Business Observer’s 40 Under 40

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Every year, the business publication I design, the Business Observer, releases a special issue announcing its “40 Under 40” winners – “the Gulf Coast’s next generation of business leaders.” This was our second year launching the issue with its own special website – BusinessObserver4040.com. It takes serious teamwork to brings this multimedia project together. My favorite part is that I get to be involved in nearly every facet – from brainstorming a concept, to art direction and finally execution of the final print and digital products.

This year’s concept originated with the idea of a photobooth. It evolved into a casual yet personal storytelling mechanism, featuring candid photography, video interviews and more. Here’s how it all came together in print:

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And here’s how we translated the look and concept to the homepage of our microsite:

WebsiteScreenShotWe created compilation videos featuring the 40 Under 40’s best responses to certain questions:

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And I re-formatted an infographic (which included a quiz) to work online, teased on the homepage with this image:

InterestingFactsSliderI think we achieved the sophisticated and youthful look we were going for here. We ended up nearly doubling our launch day web traffic from last year – definitely a great sign, and a nice reward to all of our hard work.

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2013: A reflection

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Today is the last day of 2013, so, like most people, I’m taking a moment to look back at the year and all that has happened… in my life, the lives of my friends and family, and beyond. This is my professional blog space, so that’s the part of 2013 that I’m going to look at here – what I’ve learned in my professional life. According to BuzzFeed, 23 (the age I was for the vast majority of this year) is supposed to be the worst year of your 20s. I wouldn’t say it was a bad year, but it definitely wasn’t easy. Looking back though, I think I’ve come a long way as a designer. I’ve tried new things, learned a lot and even found my way to an old passion.

So here are my five favorite professional learning experiences from 2013:

1. Redesigning.

The Business Observer launched a total rebranding effort in January 2013. Know as the Gulf Coast Business Review for the past 16 years, we changed our name to the Business Observer, launched a new website and redesigned our print product. While the initial redesign was done by an outside entity, hired before I came on staff, I got to take what they came up with and implement it into our weekly product. I had a lot of fun creating new features, graphics and the many special sections we run within our new, beautiful framework. Here’s a look at what we did for our first redesigned issue:

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I also redesigned some features for my other publication, Diversions. I did an initial redesign when I first started at the Observer in June 2012. I’m very proud of that work, but as this was my first effort in redesigning, it wasn’t perfect. I made some changes in the fall of 2013, definitely for the better.

Finally, I redesigned the Business Observer’s biggest, most time-consuming publication, the Gulf Coast 500.

2. Infographics.

One attractive selling point on my resume to the Observer was my ability to create information graphics. Infographics became my main focus in school after I took my first class in it junior year. Most of my work at the Observer has conisted of small things, like charts and maps. But in 2013, I created some longer-form graphics that I’m really proud of, and hope to create more of in 2014. I also created the Observer’s very first interactive graphic.

3. Illustration.

Though graphics were something I was excited to bring to the Observer’s table, I always made it very clear that I was NOT an illustrator. I did not have a lot of confidence in my drawing abilities, and whenever I got a request to do something more on the artistic side, I shied away. Until November 2013. Granted, I was leaning on the crutch of the illustrations’ aim to be “sketchbook-esque” – in the style of The Oatmeal or xkcd. They were for a feature on local inventions, showing how they work. We called it the “Inventors’ Sketchbook.” I think it turned out pretty good, and I got good feedback from my peers. Here’s one of the illustrations I did showing how BriefSkate, an invention out of Tampa, works:

Inspired by my recent success, I took on some illustrations for a Thanksgiving feature – “The procrastinator’s and accident-prone’s guide to Thanksgiving.” These were a lot of fun.

Thanksgiving header

4. 40 Under 40.

We decided in 2012 to do a major overhaul of the Business Observer’s annual 40 Under 40 issue. An issue about the younger crowd making it in Florida deserved a fresh look. Our web editor, Amanda, and I devised the concept with the focus primarily on the website. We launched a separate WordPress site for the 40 Under 40 project, complete with custom graphics, studio-shot photos, a spotify playlist and videos for nearly all 40 subjects, and then some. We garnered thousands of page visits in the first day, outperforming our wildest expectations. I created a fresh look for the print edition, inspired by Amanda and my design for the web, but what I am most proud of is the website, and the fact that I was able to break out of my print bubble and help design and construct the site. Here’s the custom header I created for our website:

5. Writing again.

The Observer acquired ThisWeekInSarasota.com this year, a website geared to Sarasota’s youth, an underserved demographic in the area’s media scene. The timing was great for me, because I had just started blogging about my adventures as a young person in Sarasota on my new blog, Adventure Thursday. I got into journalism because I loved to write. That’s why I started Adventure Thursday. I just missed writing, and I wanted to write, whether people read it or not. But when the Observer acquired TWIS, I saw it as an opportunity to maybe get my writing to a larger audience. So I pitched a few of my stories, and voila! I’m a published writer again! I even got the opportunity to pick up some stories, one of which required me to go to a press dinner at a fancy new European restaurant… oh darn… 🙂

Antoine's review on TWIS

So here’s to 2013, and all that we’ve learned! And bring on 2014.

The coolest timeline EVER!

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Since I started doing infographics at the Missourian, one of my least favorite projects to work on has been timelines. When you’re chronicling something that has spanned a long period of time or has a lot of points to include, the design can get so long and unattractive.

That’s why I LOVE the format the Guardian used for their timeline of the Arab Spring. The forward and backward motion of the timeline feel, to me, like a fun trip on a roller coaster, and I think it visualizes time very effectively in a small window. There are a lot of points to put on a timeline for the Arab Spring, and it can be overwhelming, but I think this project does a great job of not making it feel too overwhelming by not trying to shove everything into the same space at the same time and letting you move at your own pace. I also like that the markers for each event kind of pop out when you roll over them and highlight the country you’re reading about so you know exactly where you are on the timeline. Overall, this project just does a great job of getting a TON of information into a very compact space.

Guardian Arab Spring timeline

The Australian Broadcasting Company did a similar timeline on climate history.

Only problem with this format – it’s done in Flash, so it’s not compatible with mobile Apple devices. I got pretty sad when I found this out since Flash is on it’s way out.

New York Times: What are the Chances for Republicans?

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This is an interactive graphic I was looking at earlier this week. It shows the chances of a Republican candidate winning the presidency based on how well our economy is doing, which it measures by growth of GDP. I’m a politics geek, so I was hanging out here for a while.

The graphic uses jquery to execute sliders. It’s a pretty simple use of jquery, but I really like it for that reason. It’s a good way to include a lot of complicated information in an easy-to-understand way in a small space.

There’s also a slider towards the bottom (which I didn’t notice at first) where you can adjust the candidates’ chances of winning based on Obama’s approval rating.

Simple, but highly useful and effective.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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Ok… about to reveal some of my dorkiness here… this is the website for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. I remembered looking up this site when the park first opened (I love Harry Potter… come on, admit it, so do you!), and I messed around with it forever. It’s more than just a site to get you to come to the theme park – it tells the story of Harry Potter and attempts to immerse you in that world. And I think it does a good job.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The home page is an interactive map of the park. You can roll over each of the attractions, which kind of sparkle and come to life as you roll over them, immediately exciting you and drawing you in. Every element in this site has some kind of engaging interactivity. Icons enlarge, sparkle, spin – lots of fun. The only problem is that all the interactivity makes the website take a long time to load (but that might just be on my computer, which seems to be on the verge of death…).

CSS technique – rollovers

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Blog assignment four:  find a CSS technique you like in practice on a website and explain how it works.

This is such a simple technique that a lot of websites use, but I find it to be such a helpful one when navigating a website.

Rollovers are created in CSS by creating an “a:hover” state, “a:active” state and “a:visited” state. One website that uses rollovers in navigation is the class site for the class I’m taking at newsy.com. When you hover over each of the tabs in the navigation, a blue bar appears over the tab. When you click on the tab, the blue bar remains over the tab, so you know you’re on that page.

9/11 Commemoration: Time Magazine

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Blog assignment three:  Find a journalistic or news-oriented website that has done something to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Briefly tell what the goal of the site seems to be and how well or poorly they accomplished that goal.

The title of Time’s 9/11 commemoration project is “Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience.” The goal of the project is to show the faces of 9/11 – to tell the stories of the people affected.

You start by going through a very simple gateway. All that’s there is the Time logo and a simple paragraph telling you what you are about to see.

Once you enter the site, you see an entire screen of headshots of the people being profiled. None of them are smiling, and every shot is in black and white. The tone of this site is both somber and commemorative. The stories commemorate what happened, but they are all quite sad. The site is almost entirely in grey tones, (except for some red accents to remind you that you’re reading a Time project) keeping with the somber theme. When you roll over a picture, you get the name and a brief description of the person being profiled.

When you click on the picture, a window pops up with a larger version of that same picture, a video, a pull-out quote representing their story, and the option to read the story in text. The video is still in black and white. It’s all still very somber.

The site doesn’t do too much to localize the story. There’s a subtle button at the bottom of the screen that allows you to share your story. The stories come from a variety of people, possibly to make it relatable, but most of them seem to be from New York.

Overall, I think this story does a good job of accomplishing its goal, but it’s very sad. I can only get through a story or two before I am too sad to continue. And there are so many stories that it seems impossible to get through them all. But maybe that’s part of the point. 9/11 affected so many people, it’s impossible to know the extent of its impact.