Blog

Making of Mathematical Instruments
September 18, 2022

I work best with existing material—whether that be images, ideas, spreadsheets, documentation, books, etc. That existing material defines the boundaries I need to create something more. When I stumble across a nice chunk of material that has those boundaries (like an old unique book), excitement really sets in. This is what I felt when I found Nicolas Bion’s treatise on mathematical instruments from 1709.

Making of 17th Century Watercolors
June 18, 2022

Way back in 2014, a Dutch manuscript from about mixing watercolors from 1692 made a splash in the blogosphere, because while it was centuries old, few had given it much attention and it was such a beautifully preserved thorough account of how watercolors were mixed back then. Ever since then, I thought it had potential as a fun project but avoided creating one due to language barriers and other reasons that turned out to be unfounded.

Making of Iconographic Encylopædia
February 6, 2022

The digital edition of Iconographic Encyclopædia from 1851 was by far, the largest and longest project I’ve undertaken. Comprising 500 plates, more than 13,000 illustrations, 1.6 million words, and spanning 13 months, it was a wonderful exercise in creativity and patience.

Making of A Brief Visual Exploration of A Dictionary of Typography
December 16, 2020

Not many people read a dictionary cover to cover, let alone analyze every word, but I did and found it fascinating. During research phases for my past restoration projects, I often came across a surprising number of antique dictionaries and always overlooked them. For this project, I actively sought out an interesting one to explore and ended up finding two to create A Brief Visual Exploration of A Dictionary of Typography.

Announcing jigsaw puzzles
October 29, 2020

I’m excited to announce that 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles are now available for three of my projects with more to come. Puzzles are available for British & Exotic Mineralogy, Illustrations of the Natural Orders of Plants, and Byrne’s Euclid. The idea to offer puzzles was sparked by some recent comments that the mineralogy poster could be a good fit but they started me down an intriguing path of researching what it would take to get these puzzles manufactured.

Making of British & Exotic Mineralogy
July 25, 2020

Have you ever had an idea that sticks with you? One popped into my head when I stumbled across James Sowerby’s massive collection of mineral illustrations from the nineteenth century. I naively wondered how they would look arranged by color in a big collage and spent the next three and a half months making it happen with British & Exotic Mineralogy…and learning new levels of patience along the way.

Making of ATF Typesetter Model B
February 12, 2020

If you’ve ever found a tiny piece of obscure history and had it strike something in you that made you obsess over it for weeks, that’s how I felt when I found the brochure for the ATF Typesetter Model B. This small 16-page brochure from 1963 for an obsolete piece of typographical machinery piqued my interest so much that I wound up converting it into a one-page website as an exercise in design and technology. Plus, it was just plain fun.

Making of Goethe’s Colours
January 12, 2020

Figuring out how to put a new face on something old is never easy and devising a new way to look at Goethe’s Theory of Colours was no exception. What started as a relatively simple idea turned out to be more complex that I expected but the process was a good learning experience. The final result is fun too.

Making of Picturesque Views of Seats of Great Britain and Ireland
October 13, 2019

Castles and mansions and manors, oh my! The minute I saw Alexander Lydon’s illustrations in A Series of Picturesque Views of Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, I wanted to create something based on them. Picturesque Views of Seats of Great Britain and Ireland (or simply “Seats” for short) is the result.

Making of the Illustrations of the Natural Orders of Plants
July 9, 2019

If someone told me when I was young that I would spend three months of my time tracing nineteenth century botanical illustrations and enjoy it, I would have scoffed, but that’s what I did to reproduce Elizabeth Twining’s Illustrations of the Natural Orders of Plants and I loved every minute.

Making of Byrne’s Euclid
December 16, 2018

Creating a faithful online reproduction of a book considered one of the most beautiful and unusual publications ever published is a daunting task. Byrne’s Euclid is my tribute to Oliver Byrne’s most celebrated publication from 1847 that illustrated the geometric principles established in Euclid’s original Elements from 300 BC.

Making of Lunar Conversations
March 18, 2018

Finding a new set of data to play with is exciting. Figuring out what to do with it is a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from amazement and intrigue to frustration and head-scratching. The transcript from the Apollo 11 mission was all of these and more for me.

Making of Æsop Blooms
February 21, 2018

Inspiration for Æsop Blooms was sparked by an offhand remark about someone learning Æsop’s fables in school. As with most projects, little did I know about the rabbit hole I was about to go down learning about them.

Making of Between Stations
September 24, 2017

I love transit data. After creating projects based on transit colors, stations, and lines, I figured it was time to create one based on the parts between the stations. The result was time-consuming but very interesting.

Remaking of Off the Staff
June 20, 2017

I still can’t read music but I can parse it a lot more efficiently now. Thanks to the help of the good folks at MuseScore, creating new editions of Off the Staff is now much more streamlined. Since my first attempts at visualizing music, I learned of new methods for making the images and even how to animate them.

Making of Color Palettes of The New Yorker
March 26, 2017

Generating color palettes of more than 4,600 covers of The New Yorker was a challenging task but when I get an idea stuck in my head I stubbornly like to see it through. What follows is a breakdown of how I made my Color Palettes of The New Yorker project including early ideas, methodologies, and technical details.

Making of A Year of Scrabble
February 2, 2017

When Shirley and Nadieh asked me to make a guest post for Data Sketches, I jumped at the opportunity but immediately panicked a little because I had agreed to the daunting task of creating something like their wonderful projects over the past six months. Whether or not that happened will be left to the reader but below is the story of how it came to be.

Making of Literary Constellations
January 15, 2017

Literary Constellations is a series of posters designed to resemble constellation maps but instead of being based on real stars, the shapes are based on first sentences from chapters of short classic stories.

Making of Off the Staff
September 6, 2016

I can’t read music but I can parse it. The talent of reading music has always escaped me which is a little ironic considering I grew up in a musical family. However, I’ve always enjoyed how sheet music looks so I took a shot at visualizing the notes from musical scores and the result is a series of posters called Off the Staff.

Making of the Weather Portraits poster
November 21, 2015

With so many options available for visualizing weather, settling on one for my Weather Portraits poster was a challenge, but a fun one. Over the course of three weeks, I experimented with dozens of ideas—most of which are documented here for people like me who like that sort of thing and to hopefully spark some future ideas for others.

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