Best of 2016

By my calculations, the Reuters graphics team published 450 interactive or digital graphics and over 1,000 static graphics in 2016. Here's some highlights starting with the more recent projects. I'll add another instalment in the next few days.


Nuclear North Korea

We published a number of graphics on North Korea’s nuclear program and missile capabilities through the year, culminating in a nicely presented narrative page. Publishing coincided with more rhetoric from Kim Jong Un on the North’s missile program near the end of the year.

The piece showed how North Korea dramatically increased the pace of its missile testing in 2016 and defied U.N. sanctions to push further ahead with the development of nuclear weapons, detonating two devices including its most powerful to date. 


Part of the piece then moves on to the technology of the weapons tested. North Korea claims that it had tested a miniaturised hydrogen bomb, also known as a thermonuclear device, a step up from the less powerful atomic bombs they had tested previously. However, outside experts are skeptical and believe the bomb may have been a “boosted” device, and not a full-fledged H-bomb.

The Bank of Japan’s monetary policy explained

The Bank of Japan has led Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's effort to stimulate the world's third-biggest economy, but its often innovative steps have yet to end decades of falling prices and feeble growth.

To help explain what it all means, the graphics team produced an animated guide to the often bewildering world of QQE, YYC and other tricks of the BOJ trade.

The project was conceptualised after the BOJ introduced Yield Curve Control in late September. A number of brainstorming and fact finding sessions with colleagues in Japan and editors in Singapore helped us straighten out the mechanics of the monetary policy so we could start to storyboard a draft script. After weeks of polishing the story we settled on a final storyboard and began to draw up the illustrations. The animation was then put together in Adobe After Effects along with the narration.

See the video here

MH370: The world’s largest search

The story on the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet gathered some steam towards the end of the year with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau issuing a report in December saying new evidence suggests the plane could have come down north of the search area. This standalone graphic looks at all elements of the search which is due to be wrapped up in early 2017.  


The piece opens with a map showing the areas searched. Aside from giving geographical context and basic information on the flight, the goal waste also show scale. The amount of area covered in the search was immense. We thought that with an area that size, the best object that could be compared for a sense of scale was probably the world itself, hence the orthographic, or globe shaped, projection.

The chart that followed illustrated just how slow the underwater operations are compared to the surface search.


The rest of the graphics look at the equipment and technology used during the search.


The search was called off earlier in January with no trace of the jet being found so far. Investigators have recommended extending the search further north in the Indian Ocean. Full graphic here.

China's debt burden

The Reuters graphics team produced an engaging interactive guide to the major aspects of China’s debt issues, deconstructing the back story using a combination of data and hand drawn artwork to illustrate each step. 

The story begins in 2009, when China launched a $600 billion economic stimulus program during the global financial crisis. The government unleashed a wave of borrowing by state firms that is proving to be a burden today. 

To tell this story, a scroller was programmed to move through an illustrated version of China’s economy across the top of the page. As the reader scrolls through the chain of events, a different part of the economy is highlighted along with the accompanying narrative and chart.

Moving to the present, China's debt this year reached more than 250 percent of GDP. In particular, China’s corporate debt has risen sharply and this is where most worries are focused. An analysis of Reuters data in the second half of the piece looks at this current situation.

We extracted corporate data for two large groups of Chinese companies, those listed in China and those listed in Hong Kong. A number of filters were applied when compiling the companies to make sure we were working within a comparable data set. The Chinese listed companies are represented by 1,193 mid- to large-caps who reported net debt in 2008 and 2015. The rise in the number of companies in the unhealthy band is striking.

Chinese listed

Likewise in the Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong. These companies are generally considered to be among China's healthiest due to greater financial disclosure rules. The accompanying visualization with that section shows how the number of companies considered to be healthy, shrank from 72 to 49.


A look back at 2015

What better way to start the year and a new blog by looking back at memorable pieces from 2015. These are only a small selection of work out of Asia las year.

The year started with further coverage of the tragic Air Asia flight QZ8501 crash. The Airbus A320-200 was heading to Singapore from the Indonesian island of Java when it disappeared in bad weather. The graphics below formed part of our coverage as the story developed.


A projection by Indonesia's national search and rescue agency shows how the debris would have spread east. We turned the data into a simple gif.

This search map (below) was updated daily.


Nepal quake

Another disaster struck in April when a powerful magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, killing thousands of people. The graphics below were created as the story developed.

Lang tang Valley was one of worst affected areas. Langtang Lirung, the 7,234-metre (23,734 feet) mountain looming over the valley, shed a gigantic slice that fell hundreds of feet, launching a massive torrent of air, snow, ice and rock upon the village and its guesthouses, brimming with trekkers at the start of the climbing season.

Dozens of other landslides were reported across Nepal's mountainous border region after the April 25 earthquake. The map below locates all of the detected incidents.


Large areas were left at high risk of further landslides in the coming weeks and months. An analysis by the University of Michigan identified which areas are most vulnerable. This was turned into the map below.

A number of aftershocks rocked the area in the days and weeks that followed, including a 7.3 magnitude tremor. Naturally, a lot of comparisons were drawn with the initial earthquake, but how do the strength of these quakes really compare? We decided to make this chart to compare the actual energy released.
Click image to launch

Korean MERS outbreak

After returning from a trip to the Middle East, a 68-year-old South Korean man developed a cough and fever. He visited four health facilities seeking treatment and inadvertently triggered the biggest outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outside of Saudi Arabia. The deadly outbreak infected 186 people, killing 36 and at its peak, put 1,700 in quarantine.

The diagram below was made by piecing together statements from the Korean Ministry of Health as the initial outbreak spread. The case count and age charts were updated daily.


Southeast Asian haze

Seasonal fires caused by slash-and-burn practices on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo sent a thick haze across a swathe of Southeast Asia and pushed air quality to unhealthy levels during September and October. Below are some of the graphics published as the story progressed.

The map below shows the location of fires that have a high confidence of being related to forest-clearing from September 7-17.

Fires are an annual problem during the dry season, when forests in Indonesia are slashed and burned to clear the land for agriculture. The chart below shows daily fires observed throughout Indonesia by NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites.

Although it is illegal for companies in Indonesia to start fires, a lot of fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan occur within the pulp, palm oil or logging concessions that cover much of the land. The map below shows how much of the land is covered with these concessions.

Fires on peat are of particular concern because they can be difficult to extinguish due to the depth and organic density of the soil. Some can burn for months or even years.
Between the 7th and 17th of September, 60 percent of the fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan were on carbon-rich peatlands. The fires are set to burn off the vegetation but also burn roots and the peat soil itself. The maps below show the depth of peat and how many fires burned in those areas.


Hanergy's $19 billion wipeout

Not long after Hanergy Thin Film Power Group began its annual shareholder meeting at a plush Hong Kong hotel, the Chinese solar company's shares went into free fall. The company lost half its market value in just 24 minutes.
Once the meeting was under way, several massive sell orders involving millions of shares overwhelmed the market, according to an analysis of Thomson Reuters trade log data. The chart below shows every trade of Hanergy stock that morning. Circle size represents the number of shares in each trade.

Before the stock price plunge, Hanergy's value had climbed five-fold since September, helped by investment inflows from mainland China to Hong Kong via a landmark link-up with the Shanghai stock exchange.

F1 pitstop strategy

And finally, I thought this was a nice example of a sports chart. In Formula One, pitstop strategy plays a very important role when trying to finish ahead of your competitors. Changing tyres increases performance, but pulling in to make this happen takes time. Finding the balance is key. This chart shows a battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel during the Spanish grand prix.

Check back soon for some more examples.


New interactive graphics service

In the last quarter of 2015, Reuters graphics launched an exciting new product. Interactive graphics are now available to Reuters News Graphics Service clients. To utilise the graphics, clients can either embed a hyperlink or download the entire folder structure to easily edit and deploy on their own servers. Here’s a handful of examples that have been issued over the last few months. Launch content for a closer look and for full credits.

F1 season
This interactive package looks at track statistics as well as results and standings as the season progressed. The data is supplied by a live feed, updating the charts and tables automatically after each race.

Claims on the South China Sea

The South China Sea dispute continues to dominate the news. This package of graphics gives good background on the claims as well as detailing the situation in the Spratly islands.

Share buybacks

The top 50 non-financial U.S. companies in terms of cumulative amounts spent on stock repurchases since 2000 are now often giving more money back to shareholders in buybacks and dividends than they make in profits – the first time this has happened outside of recessionary periods.


A history of nuclear tests

This graphic was published recently after North Korea's latest detonation.


Passenger jets compared

This chart compares capacity and range of passenger jets to show how saturated certain areas of the market are. Comac and Mitsubishi both tested new regional jets towards the end of last year.

There are also a lot of financial indicators and election coverage provided in interactive form. I'll share more examples soon. 



Hello and welcome. I’ll be posting thoughts here and sharing work occasionally. Older posts can still be viewed here at my old blog. Posts will mainly focus on work by the team here at Reuters Graphics. More to come soon…