1. Mapping out the distance covered by my baby son

    Posted January 28, 2013 in projects  |  No Comments so far

    In the early days of my son Aidan’s life, his mum Cathy & I kept a log of pretty much everything he did. I can, for example, tell you his first audible fart occurred when he was precisely 7 hours and 9 minutes old. This obsessive note-taking didn’t last, however. Its usefulness faded as we adjusted to the relentless rhythms of parenthood, so we forgot about our log and worried instead about the fortnightly baby-weighing sessions and their nervewracking scatterplot diagrams. We no longer updated Evernote after every burp and fart.

    But there was one piece of data that I kept tracking, and it had nothing to do with his bodily functions. Whenever we took Aidan further away from his birthplace than he’d yet to travel in a particular compass direction, I’d keep a note of the time and place and save it for posterity.

    At first I wasn’t sure what to do with this information. Maybe it’d be of interest to Aidan when he was older. Maybe it’d help us identify holiday destinations if, say, we wanted to push back his western frontier one year. Yet all these ideas seemed kind of long-term and I wanted to do something now. Then it struck me – I should turn the data into posters.

    And so a project was born: every December, I’d make a poster-sized infographic to depict the extent of Aidan’s travels in that year. Here are the first two, which can be viewed in more detail if you click on them:

    Aidan's geographical extremes in 2011

    Aidan’s geographical extremes in 2011

    Aidan's geographical extremes in 2012

    Aidan’s geographical extremes in 2012

    You can probably tell, but the 2012 poster was the first one I made. Aidan was only around for the final three weeks of 2011 and didn’t travel very far, so I had expected it would be the more boring map, but as it turned out the London street map made for a more interesting backdrop and I just think it works better.

    The process of making these posters wasn’t just fun, it was educational too. As well as the usual design challenges, there was also the surprisingly fiddly job of getting the geophysical data in order. Embarrassingly enough, I started out under the impression that lat/long co-ordinates could be mapped directly to geographical distance: an approach that would have worked out well if the Earth was flat, but because it’s actually globular I ran into a dead end and had to start over.

    With that sorted out, I’ll hopefully be able to create new posters each year without shameful cosmological misconceptions getting in the way. If they’re interesting I’ll share them here – but as for that data about his early pooing habits? I’m sorry, but some things are better left unshared.