Blog: Reviewing data visualizations in The New York Times

Screenshot from the data visualization in the NYT piece about how safe it is to fly during the Covid-19 pandemic. This photo shows virus particles as purple so readers can see how far particles travel when someone sneezes.

As a flight attendant, I constantly am asked about how safe it is to fly during the current global pandemic. The interactive story put out by the NYT this year shows the way air is filtered and virus particles are spread in a way that is easy to understand and visually pleasing, leaving the audience hopefully feeling relieved about their upcoming flight. 

I think some people really do find comfort in knowing how something works. A big reason I see people feeling afraid to fly is because they are out of control in the situation, and don’t know the inner workings of the aircraft. This visualization is laid out in a plain, sterile way reminiscent of a safety demonstration or how-to tutorial. The graphics move as you scroll allowing the reader to move at their own pace through the story and to move back and forth to understand the movements the visuals are showing of both air flow and virus particles.

I would critique the desktop version of the story, as it really leaves you scrolling furiously so the visualization animates. It’s better on mobile, because I’m more accustomed to scrolling there.

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