Nigel Holmes

Explanation Designer

The Minister of Explanation


In Monty Python speech, Nigel Holmes could be described as head of the Ministry of Explaining Things to People. The British born graphic designer, now working in New York, is a true master in explaining the most complicated things in crystal clear and often funny visuals.


Holmes’ fame was set when he worked as designer at Time Magazine in the 1980s where he made those famous charts, diagrams and covers.  At Time, his pictorial explanations of complex subjects gained him many imitators and a few academic enemies who thought he was trivializing information. But he remains committed to the power of pictures and humor to help readers understand otherwise abstract numbers and difficult scientific concepts. Since then, he has worked for a multitude of magazines and newspapers, as well as for corporate clients.


He has written eight books on aspects of information design, including Wordless Diagrams, in 2005. Likewise Holmes produced The Smallest Ever Guide to the Internet that already reached its 7th edition, and The Smallest Ever Guide to Life Sciences, that discusses the science (and problems) surrounding the human genome.


Another tome, The Book of Everything was published by Lonely Planet in 2012. It’s a compendium of information graphics that range from how to wear a kilt, to delivering a baby in an emergency, or recognizing animal poop. A “sister” book, Instant Expert, came out in 2014. Holmes is currently working on Odd, a book explaining weird competitions and festivals around the world. (Things like Bog Snorkelling, Worm Charming and Shin Kicking in Britain, Hair Freezing in Canada and Throwing Dead Rats in Spain.) It’ll be published in early 2017.


With his son Rowland, Holmes makes short animated films. Clients have included Fortune Magazine conferences, Good Magazine and the National Geographic Society.


Author, Filmmaker, Design, Sarasota 2016