20221230 year in visuals
CNN  — 

From breaking news, like the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to lighter stories, like the time a young traveler bumped into David Bowie, the CNN visuals team helps to tell these stories through maps, charts, illustrations and interactives. The staff of designers, data editors, developers and more highlighted their favorite visuals of 2022.

Visualizing the inequality of abortion access in a post-Roe America

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On June 24, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion, effectively turning abortion access back to the states. The ruling overturns 1973’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion across the country. I found the visualizations by Daniel Wolfe, Tal Yellin and Priya Krishnakumar to be particularly striking because they manage to tell the story on a micro and macro level. I was drawn into the impact that the law change has on a single individual in southern Louisiana, while absorbing the wider analysis on the differences between rural and urban states in the US.

— Henrik Pettersson, Senior Visual Editor

What happened when a young traveler bumped into David Bowie

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The CNN Travel story, “What happened when a young traveler bumped into David Bowie,” was one of my favorite assignments because this was a unique type of request. There weren’t any photos of the actual event described in the story; all we had was Brad Miele’s description of the encounter with Bowie and the music video where it all took place. I got to play with illustration and motion — and got to draw David Bowie (obviously, a huge plus).

— Alberto Mier, Senior Designer

How a deadly fire ignited dissent over China’s zero-Covid policy

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Nationwide protests that spread across China in November over its zero-Covid policy were historic. Their geographic scope and the sheer number of protesters involved in a country where protests are incredibly rare is a powerful story to chronicle and one that is best told visually. My colleagues did such tremendous work in helping readers understand the frustrations at a human level, and their use of animation really helps walk you through how the unrest there unfolded. I especially love the two triptychs, one a three-panel set of videos of protests in Wuhan, Beijing and Shanghai to help readers witness footage in multiple places at once. The second triptych breaks down the progression geographically in maps: From Urumqi in northwest China, where lockdown measures hindered rescue efforts after a fatal fire, raising public fury and inspiring protests in at least CNN-confirmed 15 cities nationwide and then spreading to at least 19 cities by the end of the week. They also include a map with estimates on the number of participants in each city, marking those led by student protesters on university campuses.

— Janie Boschma, Senior Editor

Is the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct?

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The feature, “Is the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct?” is the work I feel the strongest about from the past year. It’s not just the art throughout the story, but the way the many arms of the visuals and national team worked together, that made it particularly fulfilling. I can’t wait to work with that gang again.

— Ian Berry, Senior Designer, illustration and animation

Anatomy of the Mariupol hospital attack

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I remember reading this interactive feature, “Anatomy of the Mariupol hospital attack,” in March and needing to take a moment to process what I had just seen. Videos from the civilian perspective strung together with a 3D rendering of the area helped me understand what an average person in the vicinity of the strike might have been experiencing, even from my home half a world away. The civilian accounts were collected, organized and presented efficiently and effectively through focused collaboration. This kind of story can be difficult to engage with, but the subject is one that needs to be seen. Thanks to my colleagues for their care and hard work on this piece.

— Will Mullery, Designer

Mother loses peripheral vision from apparent exposure to mercury in beauty creams

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This piece about mercury being found in skin whitening products, including the health risks at home and affecting family, is incredibly important and was produced in such an effective way. The topic of skin whitening is sensitive and taboo, as it’s hardly discussed in the public. There is a strong fear of judgment relating to this subject and, at the same time, there isn’t much information regarding the dangers of these often under-the-counter ingredients. The style and design of the piece are quite powerful because they’re so inclusive and don’t target a specific culture.

— Elisa Solinas, Art Director, New York, NY

Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination brings renewed attention to lack of Black judges on the federal bench


The nomination of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court in February highlighted the historic lack of diversity on the nation’s highest court and the absence of Black judges in the federal courts generally. Priya Krishnakumar, then a CNN data and graphics editor, used data from the Federal Judicial Center to create this striking “waffle” chart to explain how black women have been underrepresented on the bench. The way the visualization is structured, with purple squares representing black judges, leaves no doubt about the historical disparity.

— Matt Stiles, Senior Editor

The community fridge movement could change the way we think about helping each other


This story on the community fridge movement was an especially gratifying experience, as it was the first story I pitched for CNN. During the pandemic, community fridges and mutual aid projects grew nationwide. The opportunity to raise awareness for these types of organizations and explain both through words and visuals how people can get involved was exciting since I had previously volunteered in my local area and created a mural for a Free99Fridge in Atlanta. I enjoyed creating the designs and map for this piece as well. Both were playful and informative.

— Leah Abucayan, Designer

From yachts to lavish estates, tracking Russian assets seized so far


This interactive, “From yachts to lavish estates, tracking Russian assets seized so far,” was a favorite from the year because I got to report on, design and code a piece on complex financial ownership structures spanning from superyachts to luxury estates around the world in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

— Tal Yellin, Art Director

Queen Elizabeth II: The most recognizable person in the world


This interactive feature on the portraits of Queen Elizabeth offers a very clean layout using different kinds of animation techniques, including 3D libraries, for the coin reflections and textures. We used unusual components to enhance the experience, including the embedded Spotify song “God save the queen,” along with style animations to show the bills and stamps. All the elements were developed to be synchronized with the scroll, allowing that to be the center of the experience.

— Marco Chacón, Developer

What redistricting looks like across the country

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Every 10 years, the Census does a new US population count, and most of the 435 US congressional districts are redrawn to reflect those new counts. Redistricting can have a considerable impact on the voting power of political parties and racial/ethnic groups, so we wanted to analyze these changes, which will be in place for the next decade. Since Census data and election data aren’t immediately available for these new districts, we, over the course of several months, calculated 2020 election data and demographics for the new districts to measure the impacts of these changes. Readers can look at the shifts in voting power for the nation as a whole and by individual state. This was a great collaboration between the Data and Graphics team and the political unit, and was, by far, my favorite project of the year.

— Renée Rigdon, Visual Editor, Cartographer

How Iran’s security forces use rape to quell protests

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I especially liked the visual approach to this interactive. Because we had to tackle a sensitive subject, it was a sensible visual solution to refer to an Iranian illustrator to treat people’s portraits.

— Rachel Jung, Associate Designer

The royal family tree

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This British royal family tree interactive was designed by our colleagues Ellie Stubbs and Rachel Jung. They took the basic content from an existing CNN story and developed it into a multi-strand interactive finding engaging ways to deal with the huge amount of information and most importantly bringing delight to the reader experience. I particularly like the timeline section where people’s photographs age as you scroll through the decades. There are even some Easter eggs built in — like if it’s someone’s birthday, confetti falls on the page.

— Sarah-Grace Mankarious, Supervising Editor, Special Projects

A drop in the ocean

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I just assumed sea level rise was a straightforward subject. Our colleagues, Ivana Kottasová and Temujin Doran, produced original reporting, photography and video explaining that glacier melt can impact those nearest and furthest away in entirely different ways. The CNN Visuals team worked across timezones and departments to help explain these concepts clearly to our readers using animation, data and imagery. I was particularly pleased with the way the team worked together and how our new designer, Rachel Jung, stepped up and designed a layout to tie the whole piece together.

— Byron Manley, Developer

The planet’s most threatened flight path, and the $3 billion plan to protect it

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In another entry about birds, this is a beautiful interactive exploring habitat loss along one of the largest and most-threatened bird migratory corridors — the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Produced by my colleagues from several CNN departments, this piece takes you on a journey along the flyway, from Alaska to New Zealand to South-East Asia. It is immersive, emotional and clearly produced through a smart combination of sound, multimedia, data visualization and text. The story acts as a call to action for people around the world who care about the biodiversity of our planet.

— Krystina Shveda, Data Editor

Inside the hospitals that concealed Russian casualties


I am constantly in awe of the unique visual storytelling that comes out of collaborative projects, such as this investigation into the Belarus hospitals that concealed Russian casualties. I love the way powerful reporting is combined with visual elements and beautiful illustrations to shed light and provide factual evidence on a very complex and sensitive topic, while at the same time conveying the strong human impact of these stories.

— Carlotta Dotto, Senior Editor

The things Covid victims left behind

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The interactive, “The things Covid victims left behind,” was published close to the date the United States reached 1 million deaths from Covid-19. I love it because the CNN audience sent the objects that remind them of their relatives who died from Covid. This somewhat simple presentation reminds us that it is not necessary to make great developments to achieve such an important and emotional piece. It is impossible not to empathize with the pain these people are feeling and their mourning.

— Jhasua Razo, CNNE Visual Editor