Pages from the Atlas of the American Economy

Congressional Quarterly Books
Atlas of the American Economy

Designed for Congressional Quarterly Books, this book takes on the audacious task of trying to make the American economy not only understandable but actually interesting. The biggest project we have ever undertaken, involving sophisticated information architecture and hundreds of illustrations and charts. We had to take a self-administered crash course in charting for starters. We discovered that there are many ways to produce inaccurate charts: missing zero points, for example, that make an increase or decrease look more significant than it really is, or an irregular series of dates that has the same net effect. It is sometimes quite hard to remain true to the original data. This is as interesting a book, and as honest a book as we could make it.

Working from the spreadsheets provided by the author, Jim would conceptualize and sketch each chart. Illustrator Mike Powers would then produce a tight sketch. After review and revision, Jim scanned those sketches into the computer and redrew and colored them, adding all the data elements—plotted with computer accuracy. Software used: Microsoft Excel, ClarisWorks charting function, Adobe Dimensions, FreeHand, FreeHand, FreeHand. Early on we made the decision to produce the pages of this book in FreeHand so we would have ready access to the chart elements right up to deadline. Despite the fact that word processing and page layout features were fairly new to FreeHand at the time, it all worked out quite nicely.

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