The Aesthetics Wiki: an R Addendum


May 8, 2024

They’re doing the Lord’s work over at


Some people look at an R script and see code. But I feel something.

A philosophy

Have you experienced the Aesthetics Wiki?

It’s missing R-related entries for some reason, which definitely fit the aesthetic philosophy of having:

perspectives on beauty and the human condition and a political, economic, or social statement

Tell me you don’t look at an R script and get an immediate vibe.

I want to suggest two obvious aesthetics for submission to the wiki—Basecore and Tidywave—and to introduce the definitely-soon-to-be-mainstreamed V4 Punk1.

The addendum


Adapted from Aesthetics Wiki.


  • History: emerged as Base Academic in 1993, mainstreamed as Base Core from 2000 to date.
  • Visuals: [ (square-bracket selector), $ (dollar selector), ~ (formula-form tilde).
  • Media: Writing R Extensions, the R-help mailing list, that textfile with a Y2K warning that came bundled with R v1.0.
  • Fashion: cardigans, a wired mouse with a ball in it, the old-school IDE you get when you click ‘’ instead of ‘’.
  • Palette: grey.
  • Nearest aesthetic: Chaotic Academia, which ‘acknowledges the pretentiousness of classic academia, subtly mocking it at times’.


Classic stuff. Typical base-R code uses a lot of intermediate assignment to create temporary objects for further manipulation. Many actions make use of square bracket notation to indicate some action over rows and columns of a data.frame. Data.frame columns have to be called within the context of the data.frame they belong to, using dollar or square-bracket notation. The tilde is used for formula notation (‘this given that’).

Set up demo data
sw_a <- starwars[, c("name", "species", "height")]
sw_b <- starwars[, c("name", "homeworld")]
x <- sw_a[sw_a$species == "Human", names(sw_a) != "species"]
x <- merge(x, sw_b, by = "name")
x$height <- x$height / 100
x$homeworld <- ifelse(
  !x$homeworld %in% c("Tatooine", "Naboo"),
x <- aggregate(x, height ~ homeworld, mean, na.rm = TRUE)
x <- x[order(-x$height), ]
  homeworld   height
3  Tatooine 1.792500
2     Other 1.776471
1     Naboo 1.772000


Adapted from Aesthetics Wiki.


  • History: humble academic origins in 2008, later popularised with the creation of the {tidyverse} in 2016.
  • Visuals: %>% ({magrittr} pipe), . (data placeholder), ~ (lambda function).
  • Media: R for Data Science, conflict warnings in the console when you do library(tidyverse), that one gif of Hadley tapping merrily on an invisible keyboard (‘just typing R code!’).
  • Fashion: RStudio, hex stickers, rapid deprecation.
  • Palette: Posit blue, yellow, and grey.
  • Nearest aesthetic: Corporate Memphis because I’ve literally seen it in Posit marketing.


The script reads from left-to-right and top-to-bottom, recipe style, using pipes: ‘take dataset, then do a thing, then do a thing’, etc. Each function is verb that indicates its action. Non-standard evaluation is rampant. A tilde replaces the tedious typing of function(). A titchy inconspicuous . acts as a data placeholder on the right-hand side of a pipe.

sw_a %>%
  filter(species == "Human") %>%
  select(-species) %>%
  left_join(sw_b, by = "name") %>%
    height = height / 100,
    homeworld = if_else(
      !homeworld %in% c("Tatooine", "Naboo"),
  ) %>%
    height = mean(height, na.rm = TRUE),
    .by = homeworld
  ) %>%
# A tibble: 3 × 2
  homeworld height
  <chr>      <dbl>
1 Tatooine    1.79
2 Other       1.78
3 Naboo       1.77

V4 Punk

Adapted from Aesthetics Wiki.


  • History: incremental emergence following R version 4.0 in 2020, boosted greatly in 2022 with the release of the base pipe. The future of R.
  • Visuals: |> (base pipe), _ (data placeholder), \() (lambda function).
  • Media: meme blogs, cheeky Fosstodon posts.
  • Fashion: hubris, evil moustaches, troll-face emojis.
  • Palette: rainbow?
  • Nearest aesthetic: Vacation Dadcore, so you can ‘escape to a simpler time without sacrificing any of the fun’.


Hear me out: what if tidyverse, but made entirely of base R functions2? This is now possible with the base pipe and by using obscure functions that help you avoid square brackets3. It’s also sketchy as heck; just see the help files for subset() (‘unanticipated consequences’) and transform() (‘you deserve whatever you get!’). The death of Basecore and Tidywave, for sure.

sw_a |>
    species == "Human",
    select = -species
  ) |>
  merge(sw_b, by = "name") |>
    height = height / 100,
    homeworld = ifelse(
      !homeworld %in% c("Tatooine", "Naboo"),
  ) |>
    height ~ homeworld, 
    \(x) mean(x, na.rm = TRUE)
  ) |>
  sort_by(~ height, decreasing = TRUE)  # hot off the v4.4 press
  homeworld   height
3  Tatooine 1.792500
2     Other 1.776471
1     Naboo 1.772000

Can’t wait to see this roll out into production code.


Session info
Last rendered: 2024-05-09 09:04:29 BST
R version 4.4.0 (2024-04-24)
Platform: aarch64-apple-darwin20
Running under: macOS Ventura 13.2.1

Matrix products: default
BLAS:   /Library/Frameworks/R.framework/Versions/4.4-arm64/Resources/lib/libRblas.0.dylib 
LAPACK: /Library/Frameworks/R.framework/Versions/4.4-arm64/Resources/lib/libRlapack.dylib;  LAPACK version 3.12.0

[1] en_US.UTF-8/en_US.UTF-8/en_US.UTF-8/C/en_US.UTF-8/en_US.UTF-8

time zone: Europe/London
tzcode source: internal

attached base packages:
[1] stats     graphics  grDevices utils     datasets  methods   base     

other attached packages:
[1] dplyr_1.1.4

loaded via a namespace (and not attached):
 [1] digest_0.6.35     utf8_1.2.4        R6_2.5.1          fastmap_1.1.1    
 [5] tidyselect_1.2.1  xfun_0.43         magrittr_2.0.3    glue_1.7.0       
 [9] tibble_3.2.1      knitr_1.46        pkgconfig_2.0.3   htmltools_0.5.8.1
[13] rmarkdown_2.26    generics_0.1.3    lifecycle_1.0.4   cli_3.6.2        
[17] fansi_1.0.6       vctrs_0.6.5       withr_3.0.0       compiler_4.4.0   
[21] rstudioapi_0.16.0 tools_4.4.0       pillar_1.9.0      evaluate_0.23    
[25] yaml_2.3.8        rlang_1.1.3       jsonlite_1.8.8   


  1. These suffixes are meaningful: core ‘implies a system, a set of rules’, wave ‘a significant shift within a genre’ and punk ‘reject[s] social norms’.↩︎

  2. I called this ‘The Modern Base Aesthetic’ in my talk, ‘Base Slaps!’, at the NHS-R conference 2023. But now I realise the aesthetics run deeper.↩︎

  3. If you truly want something that looks like {dplyr} code but depends only on base R, then check out the {poorman} package.↩︎