SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MAGAZINE

Graphic Science

We’re honored to create artful charts of record-holders and prize-winners
for the pages of Scientific American Magazine.

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The information graphics editor at Scientific American Magazine asked us if we could visualize the world’s fastest known creature, a mite. Researchers measure speed relative to body lengths per second, making comparisons to other, bigger animals a challenge to understand. We decided to even-out this variable by shrinking other species speed record-holders down to the size of a sesame seed, with a race around a bagel, a recognizable and fun way to introduce our mighty racer.



What can we learn about longevity by comparing a wide range of milestone species, their size, and average heartbeats, when relevant? It turns out that many scientists think flying creatures are exempt from the normal rule of “small in size, fast-beating heart, short life.” Flight sometimes correlates with longevity, just like isolation factors into the bristlecone pine tree’s hardiness.

The visual concept for this page emerged from a trip to a natural history museum, and an encounter with the gnarled trunk of a bristlecone pine tree. The tree rings were a timeline, swirling nearly 5,000 years into the past.


Our original idea was to compare the ancient bristlecone pine tree to the mayfly, who lives only a day. But the distance between these two species was too vast for the printed page, so we created a simple app for SciAm’s iPad edition that allowed readers to make comparisons over a much wider scale. Even here, the mayfly proved to be out-of-reach.



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The editors of Scientific American Magazine commissioned us to visualize the history of the Nobel Prize winners in the sciences worldwide, all on one page. Here, we show how prior to World War II, scientists affiliated with the United Kingdom, Germany and France stepped to the pedestal more often than scientists affiliated with other nations. With an influx of exiled scientists from war-torn Europe, and a boom in post-WWII prosperity in the United States, the medal count moved emphatically to the U.S. The shift suggests how scientists need a supportive environment to realize their dreams.



THE PROCESS


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Longevity concepts


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Nobel Prize concepts


Rough concept sketches are an integral early part of each project. These “thumbnail sketches” are a good way to quickly explore several possible directions with minimal risk (easy to create, easy to move on from.) As concepts mature, fewer but more detailed drawings will be made to further refine ideas until a final path is chosen to produce for the final delivery.