Graphics as an interviewing technique

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This semester, I’m taking a class on the art of interviewing with the amazing, pulitzer-prize-winning Jacqui Banaszynski. Just about everything that comes out of the woman’s mouth is awe-inspiring, so when she spoke about something involving graphics, I naturally freaked.

She suggested using graphics as an interviewing technique. For example – the timeline. One idea Jacqui has emphasized is placing the subject in the movie of the own life. She told us laying things out on a timeline can be a way to help do this. Here’s the advice: ย literally draw a timeline and ask the subject to fill it in. There are three ways in which the subject can be told to do this.

  1. Resumรฉ – when the graduated from high school, college, started their first job, got married… the basics
  2. Defining moments – moments that had a lasting or emotional impact on the subject; moments that changed their life
  3. History – what was happening at that time in history during resumรฉ or defining moments to give context

Another useful infographic technique in interviewing – maps. The intriguing example Jacqui gave us, which I hope can be used at the Missourian, is a way to cover the 1-year anniversary of the Joplin tornado. Show a survivor a map of Joplin, point somewhere on the map, and ask them what used to be there and what is there now.

Before this lecture, I had never thought to use infographics as an interviewing technique. Now, I can’t wait to encounter a situation in which I can.

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Valentine’s Day… VISUALIZED!

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Yesterday, people around the world celebrated Valentine’s day. Many probably celebrated in traditional fashion – flowers, chocolate, jewelry, etc. But to me, one of the coolest things about Valentine’s Day 2012… Valentine’s-themed infographics!!!

At the Missourian, Christina Trester took advantage of some fun data we found on the census website related to the holiday and turned out a graphic that got a lot of positive feedback. Here’s what she came up with:

Another fantastic Valentine’s Day [INFOGRAPHIC] came from Mashable. The creator of the graphic calculated the odds that he and his girlfriend – his “soulmate” – would have found each other, and then he proposed to her at the end. This one was shared widely on social media, and it’s just really adorable.

And last, but not least, here’s something that, while not an infographic, just made the journalist geek in me smile. Valentines for journalists from MediaBistro.ย Here’s one of my favorites, click the aforementioned link to see the rest. They’re fantastic.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

McCandless Graphics: Journalist v. Math

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This week at the Missourian, I spent a good chunk of my time working on one graphic. The graphic was a breakdown of the fiscal year 2012 budget for the state of Missouri. Simple enough idea, right? The reason I wanted to create this graphic was to put into context where higher education appropriations fit amongst the other state-funded programs in Missouri, in light of Gov. Jay Nixon’s recently-proposed cuts to higher education.

I wanted make the design for this graphic different, and more exciting than what I usually do. I took my inspiration for the design from a graphic by David McCandless, author of the book and blog Information is Beautiful. The idea is a kind of colorful puzzle made of rectangles. Here’s one example from McCandless, titled “The Billion Dollar-o-Gram”:

So, turns out this graphic requires an extensive amount of something I am not an expert in to create – the journalist’s greatest enemy… math. In order to size the pieces of the graphic correctly, I had to do a lot of algebra, something I haven’t done since senior year of high school. My little red notebook I use for all my journalistic activities is now filled with lines of equations solving for “x”. It was a challenge, but a good one. I learned I still know how to do simple algebra, something I will surely use again and again in graphics and other design projects, and I created something that is both visually appealing and informative. The final product hasn’t been published yet. My co-editor decided I should make another one comparing FY12 to the governor’s FY13 proposal, so that’s in the works. The version of my graphic that will eventually run on the Missourian website is interactive and uses Flash to magnify the smaller pieces of the budget and show exactly how much money is appropriated to each category. However, WordPress does not support .swf files, the file type generated by Flash. So here’s the static version of my graphic:

Graphics for Facebook

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This week at the Missourian, the graphics department was asked to do a graphic that would formatted specifically for Facebook. This was a new request for me. I was part of the beginning of the process, and I learned a lot from it. There were several different things to consider when creating a graphic specifically for Facebook. When I started making it, I searched what the largest size at which a photo can be displayed on Facebook, and I designed the graphic at that size. Then, after showing it to the Missourian’s head of community outreach, she brought something to my attention I hadn’t thought of. Her primary concern for the design was that she wanted it to pop out in people’s news feeds. This would mean that, the more vertical the graphic, the larger it would show up in the feed. She also wanted to make sure the headline was dominant, so people could see it clearly in the newsfeed. So the primary concern for the graphic was not how it would appear after someone clicked on it, but before someone clicked on it. This makes sense, seeing as the goal is to bring readers in.

Another Facebook-specific issue we encountered came up after we posted the graphic. The more writing we put in the post, the smaller the image became. So lesson learned – since our goal was to keep the image as large as possible, less text in the post is more.

Here’s what the final Facebook product looked like. Click on it to see the Missourian website version.