Visual journalism

People are tired of bad infographics, so make good ones

Smashing Magazine | Gizmodo | How Interactive Design
The Internet fell in love with giant infographics for a while, but now a backlash is building. Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo pleads with us all to “Stop Already With [Freaking] Infographics“:

Over the last year, the explosion of these abominations called “infographics” has gotten overwhelming. The number of design-deficient morons making these is so ridiculous that you can fill an island with them. I’d do that. And then nuke it.

The fact is that these monstrosities are not infographics. These atrocities are crimes against good taste and everything that infographics really should be.

Grace Dobush raises some specific objections, including that infographics aren’t search-engine optimized, are often unreadable on smartphones and are inaccessible to the visually impaired. Today, Amy Balliett of Smashing Magazine offers a detailed walkthrough of “The Do’s And Don’ts Of Infographic Design.”

A few “show, don’t tell” tips:

  • Go beyond bar graphs and pie charts.
Read more

iHeaven? Try iBuddhist; editorial cartoonists imagine Christian afterlife for Steve Jobs

The Cagle Post | ABC News
Daryl Cagle writes that all those cartoons portraying Steve Jobs in heaven are ironic, considering he was influenced so much by Buddhism: “We often see editorial cartoonists imposing Christian imagery on non-Christians when they die. (After all, only one religion can be right, huh?) Comedian George Carlin, a famous atheist, found a Christian heaven in many editorial cartoons. When Beatle George Harrison, a Hindu, died, the editorial cartoonists drew dozens of cartoons with George showing up in Christian heaven.” Cartoons portraying Jobs in heaven were the most popular among the ones Cagle syndicates; he published several of them on his blog. || Related: Commenters criticize The New Yorker for its cover portraying Saint Peter checking Steve Jobs into heaven with an iPad. Read more


Idaho newspaper publishes prominent fact-check of senator’s press release

The Visual Side of Journalism
The Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho ran a full-page illustration on its Sunday opinion section front that fact-checked, point-by-point, a press release from Republican Senator Mike Crapo.

This page appeared as a section front on the Sunday, Oct. 9 opinion section.

The newspaper tells readers that it gets dozens of press releases every day; before publishing them, “we also like to check all releases for both spin and accuracy before we publish them.” In this release, Crapo’s office announced legislation to cap the capital gains and dividend tax rate. The newspaper says the release’s description of a “guaranteed” tax from the health care overhaul is a “half truth” because most people will never pay it. Crapo’s office uses percentage increase figures that “sound pretty scary,” one of which is calculated by assuming the highest tax rates, which don’t apply to most people. And the release throws in a reference to farmers and ranchers that seems like a “heavy-handed way to pander to rural Idahoans” who generally aren’t subject to the tax. Read more


Data visualization ‘on another level’ compared to a few years ago

Wilson Andrews, The Washington Post’s information designer, discusses his data visualizations and the progress of the field in a Forbes interview. “The kinds of graphics that are now being done, especially online, are on another level than what was being produced several years ago,” he says. “Long form journalism is just as important as it ever was, but often long form pieces are greatly enhanced by smart and clear data visualization.” He says that he starts with the simplest possible design, only adding movement and interactive elements if they will help people understand the information. Examples of his work are in the interview. Related: WNYC’s John Keefe finished up his New York evacuation map as he rode the subway to work last week. Read more


Design firm Pentagram shows its signs of the (New York) Times

The design firm Pentagram notes that the documentary “Page One” features its work — some of the 800 or so unusual signs that mark everything from conference rooms to bathrooms at The New York Times. In order to “reinforce the unique Times culture through as many details as possible … every public room sign bears a different image culled from the paper’s immense photographic archive.” Designers and Times archivists picked historic images, “and the designers selected images that wittily correlate to the function of each room.” The full post has plenty of clever pairings of room functions and images, such as this:

Pentagram designers worked with Times archivists to select images that matched the function of rooms in the Times building. Pentagram also designed the sign on the Times building’s Eighth Avenue facade.
Read more

What tools can journalists use to improve their visual storytelling skills?

In this week’s career chat, we talked with Wasim Ahmad, an assistant professor of journalism at Stony Brook University. Ahmad has been an copy editor, photographer, Web editor and content producer, and he started Journographica — a site where he posts tips about visual journalism.

During the chat, Ahmad talked about several tools that all journalists can use to improve their visual storytelling skills. He answered chat participants’ questions about the tools he described and talked about how these tools relate to some of the latest trends in visual journalism.

You can revisit this page at any time to replay the chat.

<a href=”″ mce_href=”″ >What tools can journalists use to make stories more visual?</a> Read more

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How to make searchable, Web-based Google charts

A lot of data visualization requires the technical expertise of a programmer and skills that take time and resources to develop.

A rise in free tools, however, has made it easier to make interactive graphs in charts, whether you’re a designer, developer, Web producer or hobbyist. The Google Visualization API, for instance, gives you options without making the work too complicated.

I’ve created a tutorial below to help you make simple, Web-based Google charts. (You can click on any of the screenshots to go to a larger version.) In the first example, we’ll craft an interactive bar chart that compares the numbers of tornado-related deaths in the United States throughout the past four years.

We’ll use data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which can be found here. (You can download a cleaned version of this data here, formatted as a comma-delimited file, CSV.)

1. In a new window or tab, visit the Google Visualization API homepage. Read more


Beginner’s guide to using Photoshop in your newsroom

As an online editor at the Lawrence Journal World, part of my job is to constantly expand and adjust my skill set. I’m always looking for new tricks or technologies to learn and use in our news coverage. Until recently, my Photoshop skills were pretty poor. I could crop or make minor size adjustments to images, but found myself frustrated if I wanted to do something more advanced.

Rather than rely on someone else, I started taking online classes through a local community college and have used my new skills on a daily basis. Here are a few of the tips I’ve found most helpful when it comes to editing and adding images online. (For reference, I’m working in CS5. If you’re working in a different version, some of the options may not be available.)

Crop to exact sizes
It’s common for photos to need to fit a specific size in your CMS so that they don’t end up stretched or squished, or throw off the page display. Read more

How to make a heat map in Google Fusion Tables

Online journalists are well aware of how important data can be to stories. But how do we give visual context to raw information without an army of developers at our disposal?

If the data has been normalized and saved as an Excel file, .ods, .csv or .kml, Google Fusion Tables can help. Fusion Tables manages large collections of data so you can query, map, timegraph, chart, and add interaction — including user comments — to them.

News outlets have used Fusion Tables most often for mapping data. Take a look:

To make a heat map in Fusion Tables, follow this example tutorial, which is adapted from a workshop Google Developer Programs Engineer Kathryn Hurley recently led for Hacks/Hackers NYC.

Start with with a spreadsheet of the data to map, saved as an Excel or OpenOffice file, or in .csv format. Read more

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Newsweek redesign: Glad I didn’t judge it only by its cover…

I expected something a little edgier when I reached for the cover of the redesigned Newsweek on Monday. After all, the revamp came after the content merger with the magazine’s highly opinionated partner, The Daily Beast.

The Newsweek cover had an all-too-familiar feel with a static portrait of Hillary Clinton. The logo has been nicely retooled, yet is still reversed out of the usual red rectangle. The cover itself didn’t show a glimmer of the attitude found on The Daily Beast site.

So I wasn’t bowled over when I first picked it up. (I initially wondered if the redesign had been postponed until next week.) But, perhaps understandably, these familiar details capitalize on the magazine’s historic brand. The magazine has been around since 1933.

It was when I looked inside that I found new energy—not overly opinionated or distasteful content, but smart design and storytelling, infused with fresh perspective. I found strong photography, tight edits, layered story forms and beautiful grid work. Read more

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