The US Census Bureau

There is no graphic today. Why? Because I want to illustrate a point that a lot of the work I and others in the information design world depends upon data. After all it puts the data in data visualisation. But yesterday the director of the US Census Bureau resigned because the Trump administration would not meet the Census Bureau’s funding request for conducting the 2020 Census.

And that matters. Yeah, it will be bittersweet to know that Philadelphia has probably slipped behind Phoenix, but the Census and the Census Bureau do so much more than that. They collect and publish data on income, health, housing, trade, and more. And that broad and deep set of data is invaluable.

These days we joke a lot—and I count myself in that we—about alternative facts. But all kidding aside, facts matter because they should underpin any debate we can have about policy. Do you want to have a debate about immigration, well before one goes out and makes wild statements and suppositions, government statistical agencies can provide cold, hard facts about actual levels of immigration. Once we know the scale and scope of the real problem we can begin to design real solutions.

If we want to elevate our society’s discourse and move away from divisive conversations and accusations, we need to establish a common baseline around which we can debate. And observable, provable data points provide just that. If we remove those data points, we will continue to just talk past each other and into our own echo chambers.

Consequently our first step should be properly funding the US Census.

Trump Fires Comey

I miss the days when I could design a weekly content strategy. Well, at least sometimes I would design a weekly content strategy. Nowadays I find that what I want to do is often trumped by news out of Washington and the administration.

And that news is the abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey. There is a lot more to this story than I can type up this morning. (But I am sure we will get to it in the coming days and weeks.) But I saw this image in a tweet this morning and it sort of sums up my concerns.

That is not the sliver in which you want to find people
That is not the sliver in which you want to find people

Aren’t Venn diagrams fantastic?

Credit for the piece goes to Emily Farris.

Could Marine Le Pen Have Won?

Well not likely—it was going to be tough regardless.

Today’s piece is also from the Wall Street Journal and it was posted Saturday, the day before the election. It used a Sankey diagram to explore the support that Le Pen would have needed to draw from every candidate in the first round to get over the 50% mark in the second round.

Turns out she didn't get the maths
Turns out she didn’t get the maths

If anything this chart is not the story. The story is that the final count I saw put Macron not on 60%, but on just over 66%.

Turns out she couldn’t.

Credit for the piece goes to Stacy Meichtry and Jovi Juan.

Vive la France

Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential election yesterday. So Guess what we have a graphic or two of this week? If you guessed Mongolian puppies, you were wrong.

Thursday afternoon the Wall Street Journal—they seem to really be upping their game of late—published an article breaking down the connection between a Le Pen support in the first round and unemployment. For me, the key to the article was the following graphic, which plots those two variables by department. The departments that she won, generally speaking, suffer higher unemployment.

Unemployment and Len Pen support
Unemployment and Len Pen support

Colour coding relates to the winner of the department. I am not certain that the size of the voters in the department matters as much. But the annotation of particular departments, qualified as being limited to the French mainland—see my problem back in April about when France is more than France—flows through the several graphics in the piece.

This is a piece from the Thursday running up to Sunday’s vote. Tomorrow we will look at a piece from the day before the vote that looked at another key component of Macron’s win.

Credit for the piece goes to Martin Burch and Renée Rigdon.

Maintaining Your Photo Library

Well yesterday sucked.

But at least today is Friday. Also Cinco de Mayo. And so in addition to trying to find some mezcal tomorrow—anybody know a good spot in Philly?—we can wrap this week up with something on the humourous side.

My mobile is a few years old now and I’ve been taking lots of the photos the last few years. Last weekend I reached a point where I could no longer take photos. Consequently I have been going back through all my old photos. And so this piece from xkcd seemed rather appropriate.

I'm somewhere in the bottom right
I’m somewhere in the bottom right

Credit for the piece goes to Randall Munroe.

Here We Go Again

Well as of last night, we are having yet another vote on AHCA, better known as Trumpcare. I will not get into the details of the changes, but basically it can be summed up as waivers for Obamacare regulations. And as of last night, $8 billion over five years to cover those at high-risk. What about after five years? What if, as experts say, that sum is insufficient and it runs out before five years are up?

This is still a bad bill.

But thankfully we have FiveThirtyEight who looked at support before the Upton amendment—the $8 billion bit—and found that the bill could still fail because of a lack of moderate support.

Round and round we go
Round and round we go

The basic premise is this: In order to get the conservative Freedom Caucus, which scuppered the bill a few weeks ago, on side Ryan et al. had to make the bill more conservative. They likely had to make it cover fewer people at a higher cost. I say likely because Ryan is not sending this to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score the bill, something typically done to see how much it costs and whether it might work. Problem is, by making the bill more conservative, they push away moderate Republicans. Yes, Virginia, they do exist.

Today’s question is whether an $8 billion throw-in will buy in enough moderate votes.

It’s going to be a long day.

Credit for the piece goes to Harry Enten.

The US Airline Industry

Yesterday Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, testified to Congress about the airline industry. All of this just a few weeks after such a great week of press coverage. Of course, the last few weeks have also been a wee bit busy, so I was unable to post today’s piece. But with Munoz’s testimony it makes the perfect segue.

Today’s piece is a graphic article from the New York Times. It examines the state of the US airline industry. I use the term graphic article, because outside of headlines and subheads, it uses few words. Instead the point of the article is conveyed via charts. And what I found really nice is that, as the below photo shows, the article comprised most of the front page of the Business section.

The overall layout of the page
The overall layout of the page

In terms of the structure, the piece did a nice job of giving breathing space around the various elements. This helps focus the reader’s attention on the charts and the data therein. Long headers and subheads break the vertical flow and create sentences or paragraphs that the charts prove.

The graphics above the fold
The graphics above the fold

But then we get below the fold and low and behold we have a pie chart. I would have probably used a bar chart to show the market share. Especially with the top-three airlines so close. On the other hand, I can see the argument for the large, colour-filled visual. It does a nice job balancing the area charts at the opening and puts an emphatic period at the end of the piece.

And then below the fold
And then below the fold

Overall, a solid piece and one that I am glad occupied a significant portion of the Business section front page.

Credit for the piece goes to Karl Russel.

Why the Civil War?

Yesterday, President Trump asked why there had been no discussion about the causes of the Civil War.

No, that is not a joke.

Well, Mr. President, turns out that there has been quite a bit of discussion over the last few years. And the broad consensus?

Do I even have to?
Do I even have to?

Note the above, with the darker shaded counties representing those with greater percentages of the population held in slavery. What do most of those states have in common with the Confederacy? That they are in the Confederacy.

To be clear, the Union was not perfect. Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri remained part of the Union, but were states where slavery was legal. In fact both Kentucky and Missouri had two governments. Kentucky provides a great example of the fault line with the pro-Union capital of Frankfort situated in the low-slavery east whereas the Confederate capital was located in western, high-slavery Kentucky.

But the point stands. Slavery was the link between Confederate states and Confederate-aligned parallel governments in Union states. So, Mr. President, when you are asked about the cause of the Civil War, now you know the answer.

Credit for the piece goes to E. Hergeshimer of the US Census Bureau.

The Typography of Dubai

Information design takes many forms. True, in this blog I focus mostly on graphics, but signage is another important form. And the keys to signage are iconography and typography. So today we are going to take a look at some news in the typography front. Specifically, the introduction of a new typeface for Dubai designed by Nadine Chahine and Microsoft.

The uppercase
The uppercase

First, I am no expert in type design, but I dabble. Second, note that the above screenshot with its white type on black screen, each letter surrounded by keyboard shapes, is the only graphic on the website that I could easily find for a spec sheet.

The typeface does appear to have some nice letters in there and from the site it clearly reads well at small sizes. But that’s the Latin version. The real beauty in the thing is the simultaneous design of the Arabic script side of the face.

I am no expert in type design, but I do have experience setting type in Arabic as well as choosing an Arabic face for brand identity. It is really, really hard. (For the record, I found a really nice version of Avenir Next turned into Arabic.) So what I really like about this project is that it makes a nice typeface in both Latin and Arabic available to the public for free via Microsoft. Great, fantastic.

But where I get suspicious is that second point. That one graphic is the only one I could find. The site copy really pushes Dubai, Dubai, Dubai. And my cynical self wonders if the real purpose was to promote the emirate by throwing some money at design, which it can do because it has a lot of money.

Or to look at it another way, if it were not so Dubai-promotional, would it not have examples of it in use? A full character set on display?

But why am I most doubtful? Well, it does not take more than the first handful of results on the Google to bring up some less than stellar things about Dubai. What do I mean? Well, first look at the first two sentences on the Dubai Font page:

Expression is the way everyone shares their thoughts, ideas, and emotions. Writing is a form of expressing oneself and Dubai is giving the world a new tool to communicate with.

And now snippets from the first three results that are not Wikipedia (worth pointing out that Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates and these reports are on that country as a whole):

International Centre for Justice and Human Rights

United Arab Emirates is a federal state comprising seven emirates, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The UAE nationals represent 11.5% of the population who number 8.5 million people. The country has seen a wave of arrests and violations of human rights and freedoms and mute the voices of dissent. The authorities are continuously and increasingly, restricting personal freedoms and freedom of speech, press, assembly and association. As practiced blatant attacks on the privacy of citizens.

Amnesty International

The authorities continued to arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of expression and association, detaining and prosecuting government critics, opponents and foreign nationals under criminal defamation and anti-terrorism laws. Enforced disappearances, unfair trials and torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained common. Scores of people sentenced after unfair trials in previous years remained in prison; they included prisoners of conscience. Women continued to be discriminated against in law and in practice. Migrant workers faced exploitation and abuse. The courts continued to impose death sentences; no executions were reported.

Freedom House

While the United Arab Emirates (UAE) constitution provides for freedom of speech, the government uses its judicial, legislative, and executive powers to limit this right in practice.

True freedom of expression from Dubai should not and is not about designing a new typeface, but honouring the actual idea of freedom of expression. That is to say that I may say things that you do not like and vice versa.

Designing a new typeface that works in both Latin and Arabic? Well one, where were you like eight years ago? But of almost as much importance, a clean, Dutch-inspired typeface is not going to wipe your slate clean and prevent you from ever visiting the Hague. Actions speak louder than the typeface in which you set your words, whether they’re Arabic or Latin.

Credit for the piece goes to Nadine Chahine and Microsoft, designers of the typeface.

Where Creativity Goes to Die

I know I spent yesterday on the NFL Draft and that a lot of you would regard that as the lighthearted piece for the week. But trust me, here in Philly, it’s not so much. Just walk three blocks west from my flat.

So today we have another piece from This Is Indexed that looks at the creative process. And in my 8+ years of experience, this is nothing but true.

Le sigh
Le sigh

Credit for the piece goes to Jessica Hagy.