Reference material

[last updated December 2018]

Visual journalism
A snapshot of a variety of current visual journalism

The New York Times’ most recent Year in Visual Stories and Graphics

Website of the annual Malofiej SND conference, in Spain, every Spring

Data visualisation
Two blogs that cover most events, work and developments:
Andy Kirk’s Visualising Data
Nathan Yau’s Flowing Data

Illustrated, up-to-date, sources of practical advice:
Working with charts from Datawrapper’s blog, Uncharted
More working with charts, from the FT’s Chart Doctor
Taking good design decisions, by Andy Kirk

There’s a slight US bias given this was done for an event there, but still a great data vis who’s who if you want to know what’s happening at the forefront of data visualisation.

Listen to the lastest discussions of what’s happening in the field with the fabulous Data Stories regular podcasts.

And for any organisations just starting out in the field, take inspiration from National Records of Scotland. Read how they have done it themselves, building up a brilliant in-house datavis capability from scratch. Examples of their work here.

There’s also useful advice for charities starting out with datavis from NPC.

Data journalism
Free, online resource: Data journalism handbook
Blog of events, news, resources: Data Driven Journalism
Data Journalism in action: The Guardian’s datablog

Working with numbers
Read or listen to case studies about how to handle numbers in the news – book, online, radio – from Andrew Dilnot, Michael Blastland, Tim Harford and Radio 4’s More or Less

An excellent (and free) series of exercises to walk you through the fundamentals of working with data from the School of Data.

And a blog post I wrote on how to present numbers with the appropriate amount of detail. Rounding, significant figures, decimal places, that sort of thing.

Another illustrated blog post of mine on whether there’s something more interesting you could use your numbers to show (levels of interpretation of data).

An analysis of the simple but very effective Economist chart style by JP Koning.

And if you’re writing with numbers look at the ONS’s style guide.

Popular charting and mapping tools include: Tableau, Datawrapper, Carto, Infogram as well as several others, including the many Google tools, demo’d on School of Data.

For design and layout Inkscape is a free, open source vector illustration programme. (To see its potential have a look at NRS’s work). For easy-to-access, but templated, graphic design solutions have a look at Canva.

For the tools with tiered pricing structures, don’t forget to ask about special rates if you are a student or a charity.

Not sure which tool to go to for a particular type of chart, look no further than Andy Kirk’s Chartmaker Directory, brilliantly illustrated with examples.

For newcomers to the field, have a look at

The Office of National Statistics have published their guidelines for creating infographics. More advice direct from organisations using datavis: National Records of Scotland and New Philanthropy Capital.

Style.ONS is worth mentioning again if you’re writing about statistics, also includes a section on data visualisation.

The Government Statistical Service have published lots of guidelines: see the ‘presenting statistics’ tab in particular.

The first thing to ask when you go to create a map is should it be a map? Read When Maps Shouldn’t Be Maps by NYT’s Matthew Ericson for guidance on this.

For creating UK maps, a useful resource is the ONS’s Open Geography Portal that allows you to download accurate geographical reference data.

Images and icons
Wherever you source your icons or images from you should find out if you need to credit the creator, and how. The advantage of getting the icons or images you use from online libraries is that they give clear instructions about if, how and when to credit the work. Often this is based on Creative Commons licensing.

Source of icons:
The Noun Project
A summary of good practice when using icons is here

Source of images:
There are many stock image libraries online, for example
Or have a look on wikimedia

Colour accessibility
You can download this useful colour blindness simulator to check your work as you go on your own computer.

Or test out different palettes before you start.

Designing research posters
While there’s a lot of advice out there, this captures the essentials well, from the British Science Association.

Other reference material and resources
Andy Kirk’s tools for visualising and communicating data, books too
Data Driven Journalism’s useful resource for data journalism
School of Data does what it says in the title!
Alberto Cairo’s main recommended reading list on infographics (search his site for updates).
GDS’s (Government Digital Service) digital and design principles are well worth a look.

Some of my favourite pieces of visual journalism you can find on this blog by searching under the tag example

Presentation visuals
The answer to improving your presentations isn’t to introduce infographics, one of Tim Harford’s three useful tips.
Useful, practical guidance from Jesse Desjardins here and here.
And a how-to guide from Nancy Duarte to present visual stories that transform audiences.

Reading visualisations
Seeing Data is a good resource aimed at non-experts, to help them make sense of data visualisations which covers key terms, how data visualisations are made, factors that influence our experience with them and a chance to rate a few yourself.

Have a go!
There’s no getting around the fact that the best way to learn to create data visualisations and infographics is to have a go. As useful forums for learning you can join in with initiatives like #makeovermonday or #SWDchallenge as an excuse to practice.

Think there’s something I should include that’s not here? Please let me know!

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