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SA Visual


Illustrating science since 1845
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    The world of science visuals has become a large and varied place. In this blog we call out great art and design from our hallowed pages and elsewhere.

    The SA Visual writers:
    Michael Mrak, Jen Christiansen, Monica Bradley, Jason Mischka, Ryan Reid, Jason Arias, Liz Tormes and Bernard Lee.
  • There’s No Infographic without Info (and other Lessons from Malofiej)

    malofiej23_detail

    News graphics professionals converged in Pamplona, Spain for the 23rd annual Malofiej Information Graphics World Summit for one week last month. Presentations covered the gamut. Adolfo Arranz preached the practice of urban sketching as a way to hone observation skills and develop connections with place. Matthew Swift talked about building online graphics that live behind [...]

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    Subatomic Particles over Time: Graphics from the Archive, 1952 to 2015

    particle_detail

    In the May issue of Scientific American, a familiar friend makes an appearance: a chart of fundamental particles. These particles—fermions (which include constituents of matter such as electrons and quarks) and bosons (usually carriers of force)—are at the very heart of the Standard Model of particle physics. Visualizing them in table form has become a [...]

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    Behind the Scenes at Scientific American MIND‘s May/June Cover Shoot!

    Aaron Goodman photographs Ten.

    The May/June cover is a first for Scientific American MIND in that it features our first non-human cover boy – a very handsome 5 year old Border Collie named Ten! Photographer Aaron Goodman photographed him in his Manhattan studio in February. Ten, who is the first GCH OTCH (Grand Champion and Obedience Trial Champion) Border Collie in [...]

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    The Oceans’ Origins and the Evolution of a SciAm Infographic

    waterDetail

    When it comes to developing an illustrated information graphic, sometimes you don’t really know what sorts of details you’re going to need until you dive in and start drawing. That was certainly the case for a timeline of the events that led to the development of Earth’s oceans, which appeared in “Oceans from the Skies” by [...]

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    Pop Culture Pulsar: Origin Story of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures Album Cover [Video]

    Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division

    Sure, I was familiar with the graphic—and I’m not alone. Drop this image (right) on someone’s desk and chances are they’ll reflexively blurt, “Joy Division.” The band’s 1979 Unknown Pleasures album cover leaned entirely on a small mysterious data display, printed in white on black. No band name, album title or other identifiers. An interesting [...]

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    How to Choose the Form of an Infographic: It’s All about Context

    data_circle

    As a graphics designer, I have a love/hate relationship with circles. The humble form provides a relief from rigid rectangular chart structures that are pinned to x- and y-axes. The shape can certainly help to enliven a page and engage a reader. Using circles may come at a cost, however. The ability of a reader [...]

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    Math Is Beautiful, But Is It Art?

    Concinnitas_detail

    Every so often, beauty comes up as a topic of conversation in editorial meetings at Scientific American. Surely there’s an article, or series of articles that we can develop on the topic? After all, it’s not unusual for theories and/or equations to be described as beautiful. Our conversations circle around to perception and aesthetics and [...]

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    The Influential Murals (Really!) of Scientific American Founder Rufus Porter

    Porter_detail

    Perhaps the tweet below from editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina last weekend shouldn’t have been a surprise. After all, I knew that Rufus Porter, founding editor and publisher of Scientific American, was a well-rounded fellow. From Frank Luther Mott’s Pulitzer-Prize winning series A History of American Magazines (Volume 2): “The founder of the Scientific American was one [...]

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    The Evolution of a Scientific American Information Graphic: Clues to Dampening Pain

    Pain detail

    Every graphic is a new adventure. Some of our magazine articles involve abstract concepts that require lots of time and energy at the front-end, making decisions about what, exactly should be illustrated. For others, the crux is more obvious, and clearly illustratable. That was the case when it came to “Pain That Won’t Quit” in [...]

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    Mars’s First Close-up

    MarinerIV_Mars_Map

    Today marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of NASA’s Mariner IV spacecraft (November 28, 1964). In total, the mission gave us 21 complete images of Mars, including this, our first close view of the planet—courtesy of data transmitted by the interplanetary probe and earth-bound scientists wielding pastels (below). How did the image come to [...]

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