How UNC journalism students used graphics to tell story of Tar Heels' history, players

There’s an expression in basketball: “You’ve got to see the court.” In other words, anticipate what’s coming and be ready to play.

Students in Terence Oliver’s infographics class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were ready when the Tar Heels made it into the NCAA Tournament. They had prepared 14 graphics for avid fans who can’t get enough history and information about their favorite team during March Madness.

The series works well, in part because each of the 14 graphics focuses on a different part of the overall story. Collectively, they provide a visual summary of Carolina basketball.

Terence Oliver teaches courses in information graphics, motion graphics, graphic design and magazine design.

As part of their project, students were challenged to find a focus, develop sources, parse research, illustrate and design the entire package from scratch after only a few weeks of hands-on training and lectures, Oliver said.

Students gathered information for the project by interviewing a range of people, including librarians and contacts at the Dean Smith Center, where the Tar Heels play. The Daily Tar Heel archives and also proved to be good sources for the graphics. 

Let's see how the students did as the deadline buzzer ticked down.

For the graphic above, Evan Bell researched game-winning shots for the Tar Heels. With the blueprint background and scoreboard detail showing margin of victory, Bell has chosen visual metaphors that help readers see the big picture.

Each of the 14 graphics highlights a different aspect of the Tar Heels team. Kelly Askew took readers on a tour of the Dean Dome and outlined other arenas for Tar Heels basketball.
The use of color in these three graphics helps brand them as part of a cohesive series. This graphic, by Nick Yarbrough, highlights the history of the team, coaches and stand-out players.

In addition to the pages displayed here, check out the other graphics students produced. New graphics are being posted daily, and two of those graphics are interactive.

Oliver offered five quick takeaways from the project:

1. There is such a thing as healthy pressure (Like on the court, it’s OK to strive for greatness).

2. Team playing should be a goal for the success of all; collaboration helped in the projects.

3. Enterprise is good. Sometimes you must make your own opportunities instead of waiting for them to come to you. In that way, a newsroom is a lot like a basketball court.

4. Don’t be afraid. No matter what obstacles you may face, there are others who have gone before you.

5. Even if you’ve never done something before, push for excellence.

Feedback has been positive so far, and a graphic about recruiting future Tar Heels has been especially popular.

"Our audience, which is mostly alumni, students and professors at UNC-Chapel Hill, are interested in the recruitment process for the Carolina basketball team," said Seth Wright, multi-platform developer for the university's Website, "Because recruiting season is in right now, 'Courting future Tar Heels' received more hits than any story we had last week in a matter of hours."

  • Sara Dickenson Quinn

    Sara teaches in the areas of design, illustration, photojournalism and leadership. She encourages visual journalists to find their voice in the newsroom and to think beyond traditional job descriptions for ways to contribute their ideas, passions and abilities.


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