The Financial Times and BBC use R for publication graphics

June 27, 2018

(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

While graphics guru Edward Tufte recently claimed that "R coders and users just can't do words on graphics and typography" and need additonal tools to make graphics that aren't "clunky", data journalists at major publications beg to differ. The BBC has been creating graphics "purely in R" for some time, with a typography style matching that of the BBC website. Senior BBC Data Journalist Christine Jeavans offers several examples, including this chart of life expectancy differences between men and women:


… and this chart on gender pay gaps at large British banks:


Meanwhile, the chart below was made for the Financial Times using just R and the ggplot2 package, "down to the custom FT font and the white bar in the top left", according to data journalist John Burn-Murdoch.


There are also entire collections devoted to recreating Tufte's own visualizations in R, presumably meeting his typography standards. Tufte later clarified saying "Problem is not code, problem is published practice", which is true of any programming environment, which is why it was strange that he'd call out R in particular.

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