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How to make a Monty Python infographic

In issue #13 of Delayed Gratification, we printed the above Monty Python infographic which maps every collaboration between two or more Pythons. To give you a peek behind the scenes, we asked our art director Christian Tate to explain how he created this infographic – one of his favourites. Here’s Christian on why it’s important to check the facts before you start drawing, and why sometimes it’s a good thing to forget to bring your drawing tools on the train.

“The Monty Python infographic is one of my favourites, but it’s also one that nearly made me cry. DG’s editor Rob and I teach Guardian Masterclasses in data visualisation. I always use this infographic to explain how 80 percent of the brainwork is done before you begin drawing in Adobe Illustrator – and how important it is to fact-check in the early stages (I’ll get to that later).

Below is a screen grab of a Google Docs spreadsheet, which is how most DG infographics start out. It contains all the projects the Pythons have worked on. The single letters in the five columns on the right represent the role of the individual Pythons – acting, writing or directing. Ultimately I decided to leave that out of the infographic because it would’ve been too much.”


“Here’s my first very rough sketch of what I wanted the infographic to look like. At that point, I knew I wanted to trace out the individual paths until they would all come together in a classic Monty Python foot stomping on the O2 – which is where the Pythons were performing in July 2014.”


“My commute by train from Kent into central London gave me the time to get a more detailed idea of what the paths of the Pythons would look like. I usually work with lots of colour to differentiate things in my infographics. On this occasion, I had left my coloured pens at the office which meant I had to draw the paths using different patterns of lines. By the time I was done translating the entire spreadsheet into the below sketch, I realised these patterned paths actually looked quite cool and decided to stick with it. If I’d had my coloured pens on the train that day, this infographic would’ve ended up looking very different.”


“When I arrived at the office, it was just a matter of scanning my sketch and dropping it onto an InDesign spread. I flipped it horizontally (as timelines should always run clockwise) and loaded it into Illustrator. In the below images you can see how I then set about roughly tracing that initial drawing and creating the nodes of Python collaborations.”




“Someone from DG’s editorial team always fact-checks our infographics when I’m done. In this case, that turned out to be quite a tedious job – but a necessary one. We realised that in our original data, that spreadsheet I talked about earlier, one of the years had been put down incorrectly as 1989 instead of 1998. At first I thought it wouldn’t take that much time to fix, but the more I unravelled the paths, the further I realised I had to go back. In the end, it took me a full day to move that one live show to the right year.

Despite this headache, the infographic was well worth the effort. I love the end result.”


Click here for a zoomable version of this infographic.

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