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New Work: The New York Times Magazine

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Lisa Strausfeld, with James Nick Sears, has designed the illustrations for the cover story of the December 3 issue of The New York Times Magazine. The piece, titled “Open-Source Spying,” is about whether blogs and wikis could be used by agencies like the C.I.A. and F.B.I. to combat terrorism. The visualizations create a three-dimensional space in which the physical relationship of actors, weapons and targets suggest their level of connection in an attack.

Update: Interactive versions of the visualizations here.

After the jump: More images and the story behind the project.

February 26, 1993

April 19, 1995

September 11, 2001

The “Back Story” about the visualizations, reprinted from the magazine:

“A number of times each year, we find that our cover article is better suited to illustration than to photography. Maybe the subject or subjects of the article won’t be photographed. Perhaps it’s an essay weighing rather abstract ideas. Or it could be that the substance of the reporting doesn’t ultimately exist in the corporeal world—which is the case this week, with Clive Thompson’s article on the intelligence community’s quest to better utilize the tools of digital technology. Thompson, a contributing writer, reports regularly on high-tech matters. Lisa Strausfeld, who with James Nick Sears created the cover illustration and those accompanying Thompson’s article, is a partner at the Pentagram design studio, where she heads a team specializing in digital-information projects ranging from software prototypes to computer-generated visualizations of the kind they created for us. Drawing on information maintained on a large counterterrorism database, the team created a pictorial equation in which terms that showed up most frequently in word searches interacted with one another. The resulting patterns are quite revealing, and quite beautiful.”