About this blog

Hello! I’m Juan Velasco, Art Director of National Geographic magazine, and formerly a Graphics reporter at El Mundo (Spain) and the Graphics Art Director at The New York Times. I’m also an information graphics consultant and speaker. I decided to start this blog to share a bit of the process, challenges and hopefully successes of creating art, maps and graphics for a broad, international audience. We combine journalism, art and design to turn on the light for our readers and transform difficult concepts into clear, transformative learning experiences.

The Graphics Department of National Geographic is a multidisciplinary team creating award-winning information graphics, geographic and thematic cartography, scientific visualization, historical paintings, and anatomically accurate three-dimensional reconstructions of extinct creatures. We spend months producing original research and working with experts and consultants. It’s a unique process, often closer to scholarly research than to the usual reporting style in media. People are often surprised at how far we’ll go. We pour through tens of thousands of data points in spreadsheets and geographic databases to find the visual story behind the numbers and to map relevant patterns at a global scale or in small and remote areas. We painstakingly build every layer of muscle in the reconstructed body of a newly found hominid to obtain the right proportions. We hire satellite companies to redirect their eye on the sky and take the image of a hot spot in the world because it was almost right but not quite. We consult with ornithologists about the shape of an almost invisible bird in the background of a historical painting… The quest for perfection never ends. From rough pencil sketches to sophisticated final renderings, I hope you’ll enjoy an inside peek at what we do. Along the way, I’ll also look at some vintage art, maps and graphics and I’ll report from the field, from conferences, or share any ideas about art and graphics that cross my mind. All views are my own, and I will also invite colleagues and freelancers to write about their work. I hope you are interested enough to follow and I would love to read your comments!

7 thoughts on “About this blog

  1. Juan, thanks for creating this blog. It is really inspirational and will hopefully spawn lots of great info graphic designers/artist like yourself.

  2. Mr. Velasco,

    I only recently stumbled across your blog and am quite excited to have found this resource. I am a middle school geography and history teacher in Colorado and often use National Geographic in my classes. Teaching with infographics is something that I enjoy and my students get into this as well. My 5th grade geography class has been studying “human-environment interaction,” so I was searching for Nat Geo’s graphic on the most expensive natural disasters in US history, which I remembered reading about and seeing previously. I couldn’t find this graphic on the Nat Geo site, but was able to find it on yours – which then led to this month’s graphics on fracking, which of course also fits well into this theme. Students are fascinated by it all, and the short video on the fracking process was also very educational for me, as well as the kids.

    So, thank you for starting this blog, and having a singular resource for all of the cool infographics from Nat Geo. I look forward to using your site extensively in the future with many of my classes.
    As an aside, I noticed in your bio that you worked on infographics at the New York Times. I also use their site extensively as well, in addition to their “Learning Network” blog, which often has lessons tied to infographics. I’m not sure if you have students specifically in mind as you put these graphics together, but please know they do make a difference regarding their understanding of topics and subjects and the more “interactive” they are, the more engaged they become – not just for the “wow” factor, but for genuine learning purposes.

    Keep up the good work. It is appreciated.

    Mr. Haupt
    Middle School Geography & History, Division Head
    The McClelland School
    Pueblo, CO

    • Dear Mr. Haupt, thank you so much for your comment, it’s a real honor to know that our infographics have been useful in your classes. I’ll try to keep up with interesting posts and hoping you and your class enjoy them.
      All the best,

  3. Juan
    Thank you for providing a behind the scenes view into the great work you are doing. It is inspirational to hear how NG strives for accuracy and perfection

  4. Hi Juan,

    Thanks for this blog! I have enjoyed NatGeo for a while now, ever since I found several 1950-1960s editions in my high school Spanish teacher’s bookshelf. You can imagine my delight on seeing the ‘vintage’ category—absolutely fascinating! I’m a designer with a love of history, culture and nature, and particularly the early magazines are so enjoyable to page through. Not to say the new ones aren’t great, as well, though!

    Anyways, as I mentioned, I’m a designer, specializing in custom lettering/typography, à la Jessica Hische/Erik Marinovich/Dana Tanamachi—I’m sure you’ve seen their work around. If you ever need to work with a lettering artist who is just as capable but isn’t as high-profile (and will fit into a tighter budget!), keep me in mind! I have been sending out some promo posters—hand-lettered and printed with gold metallic on black stock—and didn’t even think of possibly doing lettering for NatGeo until I saw this amazing blog. Would you like me to send one your way (This is what it looks like)? If so, what address should I ship it to?

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