Welcome to the final podcast episode of 2020! It’s been a tough year for all of us and I’m hoping 2021 brings us better fortunes and better health. I hope you get some time to sit back and relax with friends and family this holiday season. And as you do so, check out this final podcast of the year with Stefanie Posavec and Miriam Quick, authors of the new book, I am a book.

Stefanie Posavec is a designer, artist, and author whose practice focuses on finding new, experimental approaches to communicating data and information. This work has been exhibited internationally at major galleries including the V&A, the Design Museum, Somerset House, and the Wellcome Collection (London), the Centre Pompidou (Paris), and MoMA (New York). Her work is also in the permanent collection of MoMA. Besides her new book with Miriam, she has also co-authored two books that emphasise a more personal approach to data: Dear Data and the journal Observe, Collect, Draw!

Miriam Quick is a data journalist, researcher and author who explores novel ways of communicating data. She has written data stories for the BBC, worked as a researcher for Information is Beautiful and the New York Times and co-created artworks that represent data through images, sculpture and sound. These have been exhibited at museums and galleries including the Wellcome Collection, National Maritime Museum and Southbank Centre (London). She is currently working with Duncan Geere on a data sonification podcast, Loud Numbers, to launch in early 2021.

Episode Notes

Stefanie’s website

Miriam’s website

I am a book. I am a portal to the universe.

Observe, Collect, Draw!

Dear Data

Loud Numbers podcast

Related Episodes

Episode #2: Dear Data

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Transcript

Welcome back to the PolicyViz podcast. I am your host, Jon Schwabish. Welcome to the last episode of the podcast for 2020. I’m going to take a few weeks off before we get right back into more episodes coming out in early January. It’s been a long, tough year for all of us, and I’m glad it’s coming to an end. On the podcast this year, I think I’ve had a great fall, personally speaking. I hope you’ve enjoyed the show, but personally speaking, I think I’ve had some great guests on the show I have learned a ton, about data, about data visualization, about algorithms, and about how all the work that we do can affect different communities, underrepresented groups, and people of color. Now, on this week’s episode, it’s a little bit more lighthearted. I am not going to talk about oppressions of algorithm as I did a few weeks ago, I am not going to talk about how Google search engines are taking advantage of certain groups. No. In this week’s episode of the show, I talk to Stefanie Posavec and Miriam Quick about their new book, which is called I Am a Book. And the book itself is embodying data and embodies data visualization. It’s an amazing book, I really highly recommend that you get your hands on it. If you’re in the United States, I don’t think it’s quite out on in the Amazon, US version, but you can go over to amazon.co.uk and grab a copy of it.

In the episode, we talk about Stefanie and Miriam’s process to write this book and pull it all together, because the book itself is just an amazing physical product to hold on to. We talk about how they collected the data and how Miriam spoke to different experts and scientists to make sure that she had the data pulled together correctly, and we talk about their relationship with their publisher. We also talk about some exciting things that they both have coming up in the future, which I’ll leave that to you to hear about in the podcast episode.

So as I wrap up calendar year 2020, I’m going to say Happy New Year, Happy Holidays, and I wish you all the happiest and healthiest holiday season. I know it’s been a rough year, and I hope you will be able to spend some time with your loved ones and stay healthy and stay happy. So I’m going to turn over to the interview now with Stefanie and Miriam for this final episode of 2020, and I hope you will enjoy this episode of the PolicyViz Podcast.

Jon Schwabish: Hi Stefanie, hi Miriam. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on. How are you both?

Miriam Quick: Yeah, well, thank you. How are you?

Stefanie Posavec: Great, thanks.

JS: [inaudible 00:02:57] surviving, it’s fall, surviving, it’s all good. I am very excited to have you both on the show, talking about this great new book. I mean, this is kind of a podcast mostly on data visualization, and this book is like on the cool edge of a lot of different things of DataViz and design and data art, so I’m excited to talk to you both about it, and the content and the process, really fascinating. So why don’t we start with introductions, and then we can talk about the book. So maybe, Stefanie, do you want to tell folks a little bit about yourself? And then Miriam, you can go.

SP: Yeah, so I’m Stefanie, I am American but I live in London now. I’m a designer, artist and author, and my practice really focuses on finding new and experimental approaches to communicating data and information. So I will make data projects that are physical or danceable or wearable, that are often very human scaled and handcrafted. A lot of the projects I work on, I collaborate with Miriam. Then another project that some people in the data visualization community might have heard of is my collaboration with Georgia Lupi – Dear Data, which is when we spent a year collecting our personal data, drawing it on a postcard every week and sending it to the other person. And then that became a book and a journal and is in the permanent collection of MoMA in New York. So yeah, so that’s me.

MQ: And I’m Miriam, I’m a data journalist and researcher, and I’m based in the UK in the southwest, and I write data stories for the BBC and other outlets. I work on DataViz pieces for clients, information design pieces with creative agencies mainly based in London. I’m really interested in exploring novel ways of communicating data. So I do co-create a lot of artworks that represent data through images, sculpture and sound. And Stefanie and I have worked together since about 2012, I think, on lots of projects, information design project, state art projects. We’ve done artworks for the Wellcome Collection in London, the National Maritime Museum, and Southbank Centre, and other museums and galleries. I’m particularly interested in projects that involve combining data and music. So one of the projects that I’ve worked on, that people may have heard of is called Oddityviz, and that was with Valentina D’Efilippo. And we created these discs, there are 10 Perspex discs that look like vinyl records on which are engraved data about David Bowie song Space Oddity, lots of musical data; and at the moment, I’m working on a podcast Data Sonification Podcast with Duncan Gear called Loud Numbers, and we’re hoping to launch it early 2021, and each week we’ll kind of take a different dataset and then turn it into a piece of music.

JS: Wow, that’s great. Okay, another data podcast, that’s great. I’m excited for that, early 2021. Also, because you talked about your project with Valentina, I wanted to make sure that I dropped a little knowledge in here that Stefanie, you did the cover art for one of the Ok Go albums, right?

SP: Yes, gosh, when was that, that must have been like 2010 or 2011, and I did it with my brother-in-law and collaborator Greg McInerney. So yeah.

JS: Yeah, that’s a big deal here in the Schwabish household, because there was a moment in time where my kids were really into Ok Go, especially, their music videos, which are incredible – folks who don’t know, they should just Google them. But all of this is really interesting, because it leads right into your new book, which has this great title, I Am a Book. I Am a Portal to the Universe, and is very consistent with all the descriptions of your work. And so, I thought we would just talk about the content of the book for a little bit, what story does it tell, the target audience, and then we can talk about the process of creating it, because the quality of the book and just holding it in your hands itself is an experience. You can’t really say that for all books, there’s something to be said for just holding the book. So maybe we can start with what story does the book tell, and then we can talk about the book itself, and then we can talk about process a little bit.

SP: Yeah, I managed design, and then Miriam managed the data research and the writing, then we merge them together. So Miriam can start with the story.

JS: Perfect.

MQ: Cool. So yeah, like you said, Jon, it’s called I Am a Book. I Am a Portal to the Universe. It’s really a concept book. So original concept came out of a question where we asked ourselves, what if we make a book where the book itself is a measuring device. So you see a lot of infographic books out there, where there’s stuff printed on the page and charts and diagrams that communicate data, but we thought, what happens if we actually try and embed that data in the book itself, and it’s kind of dimensions, in its measurements in the kind of production variables that you’ve got. So that might be things like its weight, its volume, the thickness of its pages, the size of its type, and so on. And the basic story is that each of the books’ dimensions and measurements embodies a quantity out there in the universe. So it tells you lots of stories about numbers in the universe, using the same measurements as a reference point. So to give an example, we have a spread where the book asks you to hold it up to the sky at arm’s length, and then it tells you that around 6000 billion, billion stars, so that six with 21 zeros [inaudible 00:08:32] and the patch of sky behind is two pages, and nine out of 10 of them are too faint to be seen with any telescope. So it really speaks to you in the first person, it’s got a kind of personality to it, it’s not too serious, it takes the Mickey out the reader a little bit. We also set a rule that everything in the book would be on a one to one scale. So this was quite a tight constraint that really kind of made us work hard and thinking about the kind of data that we could include in the book. And so, for example, we’ve got a spread where the book tells you that in the time it took you to turn the last page, around four babies were born and two people died. So it’s kind of a scientific book, but this is sort of a mixture of facts and fantasy in it. We’re calling it data driven magic realism after the kind of literary genre of magic realism where you get real stuff happening, but [inaudible 00:09:21] so it’s combined with preposterous, outlandish, fantastical stuff. So yeah, so I was really trying to get the data in as accurate as possible, basing it on peer reviewed research where I could. But they’re also like these thought experiments and flights of fantasy. So we have a spread about what would happen to the book if you dropped it off a tower 10 kilometers high, and it’s actually based on real physics, and I’m really grateful to Duncan Gear and Jonas Hellsten, who is a physicist [inaudible 00:09:49] help actually modeling the time and speed of the fall of the book, how long it would take and what speed it would be when it hit the ground. But obviously, this scenario of a book kind of hurling itself off a 10-kilometer tower is a fantastical one.

JS: Right.

MQ: Yeah, I guess I really like the best XKCD comics, and that kind of thought experiment thing. I think in his book, there’s a book he did called What if, Where Is God, a thought experiment where he goes, what would happen if you had a mole of moles, as in like the quantity of molecules or whatever and both moles, the burrowing animal in the ground. And I really love that sort of ridiculous premise, but then taken to its scientific conclusion with real data.

JS: So I love this example of talking to physicists to do this calculation. So how many different people did you actually need to talk to, to help with some of the calculations versus things that you could look up on your own, like, thickness of a piece of paper, I presume, is pretty easy to find, but how many other of these calculations did you need to, maybe not even talk to people, but talk to people or look up in the academic literature, some of the answers to the topics that are in the book?

MQ: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So I’d say that the spread where we modeled the books fall from a height was the most complicated one. Most of the, the other spreads I did the research myself, although a lot of it was based on digging in research papers and looking and tables sifting through abstracts. So I tried to base it on peer reviewed research where possible. I did have a lot of help from friends and family who work in science, so I’m really grateful to them, they’re acknowledged in the book and they know who they are. But, for example, there’s a spread where you lay the book down on the ground and underneath the two pages, the area of the two pages, I tried to work out how many living creatures there would be in the soil. And for that I had help from my brother in law, and Professor Eric Allan who is a professor of ecology, and also my friend, Dr. Pete Manning who is also a professor of ecology, doctor of ecology. So yeah, we did have quite a lot of expert input in some of the spreads.

JS: So just so I can get the process right, did you come up with a basic story of, like, which statistics or data you wanted to include, and then, Miriam, you went to research those and then handed that off to Stefanie? And Stefanie, you did the design and the layout, or was it more iterative than that?

SP: Yeah, I mean, it was definitely more iterative. So we obviously came up with a proposal, but when we had the book deal, and we actually had to kind of think about, I guess, 40 of these spreads approximately, the way that we started is that I think Miriam had a general idea of the parts of the world that she would want to focus on at the beginning of the project, but then when we actually had to do it [inaudible 00:12:42] came second in many cases. So really, one of the first things that we did in the project was to list all of the book based variables we could think of. So page size, type size, book weight, volume, thickness of the page, then interactions with the book, time to turn a page, time to read a sentence, amount of wood in the paper, calories in the book, the loudness of the noise it makes when it slams, what happens if you burn the book, and we were just trying to think of as many things as you could do to the book, as you could. And we had a big list of these interactions and the actual object itself – well, we had them in a spreadsheet, and there were approximately 80 variables that we had as a starting point. And so that was the beginning, and then the other thing I’d like to add is, so we came up with a lot of these before we actually had a book in hand, we determined the number of pages, the paper stock, the cover finish, and how it would be trimmed and so on in advance; and then they gave us a dummy book, which is just like a white book that’s not printed, but with all those materials, and so we each had one that we could then use as part of this exploratory process. And so from there, then we both came up with ideas, so some might have come up with me playing with the book and thinking about, oh, wouldn’t it be cool if there is this information out there about this thing in the world, and then I just think it would have worked really nicely with this interaction or with letters on a page. I think we’d be very witty if we could turn letters into animals or we could do things that felt really clever. So that’s how I came in, and then Miriam would be like, I’ll try to find the data, but then otherwise, Miriam would start, from a data side of things, which Miriam you can talk about your way into the process.

MQ: Yeah, sure. So from this point on, I would go away and do a lot of Googling and look into abstracts and tables, like I said, series of research papers, to look for numbers that would actually work, given our dimensional constraints, and the need to have everything on a one to one scale. So we ended up, because of the book being the size of a book, with a lot of medium sized quantities. So, for example, the lengths that we could realistically communicate on a one to one scale between about 0.1 millimeters which is the size of the smallest visible dot on the page, and 20 centimeters which is the height and width of the book, it’s a square book, we wanted it to be a very kind of square object. Yeah, and then I had a lot of fun with the research, and I really enjoyed working on – one of the spreads in the book is about neutrinos, these subatomic particles called relic neutrinos which were formed in the first milliseconds, I think, after the Big Bang. Anyway, they pervade the universe, they’re everywhere, kind of, almost evenly distributed throughout the universe. And I didn’t know anything about this before, it was just a wondrous thing to delve into to find out what these new areas of science that I was unaware of, and thinking about all these kind of subatomic particles pervading absolutely everything that are really hard to detect, but they’re still real. And that was, I think, a theme in the book is that we really tried to include things that would spark a sense of wonder and awe about the universe that we live in, and the world that we live in, and the living things in the world. And so we’ve got a lot of things that are on the edges of what you might detect. We’ve got one, a spread, which is about the amount of gas that flows off into space from the atmosphere, because the atmosphere loses small amounts of gas, which is not maybe something you would think about, but it happened to be, I think, seven book weights per second, if I remember rightly. So we thought, well, that’s something that we can translate into a book size quantity.

JS: Did you come to the whole project with the first person narrative, or, I guess, in this case, the first book narrative, was that always the storytelling device that you’re going to use that it was, from the book’s perspective?

MQ: That was something that really emerged quite early on, yeah, it felt right to have the book speak for itself, because every measurement is embodied by the book itself, it felt right that the book should be the one doing the talking. And then the book’s personality kind of developed over time. We thought, well, we don’t want this because this could so easily become an educational book [inaudible 00:16:56] educational. We didn’t want it to be too didactic. We wanted it to be fun, and have a little bit of a bite to it, so that this would be something that would potentially appeal to adults as well as children. We didn’t want it to be too talking down to people, but more like the book is your friend, the book is your equal, but also kind of takes the Mickey out you a lot [inaudible 00:17:14].

JS: Yeah. Did you have kids in mind as your target audience, both designing it and writing it, or was it more of the adult data art interested sort of crowd?

SP: I can talk about it from a design and publishing perspective. So the people that publish it, it’s particular books, and so they’re a Penguin imprint. And so they do publish, well, they publish your data, but they also publish some other kind of data driven books. But really, they publish a broad range of, like, beautifully produced and printed books, that kind of can span anything from fashion to art to datasets. It’s just like, really, really beautifully made books that are kind of, I guess, out of the ordinary. So I suppose, our audience, I think what we were going for is we wanted an all ages book, that would be made from an imprint that publishes books for adults, but this is one to be shared with children. So that’s where the all ages come from.

MQ: Yeah, I agree, and we very much had that kind of all ages, audience in mind when we were writing it, because it’s quite an unusual thing to write for both adults and children. I think we kind of felt that it was important to try and speak to as broad an audience as possible, and not to assume too much knowledge of the reader. And also because we were trying to [inaudible 00:18:44] and wonder.

JS: Right.

MQ: I love the idea that that’s something that’s available to everybody. You don’t have to be a jaded adult and think that everything is boring. You can still get excited about the number of stars in the universe, the number of the [inaudible 00:18:57] in the book. Yeah, I really like that idea. And also, we really wanted to speak to the non-specialists. This is not a book for a traditional DataViz audience, I think. So it doesn’t have the word data in it anywhere, I think, apart from our bios, where it couldn’t be helped because that’s actually been a book called [inaudible 00:19:14]

SP: That book and that project’s really been well received. But I think having data in like big letters on a front cover, I think, it just will inherently put people off. And so this was like a real, I think, something that Miriam and I, yeah, we always do together. We experiment with finding ways that will hopefully make people, who normally wouldn’t care, get excited or notice this world that we all work in.

JS: It’s also interesting because not both the content and the narrative device, of having the book sort of be the first person, both of those pieces and the design of the book as well, which we can talk about in a second, but both of those make the data in the book more accessible, I think to anyone who reads it. It doesn’t feel like a DataViz or statistics book, just the whole concept of it, and the whole feel of it makes it more accessible. It’s like teaching kids algebra, and they don’t know that they’re learning algebra, that kind of thing.

MQ: Yeah, exactly. And I think it’s that it’s that one to one scale thing, because these are physical measurements that you can touch and feel, so there’s that multisensory aspect to it, and there’s no translation required. You’re not having to look at a legend and work out what something means. It’s just right there in front of you, either as a numeral or as a weight, or as a volume or something you can actually physically detect. There’s just less abstraction to it, I think, than a regular data visualization.

JS: So I don’t want to veer off our conversation about the book too much, but it is interesting to me that the two of you had a project maybe a year or two ago, at the – I’m forgetting the name of the museum, it was like the Maritime Museum where people had to fill out little surveys and they got like little emblems, and I’ll link to the pictures on the show notes page, but it’s interesting how your work, at least in these two projects and it sounds like many other projects are very tangible, they’re things that people have to do. So do you think, just generally speaking, that that’s a better way for people to learn about data, DataViz, the world around us in that more quantifiable sense? And maybe that’s a question to start with Stefanie.

SP: Well, I guess, so with the National Maritime Museum project, it was kind of like a two-parter project. So I was an artist in residence at the National Maritime Museum, and I was specifically brought in to work with visitor data and try to use the data as this like interface for listening to visitors and showing them that they matter, and that they mean something to the museum in kind of making this experience more participatory. And so I had to create an artwork at the end of it, but then where Miriam and I collaborated was we had to come up with a way of collecting data. So Miriam did all the data analysis and designed the survey. So she did all that data stuff, the important data stuff. But together, we had to craft this experience to make the visitors taking part, like, feel like we weren’t wasting their time, and that we were thanking them for their time and giving them something back. So I think, because it was really important that we were respectful to these people that we were taking time out of their holidays, to give us data for an artwork. We really spent a lot of time thinking about an experience where they helped us, we gave them an insight about themselves, they went away with a gift, and then they were also able to take their knowledge about themselves and put it into context with the other people who had kind of given their data as well. So I don’t know, tell me what you think, Miriam, but it does feel like really designing an experience is something that we like to do, and I think it makes people care a bit more than if they were just doing a survey or they maybe were just looking at charts, potentially.

MQ: Yeah, I agree with that. I mean, I think in our talks last week, we described our approach that we have something like participatory, experimental and multisensory, or something like that anyway. I think those are really the kind of things that we enjoy to work on, and I’m particularly interested in, like I said, data sonification, because it’s something that is experienced through time, it’s more of an experiential process rather than something that you look at like a DataViz, which might be static, and you can kind of have a degree of separation from it. Whereas like, with our book, and with a lot of the projects that we’ve worked on together, you’re very much in the data, you’re kind of experiencing it in real time. And I like that kind of embodied quality that it gives it.

JS: Yeah, it’s an interesting way to just think about education as well, the way kids in particular, but also adults, the way people learn. So I want to turn back to the book specifically and talk a little bit about the design, because Stefanie, you mentioned earlier that you had a physical blank copy of the book, and so now you have this blank, I’m just imagining, you have this blank, physical copy of the book, you have the data from Miriam, which you’re going to iterate on a little bit, and you’ve got this basic concept. So can you talk a little bit about how you thought about the design, how you laid it out, and then the work with the publisher to create this physical product, this physical book, that’s not just a book you grab off the shelf at the bookstore, it has weight, it has a feeling to holding the physical book?

SP: Yeah. So I can give a bit of background about myself. So actually, although I work with data, my background is in publishing. I used to be a full time book cover and book designer, but now I just do it occasionally for projects that I really love, and for our books I’m writing with Miriam, for example. So I think this was a really nice project because I was able to merge the book side of me and the data side of me. But I think the core thing to really mention, which I’m not sure if we’ve mentioned in this podcast yet, is that if anyone hasn’t seen the book is imagining that this looks like a traditional infographics book, it doesn’t look like that at all, because the first rule that we made is that there are no charts or no infographics in the book, whatsoever. But instead, the book had to use it’s, what we were calling, superpowers, so it’s typography, it’s fonts, it’s physical aspects, pages and binding, and then also it’s ink, to kind of represent the data and as many magical, clever and witty ways that we could think of. So we’ve already talked about how we came up with as many variables as we could to replace the standard visual variables that we are used to using when we are working in data visualization. So yeah, so that was our starting point. And the way that the design of it worked is that we were kind of working on a spread by spread basis where Miriam might come up with copy and data, and then I might take it and begin to lay out and as in, hopefully, like a very witty and playful way, so really tapping into kind of my traditional communication, design roots and trying to create what some people call a smile in the mind to try to be as clever and as witty as I could with how a page was laid out or just to show a lot of playfulness in the design. And then I might try to lay it out, you know, we might go back and forth refining the type or just figuring out how we can take Miriam’s words and make the concept work on the page and like also look beautiful as well. And so the book is just like really [inaudible 00:27:00] plus lots of really bold graphic shapes and gradients where the book is using it CMYK printing process to its full and really showing off its wonderful printing powers. And I don’t know what else to say about the book, Miriam. But we really wanted to try to find a way to move beyond the standard info book, is there a way that we can take a book and present information and present data that is totally different than what we’ve seen. And so the way we did that is we said, well, no charts, what can we do that’s stranger or more unusual or which is really pushing what is possible in this space.

JS: Right?

MQ: Yeah, just to add to that, it was a really integrated process, like Steph just said. It was very sort of concept driven, so, and quite experimental. We would try a lot of stuff out, and it didn’t necessarily work, like, there was this one spread where we really liked the interaction of holding the book up to your base, almost like lengthwise, so you’ve got two pages facing away from you. And stuff said, wouldn’t it be great if we could find some data on the length of bird’s beaks relative to their head size, and then scale that up to a human, then we could have some [inaudible 00:28:13] beaks on the page and thought, well, that would look amazing. But I couldn’t actually find, I did contact some researchers in the area, and it’s quite difficult to find the database of bird beak length, it’s not apparently a standard measurement. So we decided to go for tongues instead. So we got this, it’s kind of silly, you stick your tongue out, and it’s obviously not that long, and then you’ve got a butterfly that’s got a longer proboscis than your tongue, and then you’ve got this moth that’s got a 20 centimeter tongue and we draw a little pink line for the proboscis that’s 20 centimeters long, and then there’s an anteater’s tongue that extends all the way across the spread right onto the next page. So yeah, that’s kind of silly playfulness to quite a lot of the spreads, and also quite a lot of insects in the book, I guess, because it’s on a one to one scale, and insects are kind of small and they fit on the page.

JS: Well, I’m glad you didn’t have to go like trying to capture birds…

MQ: Yeah, I didn’t find the research.

JS: Yeah. Before I let you both go, I want to ask one last question for each of you. What’s your favorite single spread in the book?

SP: Oh, that’s a tough question. I feel like I need to find my book.

MQ: Is this in terms of the final result, rather than how much we enjoyed making it?

JS: Well, that’s a good question. That’s a good one. I hadn’t thought of that. I was thinking of the final spread. But yeah, okay, so how about the one that you enjoyed making the most and then the one as, if you put yourself in the shoes of a reader, what’s your favorite spread?

MQ: Okay, I think, for me, the one that I enjoyed making the most was probably the one where we compared the loudness of the Sun, if there were no air and space or if there were, so if there were air and space, if there was a medium for the sound to travel through to reach the earth, this one would apparently be about hundred decibels subsonic sound. And we thought, well, we can compare this to this sound that the book makes when slammed shot really hard, which is actually a really loud bang. And I thought, well, I’m not going to get data from this any other way than just measuring it myself. So we’ve got this app on my phone, placed at a fixed distance from the book and slam the bookshelf really, really hard, like, several times the average, and then use that as the basic reading. So that was pretty enjoyable to research.

JS: Yeah, that’s pretty cool.

MQ: Yeah.

JS: Pretty fun too.

MQ: Yeah, it was. We had a lot of fun making it. But yeah, in terms of the final spread, I think there’s a spread on how humans and trees have a common ancestor. So therefore, the book and the reader have a common ancestor, if you go back, I think, it’s 1.8 billion years. And so we trace the history of the ancestry, how to back through evolutionary time, we know the book becomes wood, the wood becomes trees, the trees morph back into earlier species, the tree and fern and shrink down to this kind of single celled ancestor of plants and all animals, 1.8 billion years ago. And then we talk about DNA and how DNA encodes information in cells, and then we’ve been tracing this line right across a two-page spread. Then when you get to the end of the line, it says all the DNA in your cells would be two meters long or stretched out over the length of this line. So it’s quite a nice kind of journey that it takes you along and Stefanie created this really wonderful design that I think really showcases the typeface to its best extent, and this line has got a wonderful gradient on it that kind of goes back through all the colors back into history. So I really like that one.

JS: Yeah, a good one.

SP: Yeah, I feel like that was actually the one that I would probably say was one of my favorites, Miriam. I mean, it’s also a really good example of how to get a spread like this right, Miriam could have written a copy in the first instance. I’m pretty sure it did take a bit of back and forth, while we were figuring out how to fit the copy on the page, and then also to sort of create like a rhythm when you turn the page and it’s still continuing. And it’s just something that you just couldn’t write without seeing it. It required so much iteration and kind of like hitting a tennis ball back and forth in order to get it to this point. So I think that one is a really nice example of just how integrated the process of creating this book really was. One couldn’t work without the other really.

JS: Right.

MQ: Yeah.

JS: It’s interesting that you sort of compare, like, you need the physicality of the book, the final product is physical, but you need that physical interaction in the production process to get to that point.

MQ: Yeah, exactly. And just to kind of going back a bit to what Stefanie was just saying about textual rhythm, I mean, that was something that we really spent a lot of time thinking about, because Stefanie is a really experienced book designer, and has a lot of experience understanding how text will work on page, kind of, visually, but also when you read it, how do the line breaks work, how do the letters look. That was a really good experience for me, kind of, as a writer, to actually focus in on those aspects of text in a really, really detailed way, and think about how text and design have this really kind of tight interplay. So I really enjoyed that process. Yeah, just kind of biting the ball back and forth really.

SP: Yeah. It was really good.

JS: That’s great. Well, it’s a great book. My kids and I really enjoyed it. We sat together and read it when we got it. So thanks for that, and thanks to you both, good luck with everything, it’s a great book, and I hope folks will read it. And Miriam, Stefanie, thanks so much for coming on the show.

MQ: Thank you.

SP: Thanks for having us.

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s episode of the show. I hope you enjoyed that. I hope you learned a lot. And I hope you will check out the new book from Stefanie and Miriam, I Am a Book. In this season of holiday giving, I hope you will consider supporting the PolicyViz podcast. Head over to my Patreon page or support the show by spreading it around to your networks, your friends and your family and letting folks know about it. So until 2021, until next time, this has been the PolicyViz podcast. Thanks so much for listening.

A number of people help bring you the policy this podcast, music is provided by the NRIs, audio editing is provided by Ken Skaggs, and each episode is transcribed by Jenny Transcription Services. If you’d like to help support the podcast, please visit our Patreon page at patreon.com/policyviz.