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2016 Gannett Foundation Award for Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism finalist

Atlas

About the Project

At Quartz we sometimes say charts are our equivalent of cat photos. Readers can’t get enough of them.

Before we published our first story in 2012 we built an in-house tool, Chartbuilder, that allowed every journalist to create clear, simple, and good-looking charts, so that our newsroom wouldn’t need a graphics desk. We encourage our writers, where possible, to “write with charts,” and some posts consist of little else.

We open-sourced Chartbuilder on GitHub, and it’s been used by other news organizations including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In June 2015 we took our charting to the next level by launching Atlas, a standalone charting site.

Now, every chart we create is published first on Atlas. Most are then embedded on Quartz, but some are standalone stories in themselves. Our users can not only share our charts with a click, but also download the data behind them, embed them on their own websites (we encourage stealing!), and search our entire charts database on Atlas by topic. The charts themselves are responsive, adjusting their format according to whether they’re being viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile screen.

Since launching Atlas in June 2015, we’ve published roughly 5,000 charts. They have been viewed 50 million times times by 18 million readers on Quartz and other websites where the charts are embedded. Finally, in May we started opening Atlas up to the world so that anybody can create their own charts and embed them. We are doing this in the conviction that despite the variety of existing charting tools out there, we could do better in terms of both usability and visual aesthetic.

Above all, the goal is to build not only a tool but a community of chart creators whose combined efforts will create a repository of useful data for the world. To these ends we’ve made the user interface easy and intuitive while being powerfully flexible. There is a variety of chart formats and options.

Atlas even gives you helpful suggestions for how to adjust data or settings to make your chart look better (see screenshots). And it includes previews and special settings for how your chart will look on mobile. And we are in the process of hiring an editor and community manager for Atlas to spread the gospel of better charting far and wide. We are proud to submit Atlas for an ONA award.