The Trouble with Truffles

Antique illustration of "Les chercheurs de truffes" by Vayson

I used a conversational approach for this explainer graphic on truffles — the mushroom-like fungus that’s a prized delicacy among food aficionados.

The appeal of truffles isn’t in their taste. It’s in their aroma and the way they impart flavor to other food.

I was able to verify a couple of historical quotes about the attraction of truffles and closed with a great observation from Anthony Bourdain, the late celebrity chef.

This accompanied a story by Marco Della Cava, the same reporter who did the Mavericks wave story.

A link to the graphic is here.

A link to Marco’s story is here.




Posted in Graphics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Everything You Want to Know About Boeing’s 737 Max 8 Anti-Stall System


This is a straightforward look at the anti-stall safety system aboard Boeing’s 737 Max 8 commercial aircraft. This ran March 14, 2019, as part of our coverage of the Ethiopian Airline crash in which 157 people died.

The Max 8 jet was the same as Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight 610, which crashed Oct. 29, 2018. All 189 passengers and crew were killed.

We used text and images to describe the Max 8’s MCAS — Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System — which is designed to stabilize the aircraft in flight.

It took time to find an aeronautical source that would go on record with me about the system. Boeing declined, citing the federal investigation. Component manufacturers and even some universities did not want to weigh in.

I finally found the aviation people at the Florida Institute of Technology, who were quite helpful.

A link to the explainer is here.


Posted in Graphics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Yes, a Story About Dogs Being Killed for Food is Difficult to Write and Will Break Your Heart

South Korea Dog Meat Farm (Farm 10)

This longform graphic, another volunteer effort of mine, seeks to concisely explain the history of dog farms and dog consumption in South Korea, and why it’s on the wane.

It accompanies a March 6, 2019, story by Thomas Maresca, a USA Today correspondent.

This was difficult to research and write about, but I strove to keep personal bias out of the graphic. We’re observing vast cultural differences here and I did not want to be the ignorant American imposing my values on someone else.

For the record: The notion of killing and eating dogs and cats horrifies me. I’m also horrified by American slaughterhouses — the surreptitious Humane Society video of cows being tormented before slaughter brings me to tears — but I still keep eating hamburgers and chicken sandwiches.

So I don’t have a moral high ground here. Accordingly, I kept the dog story as accurate and dispassionate as possible, since this is not an opinion piece.

A link to the graphic is here.

A link to the story is here.

030719-Dogs-SOCIAL_Social 8 copy 2

Posted in Graphics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Horning in on a White Rhino Story

Profile of white Rhino ceratotherium simum on flat plain

I volunteered to do this longform explainer graphic on white rhinos after overhearing staff at the Nashville Tennessean talk about the pending arrival of a new white rhinoceros at the Nashville Zoo.

I asked Duane Gang, a Tennessean content editor and great guy, if they had a graphic planned for their rhino story. He said no. I said, “Would you like one?”

I try to play heads-up ball at work, even when I’m not at USA Today. On this particular day I was at the Tennessean, working remotely for USAT. Linda and I were in Nashville to look after her parents’ house.

I ended up researching the various rhino species and writing this explainer. I also did the graphics in the longform and an additional graphic (below) that ran with the Tennessean story.

A link to the graphic is here.

A link to the Tennessean story is here.


Posted in Graphics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Why Mavericks Waves are So Deadly

Ocean Waves

This longform graphic explains why the waves at Mavericks — a surfing location for fanatics on the California coast — are so high and so deadly.

Putting this together required a substantial amount of research, including translating bathymetric1 terminology not readily understandable by the average reader. I found myself consulting a number of sources to remedy that.

Graphic artist and colleague Karl Gelles did a bang-up job of adding maps that showed how swells from distant storms in the Pacific Ocean are transformed into four- or five-story high waves when they reach Half Moon Bay.

1 — Another word for underwater topography.
Posted in Graphics | Leave a comment

Answering Q’s on Amazon’s HQ2


I put together this longform graphic — a more sophisticated presentation for USA Today explainer graphics — as Amazon was narrowing its choice of a new second headquarters.

Using Seattle as the obvious example, I wanted to show what the new HQ2 site could expect from Amazon.

Amazon is not forthcoming on its real estate transactions. I ended up using a variety of sources to put together a narrative of the company’s growth through acquisitions. What surprised me the most was the volume of expansion — nearly the equal of five Empire State buildings over 10 years.

Reporter Elizabeth Weise and graphic artist Karl Gelles helped with research and mapping and were great to work with.

A link to the longform is here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Personal Data in Plain English


This was a primer I did on the collection and use of personal data. The explainer uses a simple step-by-step explanation describing your private information, how it’s collected, who’s using it, and how you can be affected.

A link to the graphic is here.

I put this together because I thought readers needed a plain-English guide to data privacy. I consulted a few outside sources, including the Center for Democracy & Technology, to make sure the information was accurate.

I used one of our new visual formats for the presentation. The format, viewable on both mobile devices and laptops, limited the amount of text that could be shown, which, in hindsight, is a bit of a handicap. I would have preferred more information on each page.

I did the visual elements in Illustrator to give the overall appearance more of a punch.


Posted in Graphics | Tagged , | Leave a comment