Notre Dame Almost Did Collapse

Back in April the famed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris caught fire and its roof and spire spectacularly collapsed. At the time I looked at a few different pieces, including two from the New York Times, that explored the spread of the fire. Several months later the Times has just published a look into how the firefighters saved the cathedral from collapse.

The graphics are the same amazing illustrated models from before. Now with routes taken by firefighters and coloured areas indicating key equipment used in the fight to preserve what could be saved. But the real gem in the article are a series of graphics from the firefighters themselves.

Some pretty hot sketches here
Some pretty hot sketches here

Naturally the annotations are all in French. But this French firefighter and sketch artist detailed the progress of the battle during and in the days after the fire. It makes me wish I could read French to understand the five selected sketches the Times chose to use. And I love this line from the Times.

For all the high-tech gear available to big-city fire departments, investigators still see value in old-school tools.

If you are interested in the story of how the cathedral was saved, read the lengthy article. If you just want to see some really amazing and yet wholly practical sketches, scroll through the article until you get to these gems.

Credit for the overall piece goes to Elian Peltier, James Glanz, Mika Gröndahl, Weiyi Cai, Adam Nossiter, and Liz Alderman.

Credit for the sketches goes to Laurent Clerjeau.

British English vs. Irish English

The United Kingdom is known for having a large number of accents in a—compared to the United States—relatively small space. But then you add in Ireland and you have an entirely new level of linguistic diversity. Josh Katz, who several years ago made waves for his work on the differences in the States, completed some work for the New York Times on those differences between the UK and Ireland.

You might know this as tag. At least I do.
You might know this as tag. At least I do.

Why do I bring it up? Well, your author is going on holiday again, this time back to London. I will be maybe taking some day trips to places outside the capital and maybe I will confirm some of these findings. But if you want, you can take the quiz and see where you fall compared to Katz’s findings.

And it does pretty well. It identified me as being clearly not from the British Isles.

Maybe I'm secretly Cornish?
Maybe I’m secretly Cornish?

But depending upon how you answer a particular question, the article will show you how your answer compares.  Let’s take my answer for scone. In that, I am more Irish.

Or you can just call them fantastic and delicious.
Or you can just call them fantastic and delicious.

Credit for the piece goes to Josh Katz.

Tariffs Are a Tax

This piece from the New York Times isn’t really even a graphic. It’s a factette, or small fact. The article is about how tariffs are raising the price of certain goods, in this case a bicycle. Tariffs do not add money to the US Treasury, they are instead an additional price paid by US consumers on goods—not services—originating from outside the US.

Thankfully I can't ride a bike
Thankfully I can’t ride a bike

Sometimes a big chart is not as impactful as one big number. And here, in the context of this story, a graphic showing trade flows between the US and Mexico may have been useful. But the real gut punch is showing how the tariffs on Mexico, for this one particular bike, could cost the US consumer an additional $90. A tariff is just another word for a tax paid by the American consumer.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

Tornado Alley Spread East

Last week the Philadelphia area experienced a mini tornado outbreak with three straight days of watches and warnings. Of course further west in the traditional Tornado Alley, far more storms of far greater intensity were wreaking havoc. But with tornado warnings going off every few minutes just outside the city of Philadelphia, it was hard to concentrate on storms in, say, Oklahoma.

But the New York Times did. And they put together a nice graphic showing the timeline of the outbreak using small multiples to show where the tornado reports were located on 12 consecutive days.

Who remembers the film Twister?
Who remembers the film Twister?

Of course the day of that publication, 29 May, would see another few dozen, even in and around Philadelphia. Consequently, the graphic could have been extended to a day 13. But that would have been rather unlucky.

From a design standpoint, the really nice element of this graphic is that it works so well in black and white. The graphic serves as a reminder that good graphics need not be super colourful and flashy to have impact.

Credit for the piece goes to Weiyi Cai and Jason Kao.

The Rise of the Tropic(al Plant)s

Last week I had three different discussions with people about some of the impact of climate change upon the United States. However, what did not really come up in those conversations was the environmental changes set to befall the United States. And by environment, I explicitly mean how the flora of the US will change.

Why? Well, as warmer climates spread north, that means tropical and subtropical plants can follow warmer temperatures northward into lands previously too cold. And they could replace the species native to those lands, who evolved adaptations for their particular climate.

Thankfully, last week the New York Times published a piece that explored how those impacts could be felt. Hardiness zones are a concept designed to tell gardeners when and where to plant certain crops. And while the US Department of Agriculture has a detailed version useful to horticulturists, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration produces a very similar version for the purpose of climate studies. And when you group those hardiness levels by the forecast lowest temperatures in an area, you get this.

More palm trees?
More palm trees?

There you have it, the forecast change to plant zones.

From a design standpoint, I like the idea of the colour shift here. However, where it breaks seems odd. Though it could be more influenced by the underlying classifications than I understand. The split occurs at 0ºF, which is well below freezing. I wonder if the freezing point, 32ºF could have been used instead. I also wonder if adding Celsius units above the same legend could be done to make the piece more accessible to a broader audience.

Otherwise, it’s a nice use of small multiples. And from the editorial design standpoint, I like how the article’s text above the graphic makes use of a six-column layout to add some dynamic contrast to what is essentially a three-column layout for the graphics.

They're living on a grid
They’re living on a grid

Credit for the piece goes to Nadja Popovich.

Golden Buttered Popcorn

We are in the midst of basketball playoffs right now. And one of the teams participating is the Golden State Warriors. They are pretty good at this whole basketball thing. One of the reasons is their star player Steph Curry. And it turns out that he is an enormous fan of popcorn. So much so that despite the widespread focus on power foods and healthy eating and wellness lifestyle, he devours the stuff before matches. So much so that NBA minders had to remove it from his hands during an all-star match last year.

He agreed to a request from the New York Times to rank each stadium, from 1 to 29, on the best popcorn. But he then went further and suggested that he rank the popcorn on a five-point scale on five different metrics: freshness, saltiness, crunchiness, butter and presentation. Naturally, the Times agreed. And he prepared a dataset that the Times turned into this heat map.

He's so honest, his own stadium doesn't rank in the top five.
He’s so honest, his own stadium doesn’t rank in the top five.

The whole article is well worth a read for more insights into the player and his take on popcorn. I don’t know a thing about basketball, but if a player agrees to a request to rank stadiums based on their popcorn, but then goes further to create additional data that can be used to turn into a visualisation, he’s probably my favourite player. If only someone had asked this of Pedro, Nomar, or Big Papi back in the day. Here’s looking at you, Laser Show.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Credit for the piece goes to Steph Curry and Marc Stein.

Abortion by State

In case you did not hear, earlier this week Alabama banned all abortions. And for once, we do not have to add the usual caveat of “except in cases of rape or incest”. In Alabama, even in cases of rape and incest, women will not have the option of having an abortion.

And in Georgia, legislators are debating a bill that will not only strictly limit women’s rights to have an abortion, but will leave them, among other things, liable for criminal charges for travelling out of state to have an abortion.

Consequently, the New York Times created a piece that explores the different abortion bans on a state-by-state basis. It includes several nice graphics including what we increasingly at work called a box map. The map sits above the article and introduces the subject direct from the header that seven states have introduced significant legislation this year. The map highlights those seven states.

We've been calling these box maps. It's growing on me.
We’ve been calling these box maps. It’s growing on me.

The gem, however, is a timeline of sorts that shows when states ban abortion based on how long since a woman’s last period.

There are some crazy shifts leftward in this graphic…
There are some crazy shifts leftward in this graphic…

It does a nice job of segmenting the number of weeks into not trimesters and highlighting the first, which traditionally had been the lower limit for conservative states. It also uses a nice yellow overlay to indicate the traditional limits determined by the Roe v. Wade decision. I may have introduced a nice thin rule to even further segment the first trimester into the first six week period.

We also have a nice calendar-like small multiple series showing states that have introduced but not passed, passed but vetoed, passed, and pending legislation with the intention of completely banning abortion and also completely banning it after six weeks.

Far too many boxes on the right…
Far too many boxes on the right…

This does a nice job of using the coloured boxes to show the states have passed legislation. However, the grey coloured boxes seem a bit disingenuous in that they still represent a topically significant number: states that have introduced legislation. It almost seems as if the grey should be all 50 states, like in the box map, and that these states should be in some different colour. Because the eight or 15 in the 2019 column are a small percentage of all 50 states, but they could—and likely will—have an oversized impact on women’s rights in the year to come.

That said, it is a solid graphic overall. And taken together the piece overall does a nice job of showing just how restrictive these new pieces of legislation truly are. And how geographically limited in scope they are. Notably, some states people might not associate with seemingly draconian laws are found in surprising places: Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maryland, and New York. But that last point would be best illustrated by another box map.

Credit for the piece goes to K.K. Rebecca Lai.

Bar Chart Bombshells

Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, the New York Times broke the story that they had some of President Trump’s tax return information. For decades now, US presidents and candidates for that office have released their tax returns for the public to inspect. Trump has refused, often claiming that they are under audit from the IRS and then adding, and falsely claiming, they cannot be released whilst under audit. Consequently, when the Times publishes an article at the secret world of Trump’s finances, it’s a big news thing.

Unfortunately, the Times only had access to what are essentially summary transcripts of the returns. And only for a period in the mid-1980s through mid-1990s. So we cannot get the granular data and make deeper insights. But what we did get was turned into this bold graphic in the middle of the article.

That's a whole lotta red. And not the good kind for a Republican.
That’s a whole lotta red. And not the good kind for a Republican.

Conceptually, there is not much to say. The bar charts are a solid choice to represent this kind of data. Red makes sense given the connotation of “being in the red”. And the annotations providing quotes from Trump about his finances for the years highlighted provide excellent context.

What the screenshot does not truly capture, however, is the massiveness of the chart in the context of the rest of the article. It’s big, bold, and red. That design choice instead of, say, making it a smaller sidebar-like graphic, goes a long way in hitting home the sheer magnitude of these business losses.

Sometimes it’s not always fancy and shiny charts that garner the most attention. Sometimes an old staple can do wonders.

Credit for the piece goes to Rich Harris and Andrew Rossback.

The Summary of the Mueller Report

When Robert Mueller submitted his report a few weeks ago, some interested parties declared it a witch hunt that had wasted time and money. Except, it had done the opposite of that. It had laid bare Russia’s interference in our elections and the contacts between Russian government and quasi-government officials and Trump campaign officials. Said officials then lied about their contacts and, along with other crimes discovered during the course of the investigation, either pleaded guilty or were convicted. And while a few trials are still underway, we also now know 12 other cases have been referred to prosecutors but they remain under wraps.

At the time of submission, the New York Times was able to create this front page graphic.

There's some shady shit going on here.
There’s some shady shit going on here.

It highlighted the key figures in the report’s investigation and identified their current status. Many of those charged, essentially all the Russians, are unlikely to ever stand trial because Russia will not extradite them.

Inside the piece we had two full pages covering the report. The graphics were rather simple, like this, although as these were black and white pages, colouring the photographs was not an option. Instead, the designers simply used headers and titles to separate out the rogues’ gallery.

Not exactly the pages on which you want your name…
Not exactly the pages on which you want your name…

This wasn’t a complicated piece, but it made sense as one of the first pieces. For months we had been told the investigation was “wrapping up soon”, or words to that effect. Then, out of nowhere, it finally did. In one day, and crucially without the actual report yet, work like this reminded us that the report had, in fact, achieved its purpose.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

The Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral: Part Trois

On Tuesday I talked about a small article published by the New York Times that looked at the cathedral fire. I lamented that there were no immediate graphics explaining what happened. Just give me two days. Tuesday we had the BBC piece and then yesterday the New York Times published a more extensive look.

As the user scrolls through the piece, a 3-dimensional model reveals the key structural elements whilst text explains why that part is being focused upon in the story.

Wood beams do not make for preventative measures.
Wood beams do not make for preventative measures.

I do not know if the dramatic, black background helps. It might create contrast the designers deemed helpful against the light-coloured illustration. But that is probably my only real point to make about the piece. Otherwise, it is a very thorough and helpful guide to the architecture and how that helped the fire spread.

Credit for the piece goes to Larry Buchanan, James Glanz, Even Grothjan, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Allison McCann, Karthik Patanjali, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, Jeremy White, and Graham Roberts.