Inspiring a Movement: The Warming Stripes

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: United Kingdom

Publishing organisation: Nightingale Magazine – The Journal of the data visulisation society.

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-12-01

Language: English

Authors: Chesca Kirkland – Data Vizulisation Designer
Claire Santoro – Article Author
Jason Forrest – Nightingale Managing Editor
Julie Brunet – Nightingale Art Director


Chesca Kirkland is an illustrator and information designer working at SetReset, a data design studio in London who help reimagine how people see, experience and interact with data. Her passions lie in discovering hidden patterns and connections within the natural world to help tell world-changing stories. The Economist Group alumni.

Claire Santoro is an environmental analyst, information designer, science communicator and content editor for Nightingale.

Project description:

A visualisation evaluating the global impact of The Warming Stripes graphic by climate scientist Ed Hawkins. The visualisation assesses how Hawkins’ graphic has grown in popularity over time and has been used as a visual symbol for the climate movement, with stripes appearing on a vast collection of items across the world. Google Trends data was used to track search interest for terms related to the Warming Stripes, with more than 80 notable uses identified and analysed to reveal trends, patterns and connections. Shown in the finished product is a timeline of search term popularity, interest by country and categorisation.

Impact reached:

Claire Santoro and I were asked to collaborate on this project which would be featured within the Nightingale magazine and the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. The Nightingale magazine was born out of the data visualisation society which is a non-profit organisation that supports the growth, refinement, and the expansion of data visualisation knowledge regardless of expertise level. It has a following of over 236.6k across LinkedIn, Twitter and instagram.

The magazine is being distributed currently (December 2022) so the impact of the audience isn’t visible yet however the anticipation on twitter after the release of the first issue is exciting.

Because the data visualisation and article theme covers climate data and global warming activism, the hope would be that it continues to spur people on in using the Warming Stripes as a symbol for change.

My hope is that after viewing the data visualisation, readers realises how powerful the unique Warming Stripes graph can be and how it can have such global impact on society despite breaking all the traditional graph rules (no axis, no labels etc) with the aim to inspire others to follow suit.

Techniques/technologies used:

The tools, techniques and technologies used to create the final data visualisation started by interviewing Ed Hawkins with Clare Santoro who was writing an accompanying article. This enabled us to hear first hand the rational behind why he created the Warming Stripes in the first place and to hear his take on the global impact it’s had already.

After the interview I scraped the internet to find and document every possible item that used the Warming Stripes graphic. Items were recorded in Google Sheets alongside the publishing date, location, category, creator/company, total social media following and reference links.

After this process, I cleaned my spreadsheet, analysed the data and started to sketch possible layouts and graphs in my sketchbook. This progressed to playing around with wireframes in Adobe Illustrator. Once I knew the structure of the graph needed, I used Flourish, an online data visualisation tool, to create an SVG of the main timeline graph which I then manipulated back in Adobe Illustrator.

Designs and tweaks were completed in Illustrator and after proof checking with copy editors and Nightingale art director, Julie, print proofs were sent back for final checks before sending off to print.

Context about the project:

In regards to contextual restraints and difficulties, the data of each item was not readily available or documented and so scraping and sorting the data was a challenge. 80 notable items were identified but this list is not indefinite, with the challenge then to quantify the impact of each item arose. How can you measure something without a numerical metric? How can you document the size of an item when you aren’t to know all the possible online locations for said item? To overcome this we found a common metric to use across all items: total social media following from the creator or company. This gave us a steady and consistent dataset to compare and work from.

Creating such a dense visualisation that was still legible for print was highly challenging but an exciting one to work with. Knowing what to keep in the visualisation vs adding something in as copy within the article was a challenge but enabled a refined and strong body of work.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

The hope would be that other journalists can learn the power of data visulisation for the advocay of the planet. As a dataviz design I analysed the impact of Ed Hawkin’s bar chart and seen what a huge impact on society it has had. The graphic has been used a symbol for change, and that, alongside good storytelling, is extremetly powerful.

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