Using examples of compelling visual & interactive techniques in print & online, Sara Quinn offers tips on concept, craft and collaboration.

Group of young people in training course

8 tips for training, hiring young newsroom designers

Tracy Collins hired 40 of the 63 designers on his staff in one fell swoop last summer, getting many of his new employees directly out of college.

They joined him at Gannett’s Phoenix Design Studio, where an average of 14,000 pages are produced each week for nine daily newspapers.

Tracy Collins

That’s a heck of a lot of pages, and a pretty young staff.

The Phoenix studio is one of five U.S. design centers that produce Gannett papers — the others are Nashville, Tenn.; Des Moines, Iowa; Asbury Park, N.J.; and Louisville, Ky. This hub system for design is becoming more common as news organizations downsize, consolidate and seek more bang for their buck—Cox Media, McClatchy, and Media General have all pursued similar strategies.

The conversion hasn’t been pain-free for Gannett, Collins said in an in-person interview. But design directors like him continue to fine-tune the process, seeking coaching strategies that will develop their designers’ skills quickly by offering them regular feedback in highly visible ways. Read more

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

GaryClement_tweet1

How the National Post’s Gary Clement turns tweets into illustrated stories

Illustrator Gary Clement has a social media fling going this summer with readers of Canada’s National Post.

Each week, he tweets out a question using the hashtag #npsummer, then draws full-page cartoons to immortalize the readers’ replies. From summer romance and backyard barbecues to mishaps on camping trips and in summer school, he’s getting the skinny on his audience — 140 characters at a time.

Gary Clement

“I did one cartoon about summer jobs — that’s probably been the funniest one so far. I sort of ended up with drawings that gave people job tips,” he said by phone. “Job tips from a cartoonist — that’s funny. What do I know about working?”

“My theory was that people tweet sort of indiscriminately. I thought, why don’t I ask people for little bits of stories, and I will stitch them into some rich tapestry? Turns out, it’s a lot harder than I thought.”

But he appreciates their contributions, just the same. Read more

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Theverge

How The Verge used visuals to tell the delicate story of a face transplant

The ordeal of a woman who received a total face transplant is hard for an audience to fathom without seeing it. But Verge science editor Katie Drummond had a challenge beyond potentially making some readers squeamish: how to tell the story with the care and respect Carmen Tarleton deserved.

45-year-old Carmen Tarleton worked as a registered nurse in Thetford, Vt., before she was attacked by her husband in 2007. She has two daughters, Hannah and Liza.

Tarleton’s ex-husband attacked her with lye and a baseball bat in 2007, and media coverage afterward upset her because it prefaced stories with disclaimers like “‘warning, this footage is graphic and may disturb some viewers,’” Drummond wrote in an e-mail to Poynter.

That horrified Tarleton, Drummond wrote. “The idea that her own face was being treated as if she was some kind of monster, or that her disfigurement made her somehow less human.”

Drummond and the editors at The Verge wanted to respect Tarleton’s feelings. Read more

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Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013

How one illustrator approaches investigative reporting

Artist Marina Luz faced a journalistic challenge.

She had to illustrate the story of a young woman named “Jennifer,” who had been sexually abused in a state-run facility. But she could not use an image of Jennifer. What’s more, she couldn’t show what Jennifer or any of the other people in the story actually looked like.

Could we understand Jennifer — a troubled, young disabled woman — without actually seeing her?

Luz solved the problem with expressive drawings that were then paired with narration, music and a statement from Jennifer’s mother, read by an actor to further disguise their identities. Jennifer is not the young woman’s real name.

There are no bright colors in Luz’s renderings — only sketchy black lines and muted shades of brown, gray and blue.

Drawings of people in the story are “a mix of fragile, thin, line drawings,” Luz said in an e-mail interview. And the background has “a subtle bit of distress or distortion to give texture and a feeling of discord.”

Her drawings walk us through a difficult time in Jennifer’s life. Read more

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Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013

job satisfaction napkin doodle

‘Journalist’ or ‘illustrator’? How self-identification affects designers’ job satisfaction

When veteran newspaper artist and designer Charles Apple worked at the (Raleigh) News & Observer in the 1990’s, he and his colleagues had an ongoing discussion about how they viewed their own jobs.

As they drew up the artwork, maps and infographics that adorned each day’s paper, they’d talk about whether their work constituted “journalism” and whether they thought of themselves as “journalists.”

For Apple, who never hesitated to grab a sketch pad and head out to a crime scene or natural disaster, the answer was obvious. He considered himself every bit a journalist — just as the paper’s reporters and photographers did. But some of his fellow designers saw themselves differently.

“Their point was that they’re not really journalists; they’re just illustrators,” Apple told me from southern California, where he’s now at the Orange County Register. “To them, it was just like working at an ad agency or anyplace else.”

That contrast among newspaper designers isn’t unusual, but a recent study suggests designers’ self-characterization of their jobs may be more than just fodder for newsroom debates. Read more

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Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013

Magnifying Glass - Web Design

What journalists need to know about Web design

Fifty milliseconds. That’s how quickly visitors can form strong, long-lasting impressions about your news or information website. But they aren’t sizing up the quality of your content or the sophistication of your code. They’re making nearly instantaneous, mostly subconscious judgments about how your work has been designed.

Those assessments can lead to very conscious — and consequential — conclusions about the merits of your page, product or platform. Bad graphic design can damage perceptions about your credibility. It can make your content harder to understand and render your work less appealing.

The visual Web

The Web is a visual medium. It didn’t start that way, back when HTML truly was all about marking up text. Over the years, though, the options for shaping the appearance of a Web page have grown more plentiful and sophisticated.

Now, of course, Web producers have a wide range of design tools at their disposal. Read more

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Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013

eyetracktablet

Tablet storytelling is visual, tappable, deep

Three years after Apple and others put digital tablets firmly into the hands of consumers, what do we really know about the way the devices are used for news?

Hundreds of people filed in to a large ballroom at South by Southwest last week for “Lean Forward, Lean Back: Tablet News Experience” to hear perspectives from Poynter research, focus groups and practical case studies from news organizations around the world.

The session brought together part of Poynter’s research team, led by Poynter’s Sara Quinn, who shared findings of the Institute’s EyeTrack: Tablet study, with Mario Garcia, CEO and founder of Garcia Media, and researcher/developer David Stanton from Smart Media Creative. Jeremy Gilbert of Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern was also on the research team.

“It’s essential for editors to rethink how the audience consumes content,” Garcia told the crowd.

The international news designer recommends a multisensory approach to designing for the brain, the eye and the hands. Read more

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Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013

New York Times’ ‘Seinfeld-esque’ sports page shows the power of nothing

Kapow! Blam! Surprise! Sometimes, that’s what nothing can do.

The New York Times sports staff reminded us of that again with their cover “story” about this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame inductees — or lack, thereof.

 

This sports front about the lack of inductees to the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame was designed by Wayne Kamidoi.

“Given the news, the package was Seinfeld-esque,” said Sports Art Director Wayne Kamidoi, “a cover about nothing.”

Kamidoi likes to push the boundaries when it comes to conceptual design, especially when there is a point to be made.

Conceptual design often involves a marriage of words and images that tells a story in the arrangement itself.

The staff was not surprised that nominees Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens didn’t make it, but it “felt like history had spoken,” said Sports Editor Joe Sexton in a note to staff sent Thursday morning. “How to convey that to our readers? Read more

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Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012

Using illustrated reportage to cover human trafficking in Nepal’s brick kilns

I am writing this from Kathmandu, Nepal, where I’m currently reporting on human trafficking using graphic journalism. I chose Nepal because visuals have huge potential here to reach at-risk communities with low literacy levels. Using comics to adapt survivor testimonies into a visual format preserves both the impact of the story as well as the identity of the storytellers.

Often when conducting interviews or visiting sites where trafficking is taking place, it would either be inappropriate, disrespectful or at worst traumatic for the subjects to be filmed or photographed as they share their stories. Somehow sketching circumvents that issue and, in many cases, has helped forge a closer connection between me and my interviewee, as was the case in the examples below. I’m also part of a research team conducting the first in-depth study to quantify the effectiveness of different media in awareness-raising programs in the field: my comics comprise the main content. Read more

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Monday, Dec. 10, 2012

subway

Why do we blame the (visual) messenger for tragedies?

With the click of a shutter, in a dimly illuminated New York City subway tunnel, on the evening of December 3, it happened again.

Actually, it was more like several clicks of the shutter, and the “it” was another tragic act of human inhumanity.

Independent photographer R. Umar Abbasi was the authentic witness to a crime beyond our wildest imaginations. After a verbal altercation, 31-year-old Naeem Davis, now charged with second-degree murder, pushed 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han, of Queens, N.Y., into the path of an oncoming subway train.

Almost immediately after the New York Post published the photograph of Han’s last few living moments on the cover of their tabloid and their website, it seems like everyone — media and citizen alike — blamed the visual messenger for doing his journalistic duty.

In this modern era, with all of our personal digital assistants and the 24-hour news cycle, now more than ever in human history, viewers want — even expect — to see tragic and sometimes morbid reflections of life ASAP! Read more

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