2020 - The year in graphics

Well, it’s been… a year. A year of years, it felt at times.

If you had told us in 2019 that the new year would see charts and graphics in the headlines every day and that data visualization and statistics would become a shared obsession the world over, we would have been really excited. When it happened, of course, the feeling was more like exhaustion.

When news moves this fast for this long, there’s almost no time to reflect between the project you just did and the one you’re barreling into next. So, at Reuters Graphics, we felt it even more important than usual this year to spare a moment to take stock of our best work.

We asked our team to reflect back on their favorite projects of 2020 – the most important, the most fun, the most rewarding and the most challenging.

2020 was different not just for the work we produced but also for the way we produced it. We were already a global team with desks in New York, London, Singapore and Bangalore. But as many of our newsrooms shut in the spring, we decamped to home offices, living rooms, bedrooms or just to the nearest flat surface. Our view of the world was different this year, and we wanted to share that with you, as well.

So, without further ado, explore our favorite pieces of the year by project, person, place or makeshift work space.

Projects
People
Places
Desks
Michael Ovaska
Graphic News Editor
At Reuters 4 years
Based in London, United Kingdom
What are you most passionate about outside work?

Being a domestic god. I think if this Reuters thing doesn’t work out, I’d make an excellent house husband – I love to cook and clean and sew and crochet and upholster and look after houseplants.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

In 2020, I’ve moved three times and started renovating an apartment. Which sounds like a not-so-ideal work-from-home setup. But, let me tell you, it’s been life changing sitting next to a window.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

Just about every morning before work I walk around this beautiful, overgrown Victorian cemetery. It’s quiet, the air is fresh, and you can kind of forget you’re living in a city going through a pandemic.

Favorite Piece

Make a mask

Why is it your favorite?

I love our piece on face masks because it was one of those projects that, in the wise words of Tim Gunn, you make it work. During the intense, early lockdown days, Anand and I teamed up and plotted how to create these top-frame mask-making animations in makeshift photo studios in our apartments across the world, balancing tripods on kitchen tables.

Read the full piece here
What is your favorite detail in that piece?

Anand cut up a Tool t-shirt.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

Writing the story was the challenge. I’d never done that before – always designing and editing.


Marco Hernandez
Data Visualization Developer
At Reuters 2 years
Based in Singapore
What are you most passionate about in your job?

I like to explore new ways of telling stories. During the process, create different versions of how to see the same thing at different angles. Make mistakes (unintentionally, of course) and then learn from the mistake itself.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

My family. Spend time with them doing whatever.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

I set up a small “office” at home to avoid back aches from working at the dining table. This month (Dec.) I brought my little space a little x-mas tree, so now we are working hard but in an extremely homey x-mas environment. I love Christmas!

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

There is a small garden at the back of the building I live in. I like to go there for little walks just to see the trees from below, with a worm’s eye. Sometimes the dataviz-thinking follows me in the walk, and I start to see patterns like on maps, body arteries or things like that in the trees. But later on it’s just green leaves and bird songs. I love that little place.

Favorite Piece

Assessing Australia's “ecological disaster”

Why is it your favorite?

Picking an overall favorite this year is a tough decision.

I have some favorites because of the depth of the stories and their impact. Others because it was a last minute story quickly produced but with a satisfactory result. And finally those that allowed us to do something different…

But if I need to pick only ONE, the analysis of more than 1,400 Australian species to highlight the animals most affected by the wildfires would be it.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

As I worked on this, I wondered what the outlook would be like on Kangaroo Island months later, when everything was calm. Would the bushes bloom again?

Had I had more time, I would have loved to keep track of how the burned areas recovered (or not) months later. But then came COVID, and you know the crazy story.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

The top map. It’s an element with so much information. Literally, it’s a map of life.

Did you have any early ideas/sketches you can share?

YES! I always have more assets than needed, process and alternative ideas.

On this one, I was wondering “What if we make a page in the style of those old cards?” like a collection of species, so I did the illos in “card” mockup (some we didn’t even use).

What was the best feedback you received?

The most common thing was “Oh poor Koalas, they are so cute!” Haha. Of course, we made a lot of adjustments to the maps, the overall color, the animation on top, and to show the burnt area data. But the Koala always stole people’s attention.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

The data of the species. The analysis required a great effort to process all that information to find the ones we wanted to highlight among thousands of possibilities.

Even though we got good feedback from experts and some guides, we didn’t want to leave vulnerable animals out.

What was the time scale from idea to published?

My file info says that I created the first folder on Jan. 13. So we had a week or so to do this project. Perhaps one or two more days of briefing sessions could be added to that time.


Ally J. Levine
Graphics Reporter
At Reuters 2 years
Based in Brooklyn, New York, USA
What are you most passionate about in your job?

My favorite part of my job is figuring out how to explain complex ideas in ways that are easy for readers to understand.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Outside of work, I love cooking, dancing around my apartment (and the dance studio, back when it was open) and collecting data on random bits of my life that I will probably never make into graphics but totally plan to.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

Though I miss getting to see my colleagues every day, one nice part about working from home is getting to personalize my workspace. I positioned my desk next to my bedroom window, so I can easily see trees and the sky – unlike when we worked in Times Square! I can also burn candles at my desk, which I think might have been frowned upon at the office.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

My remedy for the longer, more monotonous days of quarantine is to escape to my apartment building’s roof for some fresh air. Since my dance studio closed back in March, I’ve loved having the extra space to jump around (hoping my neighbors don’t mind the thumping).

Favorite Piece

Vaccine bootcamp

Why is it your favorite?

We hear about different types of vaccines in the news – “mRNA technology,” “protein sub-units,” “virus-like particles” – but what do these fancy words mean? What better way to explain than with lil’ animated viruses? I loved teaching myself these complex concepts on vaccine development so we could simplify the information for our readers.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

Most of what I’d do differently in this piece has to do with the production. Minami and I had never done anything like this before, so we spent a lot of time experimenting with file types and the user experience. Next time we have to personify and animate the human immune system, we’ll be all set!

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

My favorite animation is the Antigen Presenting Cell trapping the coronavirus. Who knew the immune system doing its job could be so adorable!

Did you have any early ideas/sketches you can share?

I had a blast working with Catherine Tai, our illustrator on this project. We sent sketches and inspiration back and forth that brought the concept to life.

What was the best feedback you received?

Matt always swoops in with the edits you don’t want to hear but need to. He challenged us to rethink the user experience, how the reader would be taken through the information. The story is better for it!

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

The trickiest part of this project was turning what I’d learned about the different types of vaccines into characters that accurately portrayed the science. For example, at first, the Inactivated virus vaccine was a zombie instead of a sleeping virus. But this was misleading in that a virus is never really alive, therefore it can’t be dead like a zombie.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

This was one of those projects that you sort of hate by the end because you feel like you’ll never be finished with it. We started it in May, but it was put on hold at the end of the month as we turned our attention to the protests for racial justice that broke out in the U.S. and the world. I think we came back to it in late-July and finished in September.


Maryanne Murray
Graphics Editor for Investigates team
At Reuters 9 years
Based in Springs, New York, USA
What are you most passionate about outside work?

Art.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

My co-workers don’t get along.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

This is the view from my kayak, where I spent many summer evenings. I feel lucky to live so close to the ocean.

Favorite Piece

The Apocaloptimist’s Manifesto

Why is it your favorite?

The memes were fun to make. And the project required many interesting conversations.

Read the full piece here
What is your favourite detail in that piece?

I like the top image. I also like how the tank wall between the dolphin and penguin represents a screen.

Did you have any early ideas/sketches you can share?

This is a rejected meme. It doesn’t make a ton of sense but it still cracks me up.

What was the best feedback you received?

I was worried maybe I had gone off the deep end with this whole approach, but the ad sales people loved it. I think most of us felt off base in April so it fit the moment.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

Being funny but not offensive or biased. Animals came in handy for keeping the tone light and helped to avoid mocking anyone.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

This was part of a package of stories for Earth Day so it was planned a while beforehand. But it was about a couple of weeks from an earnest start to finish.


Sam Hart
Data Visualization Developer
At Reuters 1.25 years
Based in Brooklyn, New York, USA
What are you most passionate about in your job?

Executing visuals that make tough and dense concepts digestible and engaging to readers.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Television ranging from prestige HBO dramas to old seasons of America’s Next Top Model, plowing through New York Times recipes, running in Prospect Park, and pretending I’m single handedly keeping my favorite pizza joint afloat when I order more garlic knots than I need.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

I didn’t even have a desk before the pandemic started. It can get a bit messy, but it’s charming and I actually do enjoy spending my day among my precariously stacked book collection. My messy desktop has been blurred because nobody needs to see that.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

I am lucky to have Prospect Park as my backyard. I think I’ve explored every inch of it since the pandemic hit, and it has greatly improved my mental health.

Favorite Piece

The Race Gap

Why is it your favorite piece?

Most of 2020 revolved around the U.S. election and COVID-19, so it was nice to be able to take a step back and dive deep into a different important topic. And that’s what I think we achieved with The Race Gap, where we looked at how Black Americans face systemic hurdles in so many aspects of American life.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

I think we created something that shows the breadth of the issue, and I think what follows would be the depth of the issue. I don’t know if all of that would even be possible in one piece, but I think it would be valuable to dive deeper into any of the topics we surfaced and show how and why systemic racism still exists in America.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

The illustrations here really breathe life and humanity into a dense and heavy subject. My absolute favorite would be the illustration on homeownership, where the shape of a house is created out of the negative space under the man’s arm.

Did you have any early ideas/sketches you can share?
What was the best feedback you received?

That smooth, buttery transitions really enhance the user experience here.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

For me, on the technical end, it was difficult figuring out a user experience that fit the story. We wanted a smooth narrative that really allowed the illustrations to take center stage and allowed the reader to digest all the data points we threw at them.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

5 weeks.


Chris Canipe
Data Visualization Developer
At Reuters 1 year
Based in Kansas City, Missouri, USA
What are you most passionate about in your job?

Collaborating with a bunch of smart people to make cool things. My favorite projects involve working with reporters and editors who have a wealth of knowledge and reporting, and helping to build striking visual pieces that tell a story.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Traveling, disc golf, Bruce Springsteen, bourbon, Zelda Breath of the Wild, this board game called Wingspan, the state of journalism, the ISO 8601 date standard, friends, family and trying to raise a good human. Not necessarily in that order.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

This is my desk. Before the pandemic, my office was in the basement. But this year I realized that I require light. Like a house plant.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

This is my son and me at the Kansas City Zoo. Cold weekday mornings are the absolute best time to visit the zoo, because you more or less get the place to yourselves! It’s so peaceful.

Favorite Piece

Videos of alleged police misconduct went viral. Then what happened?

Why is your favorite piece?

I don’t know if it actually was the best piece I worked on, or my favorite… but it’s the one that affected me the most. We watched a lot of videos of protesters getting beat up by police, and it made me miserable. I was anxious and sad while working on this story. Ally Levine’s design approach put the brutality of these exchanges front and center. Looking at this months later, it still upsets me.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

Honestly, I’m glad we didn’t have more time! Sometimes it’s good to work at a clip and then move on. I didn’t want to dwell in that headspace.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

Originally, we wanted to use clips from all 44 videos documented in the piece. We didn’t have rights to use all of the videos, so we used gray boxes with only nine videos. It felt like a clever workaround at the time, but 44 videos would have overwhelmed the reader.


Aditi Bhandari
Data Visualization Developer
At Reuters 2 years
Based in India
What are you most passionate about in your job?

I think the best thing about being a journalist is getting to become a temporary expert on any topic while you’re covering it.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Food - cooking it, eating it, food documentaries/podcasts/writing/everything. I also love making playlists specific to very niche emotional moods, rewatching old TV shows with friends and browsing foster cat instagram pages.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

I finally bought a desk for myself this year instead of working at my dining table/on my bed! I have a few decorative things I’ve collected over the years but most importantly I can play music really loud on my speaker instead of on headphones. If the world has to listen to me play the same song 17 times in a row… so be it.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

This is the view from my desk, and I rearranged the whole living room just to secure this spot. It’s the view I grew up with, so being near big bodies of water feels grounding and familiar. It doesn’t matter if it’s a river, lake or sea like this one – if it’s big enough to have a Natural Earth shapefile, it’s good enough for me.

Favorite Piece

The mobilizing power of the BTS Army

Why is it your favorite?

This was the first big project that I pitched and it was the perfect intersection of several interests; online culture, music, social justice movements and found communities. I grew up wanting to be a music writer and spent 90% of my teenagehood surrounded by fan culture on Tumblr. The reporters and editors I usually work with are always so knowledgeable about their beats, so it felt good that I had already laid the groundwork for myself for a project like this!

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

I think the graphic about the Twitter ecosystem is very insightful, whether you’re new to the fanbase or have been part of it for years. If I had more time I would have tried to turn it into an interactive network diagram of the different types of accounts and visualize who follows each other, because that’s an important piece of how and why messages can spread so quickly through the community.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

I’m really proud I managed to find a shade of purple (BTS and ARMY’s unofficial colours) that included the number 7, which has a ton of importance for BTS and ARMY. #770077 did a lot of heavy lifting in this piece; all the shades of purple were just the same hex code at different opacities.

Did you have any early ideas/sketches you can share?

I made a moodboard for some of the visual flourishes.

What was the best feedback you received?

To lean into the creative side of things and not tamp it down just to stick tp a more familiar format. I was concerned that adding insular information, such as putting the band members in fan chant order (rather than alphabetical order), would be overwhelming to readers who didn’t know anything about BTS but after several drafts we were able to make it work.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

I had to rely on a mix of scraping and manually collecting the tweets and Twitter data for this piece. Searching for and collecting tweets by hand is not fun at all, but I think it paid off.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

It took me a little over a month to research, interview sources, write, design and build the project.


Simon Scarr
Deputy Global Editor, Graphics
At Reuters 7 years
Based in Singapore
What are you most passionate about in your job?

Going deep on breaking news. We often hit developing stories with interesting follow-up angles as more facts (or questions) emerge. Just because a topic has been covered, doesn’t mean we should stop thinking about it. One facet of my role is to root out these angles and develop them into graphics-driven stories.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

My family is my main passion but I’m still massively into sports, even though I’m a bit less active than I used to be. I’ve played football (soccer) all of my life and been involved in a lot of Muay Thai (Thai boxing) over the past 15 years. My other love is learning about, collecting and enjoying wine.

Both of my kids train at a gym with a great wine shop nearby, so most weekends I manage to roll all of the above into one outing.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

This is my temporary office. The map on the wall in the background was my father-in-law’s from when he was working in Vietnam in the 60s. It’s mostly hand rendered and very detailed. I love maps and having one with some history is really cool.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

This is my quiet spot where I find myself walking or running every day. No tall buildings or heavy traffic in sight.

Favorite Piece

Air attack

Why is it your favorite?

This was one aspect of the California fires story that hadn’t really been covered extensively in graphics. To be able to do so in such detail was hugely satisfying. There was a huge data selection and cleaning exercise at the start, which we managed to overcome, but there were a few stages along the way where we thought this might not pan out as expected. To end up with such an immersive and detailed end result was great.

I love plotting flight path data for some reason so working on the maps was a bonus. Especially when the flight paths themselves told such a rich and interesting story. I knew we just had to play them up in the piece.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

I’d love to have experimented with more animations. Perhaps tried making every map with a very quick animation layer on top for the flight paths.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

There are so many! The top animation is really fun to watch. I also love the small maps for the super scooper planes showing how they circled dozens of times to grab water out of the lake before dumping it. And I really like the small illustrations of every aircraft that bring the page to life.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

The early data gathering, sifting and cleaning was a lot of work. On the other hand, the production and art direction was also very challenging. Finding a way to visually make lots of maps, illustrations, charts, a 3D diagram, video, and text all feel like a continuous cohesive piece was no small task. It is difficult when there are so many elements that break up a page. The color palette and visual style really helped bring the page to life.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

About 10 days.


Gurman Bhatia
Data Visualization Developer
At Reuters 2.5 years
Based in Singapore
What are you most passionate about in your job?

Stories. Figuring out visual ways to explain. Making sure accurate factual information is out there. Working towards informing in an age rife with misinformation. And working with some really smart people!

What are you most passionate about outside work?

COVID has definitely given me content for this answer. For most of my life, my work and the people around me have been my passion. The only other passions that stuck through the years were collecting earrings and listening to old Hindi songs.

I was a decent cook, but never cooked so much. During lockdown and COVID times, I cooked and cooked and cooked and experimented with food. Food is not only a joy to make, but even more fulfilling to share. I love to cook for people. I learnt to garden and grew my own herbs, chillies and tomatoes. I also learnt hula hooping (and it is a lot more than waist hooping)! Three months and counting and I have hooped almost every day.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

I spend most of my time in my room. Working on my cluttered desk, grabbing a book sometimes for a break, or picking up a hoop and dancing it off. My French press, water bottle and journal are other essentials that will be there.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

It is my balcony! I have spent many hours of the pandemic gardening and having conversations with my flatmates and friends.

Favorite Piece

COVID-19 global tracker

Why is it your favorite?

This was the most ambitious project I have worked on so far. This was also a team effort, with members in multiple time zones. Jon, Prasanta and I did the design and development. Dozens of journalists around the world have been collecting data since December. The project looks the way it does because of the team behind it.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

Done extensive user testing!

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

The colors.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

That map and honing the interaction on it. Then figuring out how to make a horizontal map work well on mobile. Also the top bit. How do we open the page with a strong visual that is also newsy?

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

2.5 months


Feilding Cage
Data Visualization Editor
At Reuters 2 years
Based in Durham, North Carolina, USA
What are you most passionate about in your job?

Getting more people to use svelte!

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Baking! I love the science of it all. I’m in a vegan baking phase at the moment.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

I work from a small office in the back of my house. Every day I go for a walk and enter a side door so it feels like I’m actually commuting.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

There are always homemade cookies for the afternoon pick-me-up. I’m currently obsessed with spice cookies, but anything without white chocolate is possible.

Favorite Piece

Why time feels so weird in 2020

Why is it your favorite?

This project focuses on something we were all sensing and talking about but couldn’t quite explain. It offers a bit of distraction from the COVID news while being totally related to it at the same time.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

This project was published in July and captured our sense of time during the initial stages of staying at home. As the year went on, there were other factors around the election and the anticipation of events in the future that would also be fun to look at.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

I love that the piece is based on a lot of data and is highly visual but isn’t inherently a traditional data viz piece featuring maps or charts.

What was the best feedback you received?

“I want what you guys are smoking.”

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

Building this project was similar to what I’d imagine designing a 3d illusion for a Magic Eye puzzle would be like. I had to stay focused on the code and events occurring according to the original experiments and not get distracted by whether I was seeing the illusion each time I previewed it.

What was the time scale from idea to published?

What is time anyway?


Anand Katakam
Graphics Editor for Asia
At Reuters 1.5 years
Based in Bangalore, India
What are you most passionate about in your job?

I do something new every single day, and I get to work with some of the smartest journalists in the world.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Most recently, it’s been sim racing and learning to program a Raspberry Pi, but I love getting out to play a sport.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

I am fortunate that it faces a window, so I get plenty of natural light and a great view. I spend my weekends at this desk, usually reading or tinkering with a speaker.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

Nearly every evening after work I go for a walk in Cubbon park. This is the view of the tree canopy.

Favorite Piece

Make a mask

Why is it your favorite?

I got to work with Michael (who is an exceptionally talented seamster) and we had a transcontinental collaboration, the first of my career. Creating a home studio, we somehow managed to stitch together our photos and masks. We did this story when everyone was pretty uncertain about how effective masks were. I’d like to think Michael and I were ahead of the curve on this one.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

I would have made it a scrollytelling story with the photos, but I didn’t have the skills at the time.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

I had to use a Tool t-shirt to make one of the masks. It was way too small for me. Social media and the friends that gave it to me were not happy.

What was the best feedback you received?

Jon made us speed up the animation nearly every time we showed him a draft. “Make it like a Jim Henson stop motion animation,” he said. Although I initially disagreed, he was right in the end.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

Making the background transparent for each of the stop motion graphics. Michael and I really toiled over this project. We set up mini studios in our homes.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

I think it took us three weeks.


Sarah Slobin
Visual Editor
At Reuters 3 years
Based in Harlem, New York, USA
What are you most passionate about in your job?

Not repeating myself.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Cheese. Don’t get me started.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

We just moved to Harlem so everything is in piles and boxes, and piles of boxes. This is my desk but I move around the apartment. I have no idea where the best place to sit is yet.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

These are my monsters. They greet you when you walk in the door and when you turn off the lights, their eyeballs glow in the dark.

Favorite Piece

How remote work divides America

Why is your favorite piece?

I like it because it started with Matt randomly showing me this white paper and ended up being a pretty good snapshot of the early days of the pandemic. These were my first Zoom interviews, the sources were sort of stunned to be chatting from their homes – which was ironic, given their analysis was all about remote work.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

I had this genius idea that I could just use QuickTime to capture one of my interviews and then totally forgot about recording sound. So I have an entire interview with an economist talking from his front porch. No audio.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

The plus signs. I don’t know what I was thinking but I needed to use them.

What was the best feedback you received?

This, from Matt. Total Doh! moment.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

Decomplexifying my odd charts for not-visually literate readers

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

May 21 to June 21


Samuel Granados
Graphics Editor
At Reuters 2 years
Based in Spain
What are you most passionate about in your job?

This job offers a unique opportunity to learn new things every day about the world we all live in. Whether it is science, geography or politics, you always need to push yourself to better understand how things work, our actions and their implications for others.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Designing books for a five-month-old lady.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

This is where I work most of the time when I am at home. A couple wooden boards and a glass make it for me. I put some light at the bottom so I have the perfect light table. Through that window I see our dogs in the patio reminding me we all need to get out.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

I might not have the fanciest workstation, but it is located somewhere in this valley, a sunny corner in the south of Spain where neighbors trade avocados or homemade wine with olive oil, figs or simply smiles… From here you can spot Africa and tune into Morocco’s radio stations.

Favorite Piece

Ventilators: a bridge between life and death?

Why is it your favorite?

This project came at a moment in which many people were trying to get answers about the new coronavirus while a lot of contradictory messages were circulating around. The reporting process helped me to better understand the size of the problem we were facing and allowed me to provide some valuable information – even to my own family – in the early stages of the pandemic.

The writing and actual making of those illustrations and graphics were also good therapy amid the uncertainty of those days in which my partner and I were expecting the arrival of our first daughter.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

Most of my research was based on scientific papers and early publications because I decided to keep the piece as sharp and informative as possible in the shortest turnaround time. But I still wonder if it could have been more engaging for readers to include additional stories from doctors and patients.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

The piece wasn’t going to be a simple list of ventilators. I was aiming to tell a story about how this equipment was being used in the context of the pandemic and highlight the key differences and risks that come with using each device.

At that time, first world countries were racing to buy and manufacture these devices. I think the broader package that Reuters published with this story was very timely and helped bring to light the important life and death decisions that were being made.

Did you have any early ideas/sketches you can share?

Yes, I did different sketches for the breathing devices and the top illustration, which is where I actually spent most of my time. I needed the information to be in separate layers so I used translucent paper to draw all the parts separately.

What was the best feedback you received?

Keep the focus on readers and what they need to know.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

Using raster images when doing illustration is always more challenging than doing vector illustration, especially when it comes to making quick tweaks or iterations, and you have five different artboards to deal with on a deadline.

In this case, the challenges also multiplied because the main hand-drawn illustration was based on different layers of paper, and I am a complete disaster when it comes to file managing and version control.

What was the time scale from idea to published?

Around three weeks.


Prasanta Kumar Dutta
Data Visualization Developer
At Reuters 2 years
Based in India
What are you most passionate about in your job?

I enjoy telling stories, and the job lets me do that with the information around us, through visual experiences. While the thrill of making things and solving information design problems gets me to my desk every day, it’s the excitement of gaining knowledge from different domains and working with some amazing people that keeps me going!

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Travel photography, art explorations and memes.

However, one thing I am most passionate about is cooking, not just because I love to eat, but over the years I have realised that it’s quite therapeutic. Oh, and in the lockdown days, I even ended up starting an Instagram showcase of my culinary explorations.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

This is a temporary workspace I have created at my childhood desk. Even though it lacks the pile of books and the eraser crumbs, it holds some fond memories from the first two decades of my life.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

This is a partial view of the neighborhood from my terrace, featuring my favorite tree that provides coconuts for the Khow Suey and Prawns Malai Curry. I love to take an occasional stroll on the terrace during the golden hour while sipping tea and contemplating life.

Favorite Piece

How thawing permafrost could fuel climate warming

Why is it your favorite?

I have a special corner in my heart for environmental themes and I believe this project helps bring to light an alarming facet of the global warming narrative. It was a great learning experience – from sharing extensive email threads with scientists to collaborating with climate reporters.

Plus, totally love Michael’s illustrated landscapes, which made the piece spring to life.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

Perhaps, I would have gotten a bit more sleep in the last few days before the publishing deadline! Jokes apart, the initial draft had some more scientific explanations, which we ended up trimming. In hindsight, that was a good decision as it helped keep the piece crisp and easier to digest.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

The opening sequence.

The original opening visual was busy with a bunch of text on it. It wasn’t quite working out. We were throwing around some ideas about animating the opening screen to give the feeling of a transition from a dark and cold winter to a sunny summer, but illustrating all the frames for that was a bit beyond scope. Now me, being a fan of color blend modes, decided to experiment with the CSS and voilà – we had a cool effect and the white intro text fit beautifully on it!

Did you have any early ideas/sketches you can share?

I have some of my early map explorations as I was trying out colors and visual styles. I was so obsessed with the white ice-sheets of Greenland amidst the topography and bathymetry textures.

What was the best feedback you received?

So a number of elements on the webpage depended on the dimensions of the browser window, and things kept breaking, until Jon suggested that I calculate the dimensions not just when the page loads but every time I use them to position elements. It was a bug I hadn’t been able to pin down and with only a few hours to the deadline, the suggestion was a lifesaver!

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

The page has a lot of moving parts – the layered visuals attached to page scroll, the horizontally scrolling landscape and so on. Getting everything to tie up neatly while being functional on multiple screen sizes took quite some work.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

It’s one of those projects that had a long marination time, but rather quick execution. The idea was floated around in late May, when there was a huge diesel oil spill in Norilsk, Russia. After a couple of weeks of preliminary research, I switched focus to the COVID-19 tracker. I picked it back up in late September and after a two-week sprint, Michael and I were able to drive it across the finish line.


Manas Sharma
According to Simon, I “tell” computers to do things
At Reuters feels like 27
Based in Singapore
What are you most passionate about in your job?

Getting otherwise ridiculous ideas published.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Music, tea, cooking and street food (in that order).

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

There are two kinds of people in the world… those who have desks, and those with back pain.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

There’s a tea and breakfast “stall” two minutes walk from my place. I go there every morning. It’s amazing. Then there’s this lounge chair I have that I can unfold on my balcony. Fantastic for evening tea and music in the winter. Highly recommended.

Favorite Piece

Stopping the spread

Why is it your favorite piece?

I learned how to read research papers, talk to researchers, how to load animations fast, and use cached data.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

Make the bottom “playground” faster somehow. I don’t like how slow the math is on that.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

The use of the model to explain multiple topics. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the way I implemented it left it open for a lot of play and tweaks to different scenarios like masks, distancing, etc., pretty easily. Probably the first time I appreciated my own code.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

Just the amount of thinking we had to do about the parameters involved. We didn’t want to over simplify and also not make any concrete statements about COVID.

What was the time scale from idea to published?

15 years.


Matthew Weber
Global Head of Graphics
At Reuters 8 years
Based in Rosendale, New York, USA
What are you most passionate about in your job?

The way that design is a conversation and working with such talented people leads to such excellent dialogues.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Family. Hikes. Books. Food. Cooking that food. More importantly eating that food. And all the other food. FOOD!

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

Ooof. It is awful dusty up in here. Also, I stand by what that coffee mug has to say about me.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

Rosendale was a booming cement mining town 100 years ago. When I wander around the discarded remnants of that bygone age I think about how, especially in the news business, all of this work we strive for will be discarded and forgotten as soon as its usefulness has passed. But maybe we can leave something beautiful and strange to be rediscovered down the line.

Favorite Piece

One month, 20.5 million jobs lost

Why is it your favorite?

The U.S. monthly jobs report is one of those economic indicators that is always sort of in the back of your brain. Well, at least, my brain, probably from years of working at the Wall Street Journal and having the magnificent Pat Minczeski drill it in there.

In the Spring, as weekly unemployment charts were all breaking from staggeringly huge numbers, we knew that the April jobs report was going to be catastrophic. So we thought, if the latest bar was going to be so huge to make all the previous bars miniscule and unreadable, what would it look like? What if we stretched this thing to a height so large that the previous bars were a normal size?

The answer is a loooooong bar that stretches about three to four screens deep, and once we saw that, we realized it would really tell the story of just how catastrophic this drop was.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

There is a lot of nuance in these numbers and a lot of different stories that can be teased out. In the end we chose to focus on the broad stroke big numbers but I wouldn’t have minded getting into some of the nitty gritty.

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

The little annotations down the side of that bar, which really give a sense of just how many people we are talking about.

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

We wanted to publish this minutes after the jobs report landed,which involved lots of stringy if/then second guessing in the data language. We had forecasts of what was going to happen, but they’re not always reliable. What if unemployment didn’t go over the height of the 2008 recession? What if it was worse than the Great Depression? A lot of the language was based on the data and had many, many variations that were, in the end, not used.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

Sometimes knowing something is coming well in advance is unhelpful. We talked about the fact that this was going to be a momentous jobs report for weeks. Then suddenly it was Tuesday the week of, and we had to cobble it together in three days.


Jon McClure
I lead our teams in New York and London. There’s a title in that somewhere.
At Reuters 0.82 years
Based in Bermondsey, London, United Kingdom
What are you most passionate about in your job?

Editing/managing is a different animal, but I really dig it. Helping others articulate their best ideas and paving a way for their point of view is an incredibly rewarding and deeply educational gig.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Mountain walks. Fishing. Travel outside cities. Long but not florid fiction. Economic histories. Panel shows. Scandi metal bands and 20th century Eastern European composers. Revisionist westerns and giallo horror pics. Aquascaping. Ulster fry for breakfast, Serrano ham on sourdough for lunch, biryani for dinner and a Campbeltown scotch twice before bed. Above all, good craic.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

I moved from the U.S. into my London flat a week before the first nationwide lockdown here. With shops shut and most delivery offline, I had to learn to work from a home office at the fanatical end of the Marie Kondo scale for a few months. That situation did eventually improve, but I can tell you nothing binds you to a new place better than learning to scavenge through a pandemic.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

I love London and there are a dozen parks, clever shops and architectural bits to reference here. But my favorite thing may be that I’m just down the road from views like this, a photo I took during a (COVID-secure) trip to Wales.

Favorite Piece

Reuters Graphics tools and templates

Why is it your favorite?

My colleagues have already talked about the more important journalism I shared a byline on, but I’ve also been deeply invested in updating the tech we use behind-the-scenes to make our graphics. Not the work you win hearts and minds with, but tools are culture on a team like ours, and I’m really happy with the direction we’re headed in and how much of it is open for others to use and see what we’re up to.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

How much time you got, sunshine?

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

Our interactive style guide.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

Time is a flat circle.


Jitesh Chowdhury
Data Visualization Developer
At Reuters 0.3 years
Based in Bangalore, India
What are you most passionate about in your job?

Every day is a new story and a new challenge, just like reading an unknown page from the book of life. I love playing with data and working here lets me do that every day, adding new lessons and experience through this exciting journey with Reuters Graphics.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Photography and not telling my own stories through my photos, but letting the views draw others’ understanding and aspirations from them.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

Well, I started my journey in work-from-home mode with Reuters Graphics, but I never felt away from the warmth of my team. This is the place where I spend most of my time during weekdays. I do spend a lot of time chilling here during the weekends too.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

I have shared a photo of my favorite chair with the Christmas tree, which my fiancée and I managed to decorate just after I got my favorite piece published last week. This photo encapsulates a lot of feelings and emotions.

Favorite Piece

How the novel coronavirus has evolved

Why is it your favorite piece?

I love wrangling big and complex datasets and what can be more complex than genomic data! This project taught me to be patient and, when you hit a dead end, don’t panic but sit back and relax for some time. All these lessons were guided by my amazing mentor and team, who gave me that trust in myself that nothing is impossible to crack. A lot of lessons from technical to personal came my way in the few months working on this project.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

I would love to make this piece a bit animated to give a visual storytelling of the coronavirus mutation.

What is your favourite detail in that piece?

This phylogenetic tree is one of a kind because this was my first time visualizing something so complicated but bringing it to a point where it pops out the important insights and subtle complexity of the piece.

What was the best feedback you received?

There was one major feedback which was basically to make “complex data well explained.”

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

Understanding and parsing the data to bring it out in a simple way.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

3 months with other small projects running parallel.


Minami Funakoshi
Graphics journalist
At Reuters 5 years
Based in Brooklyn, New York, USA
What are you most passionate about in your job?

I was a text reporter before joining Graphics, and I love the creative freedom on this team. We get to try almost anything. It’s fascinating working with colleagues who think about storytelling, design and data in different ways – it’s like getting a peek into how other people’s (amazing) brains operate.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Writing, reading, manga (highly recommend Land of the Lustrous), Muay Thai and making vegan food.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

I bought a standing desk in March, right when I started working from home. It was too tall for me, so I bought a stepper. That wasn’t enough, so I put a kitchen mat on top of it.

The two rubber ducks help me debug code. The cup and the matcha bowl that I brought with me when I moved to New York from Japan keep me hydrated, caffeinated and connected to home.

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

This is from a nearby park. It’s where the neighborhood congregates – people of all ages, from so many countries. Going on walks there always lifts me up.

Favorite Piece

2020: Clippings from the longest year

Why is it your favorite?

Digging through photos, articles, personal stories, tweets, memes and other artifacts from 2020, and trying to make sense of it all, was often painful and overwhelming. I worked with Samu G., Ally, and Jon, who helped me parse all the tragic, difficult, weird, funny, and beautiful moments of this year. I’m so grateful I got to work on such an emotionally complex story with colleagues I respect.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

I would have made it so you can click on the clippings and see the Reuters stories, and I would have added animations and videos throughout (like the one of the sock puppet eating cars from the window).

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

In the March section, where we talk about the pandemic in Bergamo, Italy, Samu and Ally came up with the idea of using pressed flowers as a motif. The flowers come back in April alongside this incredible photo of a baby born during the pandemic. These flowers remind me of the cherry blossom, which in Japan symbolises life, death and the passing of time. They tie the sections together emotionally, visually and symbolically.

Did you have any early ideas/sketches you can share?

This project morphed over time. The first idea we had was: “Postcards from 2020.” We quickly realised that the format was too restrictive, and somewhere along the way we came up with the idea of scrapbooking.

What was the best feedback you received?

“Add more cultural zeitgeist-y stuff”

What was the most difficult aspect of building this?

Balancing the tone and emotional intensity – mixing up the funny or weird moments (remember Tiger King?) with the more serious, heavy ones. These juxtapositions are uncomfortable and painful to acknowledge, but that is the reality of 2020.

What was the time scale from idea to publication?

Around three weeks


Wen Foo
Graphic Journalist
At Reuters 14 years
Based in Singapore
What are you most passionate about in your job?

Learning new things with each new project.

What are you most passionate about outside work?

Food, cats and long drives.

Tell us about your work-from-home space.

Necessity is the mother of invention — behold the cat-safe keyboard protector!

What’s an interesting detail about where you live?

The sunrise shall visit us from on high. I love looking out the window in the morning.

Favorite Piece

Weapons of control

Why is it your favorite?

I love making technical drawings. This project was a welcome respite from the drudgery of compiling Covid-19 numbers.

Read the full piece here
What would you have done differently if you had more time?

Draw a better beanbag round!

What is your favorite detail in that piece?

Drawing the phillips screws for the pepper spray projector.

What was the time scale from idea to published?

Two days but a couple of projectiles were added a week later.