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!