Pets? Polygamy? Female friends? This all-new visual guide from infographic genius David McCandless shows what can extend, and shorten, your life...
I’d worked in journalism for 25 years and I got bored just writing words. I got into designing websites and realised the two were quite similar, so I ended up doing the same thing in a slightly prettier way.
How do you work these things out? We’re picturing a complex network of maps on the wall…
I do a lot of research gathering data, pooling it all together on a spreadsheet and moving it around, finding an interesting angle. Many of the graphics arise out of my frustration, anger and boredom. When I don’t understand something, a graphic clarifies it. That’s where I get inspiration.
What’s more important: style or substance?
The goal’s to get the two in harmony. The work’s about 80 per cent data, 20 per cent design. The quickest was done in three days, the longest was eight months: a massive history of Earth and the evolution of life. It was a crazy idea.
How difficult was the chart above?
Difficult because we had to gather studies. We had to interpret and collate them all, placing them into definitive years. Not all studies are the same.
Out of the info you’ve uncovered, what’s surprised you most?
We compared the prison population’s crimes against gender. It showed that men, predictably, commit more violent crimes but women commit more manslaughter and drug abuse.
How difficult is it avoiding false data? Have you ever been duped?
It’s tricky. We keep checking and researching – that’s the best we can do. Sometimes you take data from a reliable source, like the UN, and then use that to build other assumptions. But one time we double-checked a UN count on CO2 release and realised it was flawed. We had to scrap the whole graphic.
Does it drive you mad?
I’ve been in my cave for two years making graphics, stumbling round in a daze. It’s quite conceptually heavy and everything has to be precise. It’s taxing, hard work, but it’s rewarding.
Knowledge Is Beautiful is out now, priced £25 (William Collins)