H1N1. H7N9. Bird flu. Swine flu. We get it already, some virus is evolving to murder us all…but which one is it this week?
Enter David McCandless, the info-design guru behind Information Is Beautiful. He built Influ-Venn-Za as a straightforward explanation of which strains of flu exist in which animals, simplifying “who can catch what?”
“No doubt [the nomenclature] is meaningful to a biochemist, but not to me,” McCandless tells Co.Design. “I wanted to better understand the various strains and the role of pigs, chickens and humans, so I could get a better picture and decide whether to ignore H7N9, take interest, or suit the hell up!”
McCandless turned to his own expertise, data visualization, to make sense of the field. He tried a lot of approaches, ranging from “funky” timelines to network diagrams. But ultimately, he found that the relevance and clarity in this area was found in the moments of overlap–which species could catch the same strains of flu? And nothing does overlap like a Venn diagram.
“Yeah, the Venn is kinda old school. But you can shine it up with a modern palette and nice type, and like a vintage sports car, it does the job and gets you a few looks,” McCandless writes. “Also no other approach would’ve given me the chance to spawn such a virulent pun.”