRDS FLY IN A ‘V’ FORMATION
Background: Today’s issue contains research that elegantly explains why some birds fly in a V formation. It has long been speculated that birds fly in a ‘V’ to save energy, but this paper answers the question in a rigorous study, with some surprises as well.
 The data reveal a sophisticated and dynamic process of in-flight control. Birds in the V phase their wing-beats to path-match, allowing a trailing bird to exploit the aerodynamic upwash from the bird in front. A bird flying directly behind, however, flaps with opposite phasing in order to minimize the detrimental downwash from the leader’s wings. All this must require the birds to have developed a range of phasing strategies to cope with the dynamic wakes produced by flapping wings. 
(See news story here for an excellent summary.)
Design challenge, cover:
To study the behaviour of Northern bald ibises during migratory flight, Steve Portugal and his team of researchers mounted custom-built data loggers on 14 ibises that accurately measured the body position and flapping dynamics of each bird. The cover photograph was taking during a human-led migratory flight, so what you don’t see in this particular shot is the aircraft used by the research team to observe the birds. What you can see, however, if you look closely, are the data loggers mounted on the birds.
The team did a fantastic job of documenting their research with quality, high resolution photography, allowing us to showcase their work on our print cover. A similar photo is used in Fig 1 of their paper.
Using a photo from the study over a possibly more stunning stock image of a V formation on the cover was a no-brainer. It’s really amazing to see the actual ibises at work. (Photo by M. Unsold.)
Design challenge, graphic:
This from Jasiek Krzysztofiak, who created this explainer graphic for the News and Views piece on the paper:
"The aim of the graphic (last image) is to show the air flow behind leading bird in the perspective view. Coloured surfaces indicate the trail of birds’ wings where red represent upwash and blue downwash air flows. Arrows going around the wings explain how the circular wingtip vortex is generated during the flight. Inset at the bottom shows both birds in the front view. The trailing bird moves its right wing through blue upwash area created by the leading bird, resulting in more energy saving movement.
There may have been a better way of showing this than using a gradient, but in the end we all agreed that it effectively explained the process.”
Design challenge, animation:
This from Chris Ryan, who created the animated explainer portion of this excellent video.
"Here in the Nature art dept we love collaborating with our pals in the video team.
When they suggested we put together an animation to help explain the mechanics of bird flight, well it sounded like a lot of fun.
Browsing through tutorial sites revealed lots of tips and tricks to ‘fake’ the appearance of a bird flapping its wings using Adobe After Effects. However none of the examples I found looked convincing enough for our purpose.
Luckily I had been given a book on hand-drawn animation techniques for Christmas so I referenced one of the exercises contained within to put together a very messy approximation of a Northern Bald Ibis flapping its wings on 9 consecutive pages of my sketchbook (see animated gif and sketch, top images).
I then photographed each page with my phone in order to bring the frames into Photoshop to tidy them up and add some colour.
From that point exporting the frames as an image sequence to be imported into After Effects was very easy. Once inside After Effects the animation could be looped, repeated and moved around the screen to create multiple flapping birds.
The yellow wave which represents the wing tip path of the leading bird was simply created by drawing a straight line and then applying After Effects’ Wave Warp effect to generate a sine wave.
Many thanks to Jim Usherwood at the Royal Veterinary College for his expert advice.”
-Kelly Krause, Jasiek Krzysztofiak, and Chris Ryan

WHY BIRDS FLY IN A ‘V’ FORMATION

Background: Today’s issue contains research that elegantly explains why some birds fly in a V formation. It has long been speculated that birds fly in a ‘V’ to save energy, but this paper answers the question in a rigorous study, with some surprises as well.

 The data reveal a sophisticated and dynamic process of in-flight control. Birds in the V phase their wing-beats to path-match, allowing a trailing bird to exploit the aerodynamic upwash from the bird in front. A bird flying directly behind, however, flaps with opposite phasing in order to minimize the detrimental downwash from the leader’s wings. All this must require the birds to have developed a range of phasing strategies to cope with the dynamic wakes produced by flapping wings. 

(See news story here for an excellent summary.)

Design challenge, cover:

To study the behaviour of Northern bald ibises during migratory flight, Steve Portugal and his team of researchers mounted custom-built data loggers on 14 ibises that accurately measured the body position and flapping dynamics of each bird. The cover photograph was taking during a human-led migratory flight, so what you don’t see in this particular shot is the aircraft used by the research team to observe the birds. What you can see, however, if you look closely, are the data loggers mounted on the birds.

The team did a fantastic job of documenting their research with quality, high resolution photography, allowing us to showcase their work on our print cover. A similar photo is used in Fig 1 of their paper.

Using a photo from the study over a possibly more stunning stock image of a V formation on the cover was a no-brainer. It’s really amazing to see the actual ibises at work. (Photo by M. Unsold.)

Design challenge, graphic:

This from Jasiek Krzysztofiak, who created this explainer graphic for the News and Views piece on the paper:

"The aim of the graphic (last image) is to show the air flow behind leading bird in the perspective view. Coloured surfaces indicate the trail of birds’ wings where red represent upwash and blue downwash air flows. Arrows going around the wings explain how the circular wingtip vortex is generated during the flight. Inset at the bottom shows both birds in the front view. The trailing bird moves its right wing through blue upwash area created by the leading bird, resulting in more energy saving movement.

There may have been a better way of showing this than using a gradient, but in the end we all agreed that it effectively explained the process.”

Design challenge, animation:

This from Chris Ryan, who created the animated explainer portion of this excellent video.

"Here in the Nature art dept we love collaborating with our pals in the video team.

When they suggested we put together an animation to help explain the mechanics of bird flight, well it sounded like a lot of fun.

Browsing through tutorial sites revealed lots of tips and tricks to ‘fake’ the appearance of a bird flapping its wings using Adobe After Effects. However none of the examples I found looked convincing enough for our purpose.

Luckily I had been given a book on hand-drawn animation techniques for Christmas so I referenced one of the exercises contained within to put together a very messy approximation of a Northern Bald Ibis flapping its wings on 9 consecutive pages of my sketchbook (see animated gif and sketch, top images).

I then photographed each page with my phone in order to bring the frames into Photoshop to tidy them up and add some colour.

From that point exporting the frames as an image sequence to be imported into After Effects was very easy. Once inside After Effects the animation could be looped, repeated and moved around the screen to create multiple flapping birds.

The yellow wave which represents the wing tip path of the leading bird was simply created by drawing a straight line and then applying After Effects’ Wave Warp effect to generate a sine wave.

Many thanks to Jim Usherwood at the Royal Veterinary College for his expert advice.”

-Kelly Krause, Jasiek Krzysztofiak, and Chris Ryan

ONE MILLION DEATHS, TWO PAGES
Background: Public-health experts need death stats to monitor disease and assess interventions, but quality mortality data are scarce in most developing countries.
75 percent of the 60 million deaths around the globe are in low- and middle-income countries such as India, where cause of death is often misclassified or unreported. 
One research group is determined to get a clearer picture how people die in India, and they have recently published their Million Death Study (MDS), a massive effort that involves biannual in-person surveys of more than 1 million households across India.
In a recent issue we explained the first results of the study graphically on a two-page spread (as seen above, or find the pdf here).
Design challenge, Part 1: Information design
The most obvious challenge was deciding what to include from the huge survey. Writer Erica Westly and editor Brendan Maher worked with the Nature art team to narrow down the most interesting findings, such as a surprising number of snakebite deaths.
Designer Jasiek Krzysztofiak from the art team used Erica and Brendan’s first draft sketch (second image) to create a two-page spread that 1) told the story of how the data was collected; 2) graphically displayed the findings; and 3) put the data in context.
 This from Jasiek:
“We decided it was important to explain the research process at the beginning, before plowing into the data, to give readers an immediate impression of the unique ‘door-to-door’ nature of the project. We used big numbers to emphasize scale and small cartoon illustrations to convey a sense of humanity.
We felt the central visual should be a map of India presenting the geographic distribution of the key findings. (See more about the map from Chris, below.) The map serves to orient the reader at a glance, and shows the key concept of population density (rural deaths were a focus of the study, as they are not always properly documented).
The 6 causes of death flagged on the map are then explained in more detailed on the second page. I created icons for the 6 causes to help with wayfinding, and then set to work trying to visualise all the data in a clear, legible way.
The main challenge here was to compare MDS and WHO estimates, show all the data for male vs female, home vs hospital and urban vs rural together, in one comprehensive graphic. Some of our initial concepts turned out to be too creative and difficult to understand, such as plotting causes on a matrix with urban/rural versus number of deaths, or representing numbers with human icons.
Eventually we settled for simple, easy to compare solutions, using bar and pie charts to present information. “
Design challenge, Part 2: The map
As noted above, the main visual element on the spread is a map of India that shows current population density. As the concept of ‘urban vs rural’ is central to the rationale of the MDS, we thought a density map with current numbers would be indispensable.
Easy, right? Wrong! This from Chris Ryan, who developed the map:
"Create a map of map of India with each of the districts coloured according to their population density". Simple, huh? Well sort of…
The population density data from the Indian census of 2011 is freely available on the Indian government’s website and they also publish maps with all of the districts labelled. Great!
The drag is that there are soooo many districts. Around 640 depending on who you talk to. Whilst I could sit down with Adobe Illustrator and colour each district ‘by hand’ the potential to introduce errors is pretty high.
To get around this - and save myself from a nasty case of RSI - I devised a ‘pure data visualisation strategy’. That is, to write a script to tell my computer to reach out to the internet to grab the data and then present this data as a map that can be extracted and used for the print layout.
That was the plan anyway. Unfortunately finding two datasets that agreed on the names and locations of all of India’s districts proved to be quite a challenge. For a start, India either has around 598 or 641 districts depending on where you look. That jump happened between the 2001 census and the most recent in 2011. 
Also there are many inconsistencies in how the districts are named that caused my system to break down. For instance a human can quite easily ascertain that the labels ‘Dharbanga’ and ‘Darbhanga’ refer to the same place but it’s hard to program a computer to come to the same conclusion.
In the end I had to manually edit around 140 entries in the population density spreadsheet so that they married up with the district names in the map. In the process risking the introduction of errors and a nasty case of RSI. 
The next problem was devising a colour scheme that accounts for the wide disparity in population density within India. Heavily populated areas can have upwards of 37,000 people living pre square kilometre, whereas remote rural regions will only have around 30. 
Using a colour scale that ranges from 0 people per Km2 to the maximum produces a map that, whilst technically correct, seems to suggest that most of India is empty.
To get around this we clamped the scale at 16,000 - meaning any district with a population density above 16,000 people per Km2 will receive the same colour. This compromise allowed us to indicate the densely populated areas without loosing the granularity for the less inhabited rural areas.”
If you’d like to take a look at the raw SVG map it can be seen here:
http://chris-creditdesign.github.io/india-population-map
And all the code can be accessed on github:
https://github.com/chris-creditdesign/india-population-map
-Kelly Krause, Chris Ryan, and Jasiek Krzysztofiak ONE MILLION DEATHS, TWO PAGES
Background: Public-health experts need death stats to monitor disease and assess interventions, but quality mortality data are scarce in most developing countries.
75 percent of the 60 million deaths around the globe are in low- and middle-income countries such as India, where cause of death is often misclassified or unreported. 
One research group is determined to get a clearer picture how people die in India, and they have recently published their Million Death Study (MDS), a massive effort that involves biannual in-person surveys of more than 1 million households across India.
In a recent issue we explained the first results of the study graphically on a two-page spread (as seen above, or find the pdf here).
Design challenge, Part 1: Information design
The most obvious challenge was deciding what to include from the huge survey. Writer Erica Westly and editor Brendan Maher worked with the Nature art team to narrow down the most interesting findings, such as a surprising number of snakebite deaths.
Designer Jasiek Krzysztofiak from the art team used Erica and Brendan’s first draft sketch (second image) to create a two-page spread that 1) told the story of how the data was collected; 2) graphically displayed the findings; and 3) put the data in context.
 This from Jasiek:
“We decided it was important to explain the research process at the beginning, before plowing into the data, to give readers an immediate impression of the unique ‘door-to-door’ nature of the project. We used big numbers to emphasize scale and small cartoon illustrations to convey a sense of humanity.
We felt the central visual should be a map of India presenting the geographic distribution of the key findings. (See more about the map from Chris, below.) The map serves to orient the reader at a glance, and shows the key concept of population density (rural deaths were a focus of the study, as they are not always properly documented).
The 6 causes of death flagged on the map are then explained in more detailed on the second page. I created icons for the 6 causes to help with wayfinding, and then set to work trying to visualise all the data in a clear, legible way.
The main challenge here was to compare MDS and WHO estimates, show all the data for male vs female, home vs hospital and urban vs rural together, in one comprehensive graphic. Some of our initial concepts turned out to be too creative and difficult to understand, such as plotting causes on a matrix with urban/rural versus number of deaths, or representing numbers with human icons.
Eventually we settled for simple, easy to compare solutions, using bar and pie charts to present information. “
Design challenge, Part 2: The map
As noted above, the main visual element on the spread is a map of India that shows current population density. As the concept of ‘urban vs rural’ is central to the rationale of the MDS, we thought a density map with current numbers would be indispensable.
Easy, right? Wrong! This from Chris Ryan, who developed the map:
"Create a map of map of India with each of the districts coloured according to their population density". Simple, huh? Well sort of…
The population density data from the Indian census of 2011 is freely available on the Indian government’s website and they also publish maps with all of the districts labelled. Great!
The drag is that there are soooo many districts. Around 640 depending on who you talk to. Whilst I could sit down with Adobe Illustrator and colour each district ‘by hand’ the potential to introduce errors is pretty high.
To get around this - and save myself from a nasty case of RSI - I devised a ‘pure data visualisation strategy’. That is, to write a script to tell my computer to reach out to the internet to grab the data and then present this data as a map that can be extracted and used for the print layout.
That was the plan anyway. Unfortunately finding two datasets that agreed on the names and locations of all of India’s districts proved to be quite a challenge. For a start, India either has around 598 or 641 districts depending on where you look. That jump happened between the 2001 census and the most recent in 2011. 
Also there are many inconsistencies in how the districts are named that caused my system to break down. For instance a human can quite easily ascertain that the labels ‘Dharbanga’ and ‘Darbhanga’ refer to the same place but it’s hard to program a computer to come to the same conclusion.
In the end I had to manually edit around 140 entries in the population density spreadsheet so that they married up with the district names in the map. In the process risking the introduction of errors and a nasty case of RSI. 
The next problem was devising a colour scheme that accounts for the wide disparity in population density within India. Heavily populated areas can have upwards of 37,000 people living pre square kilometre, whereas remote rural regions will only have around 30. 
Using a colour scale that ranges from 0 people per Km2 to the maximum produces a map that, whilst technically correct, seems to suggest that most of India is empty.
To get around this we clamped the scale at 16,000 - meaning any district with a population density above 16,000 people per Km2 will receive the same colour. This compromise allowed us to indicate the densely populated areas without loosing the granularity for the less inhabited rural areas.”
If you’d like to take a look at the raw SVG map it can be seen here:
http://chris-creditdesign.github.io/india-population-map
And all the code can be accessed on github:
https://github.com/chris-creditdesign/india-population-map
-Kelly Krause, Chris Ryan, and Jasiek Krzysztofiak

ONE MILLION DEATHS, TWO PAGES

Background: Public-health experts need death stats to monitor disease and assess interventions, but quality mortality data are scarce in most developing countries.

75 percent of the 60 million deaths around the globe are in low- and middle-income countries such as India, where cause of death is often misclassified or unreported.

One research group is determined to get a clearer picture how people die in India, and they have recently published their Million Death Study (MDS), a massive effort that involves biannual in-person surveys of more than 1 million households across India.

In a recent issue we explained the first results of the study graphically on a two-page spread (as seen above, or find the pdf here).

Design challenge, Part 1: Information design

The most obvious challenge was deciding what to include from the huge survey. Writer Erica Westly and editor Brendan Maher worked with the Nature art team to narrow down the most interesting findings, such as a surprising number of snakebite deaths.

Designer Jasiek Krzysztofiak from the art team used Erica and Brendan’s first draft sketch (second image) to create a two-page spread that 1) told the story of how the data was collected; 2) graphically displayed the findings; and 3) put the data in context.

 This from Jasiek:

“We decided it was important to explain the research process at the beginning, before plowing into the data, to give readers an immediate impression of the unique ‘door-to-door’ nature of the project. We used big numbers to emphasize scale and small cartoon illustrations to convey a sense of humanity.

We felt the central visual should be a map of India presenting the geographic distribution of the key findings. (See more about the map from Chris, below.) The map serves to orient the reader at a glance, and shows the key concept of population density (rural deaths were a focus of the study, as they are not always properly documented).

The 6 causes of death flagged on the map are then explained in more detailed on the second page. I created icons for the 6 causes to help with wayfinding, and then set to work trying to visualise all the data in a clear, legible way.

The main challenge here was to compare MDS and WHO estimates, show all the data for male vs female, home vs hospital and urban vs rural together, in one comprehensive graphic. Some of our initial concepts turned out to be too creative and difficult to understand, such as plotting causes on a matrix with urban/rural versus number of deaths, or representing numbers with human icons.

Eventually we settled for simple, easy to compare solutions, using bar and pie charts to present information. “

Design challenge, Part 2: The map

As noted above, the main visual element on the spread is a map of India that shows current population density. As the concept of ‘urban vs rural’ is central to the rationale of the MDS, we thought a density map with current numbers would be indispensable.

Easy, right? Wrong! This from Chris Ryan, who developed the map:

"Create a map of map of India with each of the districts coloured according to their population density". Simple, huh? Well sort of…

The population density data from the Indian census of 2011 is freely available on the Indian government’s website and they also publish maps with all of the districts labelled. Great!

The drag is that there are soooo many districts. Around 640 depending on who you talk to. Whilst I could sit down with Adobe Illustrator and colour each district ‘by hand’ the potential to introduce errors is pretty high.

To get around this - and save myself from a nasty case of RSI - I devised a ‘pure data visualisation strategy’. That is, to write a script to tell my computer to reach out to the internet to grab the data and then present this data as a map that can be extracted and used for the print layout.

That was the plan anyway. Unfortunately finding two datasets that agreed on the names and locations of all of India’s districts proved to be quite a challenge. For a start, India either has around 598 or 641 districts depending on where you look. That jump happened between the 2001 census and the most recent in 2011. 

Also there are many inconsistencies in how the districts are named that caused my system to break down. For instance a human can quite easily ascertain that the labels ‘Dharbanga’ and ‘Darbhanga’ refer to the same place but it’s hard to program a computer to come to the same conclusion.

In the end I had to manually edit around 140 entries in the population density spreadsheet so that they married up with the district names in the map. In the process risking the introduction of errors and a nasty case of RSI. 

The next problem was devising a colour scheme that accounts for the wide disparity in population density within India. Heavily populated areas can have upwards of 37,000 people living pre square kilometre, whereas remote rural regions will only have around 30. 

Using a colour scale that ranges from 0 people per Km2 to the maximum produces a map that, whilst technically correct, seems to suggest that most of India is empty.

To get around this we clamped the scale at 16,000 - meaning any district with a population density above 16,000 people per Km2 will receive the same colour. This compromise allowed us to indicate the densely populated areas without loosing the granularity for the less inhabited rural areas.”

If you’d like to take a look at the raw SVG map it can be seen here:

http://chris-creditdesign.github.io/india-population-map

And all the code can be accessed on github:

https://github.com/chris-creditdesign/india-population-map

-Kelly Krause, Chris Ryan, and Jasiek Krzysztofiak

   
PERFECT 10
Background: Each year Nature selects the 10 most newsworthy people in science (see this year’s Nature’s 10). Our tradition is to mark this special issue with a cover that features the number 10 in an amusing way that relates to science.
Design challenge: Last year Chris Labrooy created a fabulous cover showing the ‘10’ under a microscope (in the style of a micrograph from a scanning electron microscope).
So, what to do in 2013? Launch it into space of course!
We worked with the legendary Bryan Christie to create our ‘space station’ 10 (above), with truly stunning results. Bryan’s team produced several amazing design concepts, one of which looked a bit like an aircraft carrier, but in the end we chose the design that both captured the imagination but also unmistakably forms a ‘10’.
Stay tuned for next year’s incarnation. (Feel free to post suggestions!)
-Kelly Krause

PERFECT 10

Background: Each year Nature selects the 10 most newsworthy people in science (see this year’s Nature’s 10). Our tradition is to mark this special issue with a cover that features the number 10 in an amusing way that relates to science.

Design challenge: Last year Chris Labrooy created a fabulous cover showing the ‘10’ under a microscope (in the style of a micrograph from a scanning electron microscope).

So, what to do in 2013? Launch it into space of course!

We worked with the legendary Bryan Christie to create our ‘space station’ 10 (above), with truly stunning results. Bryan’s team produced several amazing design concepts, one of which looked a bit like an aircraft carrier, but in the end we chose the design that both captured the imagination but also unmistakably forms a ‘10’.

Stay tuned for next year’s incarnation. (Feel free to post suggestions!)

-Kelly Krause