Info-Graphics:From Concept to Reality Warren Watson Arizona State University 2012
Why Design?• “Design is a tool to make things clear. It is a lubricant for ideas. Poor design is like crackling static on the radio.” -- Jan White, author, teacher (1988)• “Why design? It’s simple. We’re in a vicious fistfight for people’s eyeballs -- David Fowler, art director (1994)
The Role of the Designer“Role of the designeris to get the reader tothe first paragraph.” -- Edwin Taylor
Thinking VisuallyPeople appreciate the look of things beforethe content itself. Some simple examplesshowing the power of graphic thinking.
Why Use Informational Graphics• To help make stories more understandable• To give readers a sense of context• To provide additional entry points on your pages• To “image” information; graphics make sense of chaos, define the abstract• To reveal data at different levels of detail
‘Recognizable Form’“The hardest job (for today’s journalist) isgetting information into a recognizableform. In an age of quick information,reading is knowing, but seeing isbelieving.” --- John Sculley, former chairman, Apple Computer
Combinationof Type and ArtworkThis form ofstorytellingcombines photosor illustrativeelements withtype. Theycombine to tell astory.
Practicing Journalism Whole“Competing for the news will require us topractice journalism whole. It means thateditors will widen the view of their work, sothat words, illustrations and page designare thought of us as one, not apart, andhandled whole.” --Gene Patterson, former editor and publisher, St. Petersburg Times (1988)
Graphics Often Do the Best Job in Explaining That RealityThe New York Times produced anextraordinary body of work in informationalgraphics around 9/11. Here is some of thematerial.
‘Help The Reader Understand’“Too often, we rely on the narrative, the30-inch story, as the only form of telling thestory, especially a complex one. But youcan tell your story using other tools -- agraphic, a highlights box, a diagram -- andhelp the reader understand the topic.” --- Bryan Monroe, assistant managing editor, San Jose Mercury News
The 5 Elements of a Graphic1) Headline2) Explainer: A shortstatement explainingwhy the information isimportant3) Body: Thepresentation of the data4) Source line5) Credit line
Kinds of Graphics: What to Look For?• A who story: Suggests a bio box• A what story: Suggests a breakout of provisions• A when story: Suggests a time line or schedule• A where story: Suggests a map• A why story: Suggests a pro/ con breakout• A how story: Suggests a table, chart or diagram
‘Information Anxiety’“Good instruction is built on gooddescription. Words, pictures and numbers-- use the right means to describe yourends. Learning is remembering what you’reinterested in.” -- Richard Wurman (1990) in book of the same name (Book was recently updated)
Put It in Understandable Terms• An acre is 45,568 square feet in area. Easy to forget? Yes.• An acre is also roughly the size of a football field without the end zones• This is a cure for information anxiety!
Graphic Description: Use in Writing• To better understand the enormity of the World Trade Center disaster, consider the sheer size of the buildings.• Each floor of the Twin Towers contained 45,000 to 50,000 square feet of office space. Each floor was about the size of a football field in
Demystifying Charts and Tables: Major Types> Pie chart: Compares the parts that make up a whole, often measuring money, population, percentages.> Line or fever chart: Measures changing quantities over time, plotting key statistics on a grid.> Bar chart: Compares 2 or more items visually as abstract bars or columns.> Numerical table: Arranges data into columns so readers can make precise, side-by-side comparisons.
Pie Charts: StrengthsA pie chart shouldbe used tosummarize statisticsin which the size ofthe pieces relativeto the whole isimportant. Note: Apie of more than 6slices can beconfusing. Consideranother form.
Fever Chart: StrengthsFever charts plot pairsof coordinates, usuallyrepresenting time andquantity, on a grid andthen join those pointsof form onecontinuous line ofcurve. Fevers shouldnot be used when datavaries too little.
Too little variation inPoor Use the quantity line.
Some Things to Avoid in Graphics• The inclination to create a pie chart, fever chart or bar chart WITHOUT actual numbers• Maps with a non-North/South orientation• Mixed scales• Distortion -- in the old USA Today weather map, does Maine and the rest of New England really have less weather than Florida?
When Not to Use a Graphic• When the information is too obvious or too simple• When the story is too complicated• When words say it better• When there is no time to do the graphic well• When you’re simply doing a graphic to get color on the page --- Source: Gerald Council, Los Angeles Times
A Reporter’s Guide to Graphics• View graphics as sidebars -- sometimes they illustrate your stories, sometimes they add additional information, sometimes they carry the so-called heavy cargo (numbers, complex data).• What to look for: --- Get all the numbers when reporting --- Ask for the drawings, schematics --- Bring back the map --- Get phone numbers for followup --- Go to the graphics specialist early
The Process: A Graphic Is Only As Clear As Its Concept• Decide what you want to say. Is the point to show a trend, convey quantity, educate, locate or explain?• No graphic can be all things. Focus is primary.• Don’t compensate for unclear data by packing in whatever data you can find.• Create a graphic that will actually be useful.
The Process: IdeasSomeone in the newsroom should readevery story, scan every budget, and listen toevery news conversation with graphics inmind. Could the graphic help the story by:* Demonstrating a trend?* Comparing size, cost?* Locating the site?* Showing how it happened?
Combination GraphicIncludes linegraph, table andbulletinformation totell the story.
The Process: Research• Information drives effective graphics• Accommodations must be made for the research to be completed; the graphics research should be part of the story assignment• It could be done by the artist, the reporter, or a designated graphics reporter
The Process: Research Sources• World Wide Web -- invaluable!• Maps -- From anywhere you go, no matter how silly or insignificant they may seem• Encyclopedias -- Provide basics on a wide variety of subjects• Chamber of Commerce -- a library of stuff• Annual reports• A point-and-shoot camera more
The Process: More Research Sources• The Associated Press• “Statistical Abstract of the United States”• Mailing lists, universities• “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Money and Investing”• “Who Knows What: The Essential Business Resource Book”• National Weather Service• “Economic Report of the President”• World Almanac• Idiot’s Guides
Process: Editing and CommunicationEditors and artists must communicate during theprocess of graphic development. Other tips:* Make sure graphic text is clean, tight andsimple -- and correct* Graphics should go through the same editingprocess as stories* How large should a graphic be? --- AS SMALL AS POSSIBLE!
A Simpler Form of Graphics• What if you don’t have the time and resources to do “art graphics?”• You can still reach readers through a technique called layering the news ….
Layering the News• The reporting and presentation of a news story in multiple pieces using a variety of visual and text-organization techniques. They range from refers to news in depth, including analyses and full texts of speeches.• Layering involves the ability to see the complete picture -- how headlines, summary headlines, photos, captions, graphics, quoteouts, readouts and glance boxes can work in combination.
Three Levels of Layering * 1) Lists, comparisons woven into graphics * 2) Data pulled from stories and presented separately * 3) Reader education information that supplements stories• Layer three is attractive to readers who don’t buy the paper daily. They look to the newspaper for meaning.
Nugget or Glance BoxesThis nuggetcapsulizes the story,providing theinformation atanother layer ofdepth.
BuildingUnderstanding This form of nugget fits a format -- what is the news, what does it mean, what’s coming up next?
HighlightingKey Information The nugget or glance box allows you to pull out and highlight important story details and refer to other stories.
Summing Up Design: 8 Simple Learnings from SND• Keep it simple• Let content drive the design• Take care with the details• Pay attention to the words as well• Think like, not for, the reader• Treat typography with respect• Reflect your community• Take a risk every now and then