A country out of breath

Country/area: Brazil

Organisation: Piaui

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 18/06/2021

Credit: Ariel Tonglet, José Roberto de Toledo, Rodolfo Almeida


Rodolfo Almeida is a visual journalist at Nucleo, researcher at LabVis/UFRJ and freelance dataviz designer. Collaborated with outlets such as Nexo Jornal, The Intercept, Greenpeace, and WWF and had his work recognized by Malofiej, SND, Sigma Awards, and more.

Ariel Tonglet is an infographist and web developer, mostly focused in front-end. Currently works at Kunumi, a pure tech startup focused in artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. Previously worked for some of the biggest newspapers in Brazil, as Folha de S. Paulo, O Estado de S. Paulo and Nexo Jornal.

José Roberto de Toledo is the executive editor of Piauí Magazine.

Project description:

The data visualization “A country out of breath” makes use of data visceralization to show the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil. It does that by inviting the reader to sync its breathing with the animation being displayed on screen. The video translates the number of daily deaths as the speed and color of an expanding circle. After it reaches 500.000 deaths –the mark of July 18th, when it was released– it proceeds to expand at the same speed that tooks for 1 person to die of Covid the day before.

Impact reached:

The mark of 500.000 deaths was represented in Brazilian newspapers in several ways, and was an opportunity for newspapers to show the gravity of the pandemic in our country. We chose the data visceralization media as a way to involve the public in this narrative, bringing it to their own body into it.

Piauí Magazine is known for its longform journalism, with textual and narrative quality. The choice to publish this kind of innovative infographic, taking a whole page scroll in the homepage, makes clear the potential that visual journalism has to communicate complex stories.

Techniques/technologies used:

Data from Conass (brazilian’s National Council of Health Secretaries) was used to determine the breathing paces for each month of the pandemic. For example: the highest value in mean daily deaths corresponds to 6 breathing cycles in a 5 second period, while the lowest value corresponds to 1 breathing cycle in a 5 second period. With these reference values, the animation was produced in Adobe After Effects, with sonification produced in Ableton Live. The interactive piece that follows the video was developed in HTML, Javascript and CSS, daily updated by the journalists CMS platform.

What was the hardest part of this project?

Finding a correspondence between daily death counts and different breathing paces that felt natural and appropriately conveyed a situation of crisis was a tricky challenge. We experimented with different ways to transform and aggregate the data and wanted it to feel intuitive as a metaphor.

What can others learn from this project?

We believe this project showcases the potential of visualization to play not only an informative role, but to provoke emotional impact. Elegant solutions in journalism require us to meet tight deadlines while still engaging the reader with a story – and we believe our project accomplishes this goal. Other journalists could benefit from reassessing the value of visualization as a medium and seeing how simple solutions can go a long way.

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