July 14, 2022 • Design // Illustration

Data + Journalism + Color + Texture

What it is: Data + Journalism: A Story-Driven Approach to Learning Data Journalism, a new journalism textbook publishing soon from Routledge.

What I did: Illustrated the cover and a few interior pieces as well.

The paradox of illustrating data visualization is that data visualization (a) is already illustrated and (b) not necessarily particularly interesting to look if there’s no context explaining the data being illustrated. So a cover that represents context-free data visualization has a tough road ahead of it if it doesn’t look real pretty.

So that was my game plan when I got this assignment — make it look real pretty. The book’s co-authors gave me carte blanche to work either in a hand-drawn or vector style, but after a little drafting, I didn’t feel like either was quite right for this — hand-drawn feeling too amateurish for a textbook about clean data, vector being too sterile, samey and boring for reasons aforementioned.

A little texture, shading and depth, though — that’s the happy medium. I built everything in vector, then applied some old-fashioned homemade shading, shadowing, gradienting and depth to give it a retro-modern look that’s textbook-worthy but personable all the same. And, of course, I turned on the color faucet for the cover (same as I did for SPJ’s ethics textbook), and voila — context-free data made pretty and enticing. The full cover, and snippets of a few interior illustrations, are below.

The book is not yet available for sale, but if you’re an old journalism friend of mine who found this entry, you can get some pre-order details here.