Multimedia Musings

by Christopher J. Spurlock

Monthly Archives: December 2010

Infographics Can Be (Nerdy) Fun

As with everything in journalism, I’m always worried that sooner or later infographics artists will begin to take themselves too seriously. Sure, analyzing data to find a story and then visualizing it in a way that the average consumer can understand is an important undertaking, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun once in awhile too, right?

This morning, a really clever graphic caught my eye. Not only does it tell a story (though perhaps not a very important one), but it makes people laugh. In my opinion, a healthy dose of humor can help brighten up a graphic that would otherwise be boring. Take a look:

I think my colleague at the Missourian, Pat Sweet, did a nice job spicing up what would be an otherwise boring graphic earlier this week. You can’t go wrong with giant-but-cute elephants, right?

In all seriousness, infographics are an important and essential part of news organizations and the way they tell stories. But, as with everything, you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously.

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A New Adventure

I spent a large part of my Thanksgiving break thinking about what I want to do post-graduation. You would think that after 3.5 years of college, I would have it figured out. Not the case. At any rate, I’ve been talking lately with Andrew Garcia Phillips of the Wall Street Journal. He runs a site called Chartball, which is devoted to tracking baseball and football statistics with infographics. It’s a really neat idea and something I enjoy a lot, so I asked Andrew how he got started. His advice to me was this:

For me, I always loved journalism and got into graphics and design mostly as a way to get on staff at my college paper. There was a waiting list for reporting/editing jobs, but they were desperate for design people. So I got in that way and then I realized I loved that side of the business, especially because it was a center of innovation at most news organizations. Writing can be rigid and formulaic. Infographics are inventing their own standards on the fly.

That’s especially true now, with the rise of mega-data sets and the need to find ways to visualize them into meaningful stories. That’s what inspires me now, learning the tools to grasp those data sets and tell those stories. … [T]hat’s what I would suggest to you: Find some projects that interest you and start learning the tools you need to make something cool. That’s why I have Chartball, it’s a way to try new technologies and teach myself new things.

After thinking about Andrew’s advice for a few days, I decided to try something new: Writing my own sports infographics blog. It’s called VarsityViz, and it’s my attempt to combine my passion for sports with my love of infographics. I’m excited about the possibilities!