Monday, 9 May 2011

Graphics - the good, the bad and ugly

Here is a great collection of infographics from Graphic Gibbon and Visual Journalism showing how the world's Press illustrated the shooting of Bin Laden. They range from the excellent to the appalling, the almost-accurate to pure flights of fantasy.  
This is the Daily Telegraph's offering.

And here's a different approach by The South China Morning Post.
This one from Clarin in Argentina attempts to tell the story based on facts rather than an over-vivid imagination.
At the other end of the scale is this from UOL in Brazil.
And also from Brazil, this utterly absurd and inaccurate, drawing from O Dia.

This detail from El Mundo in Spain (where the Seals look in grave danger of shooting themselves) also looks short of style and accuracy. 
Some of these reminded me of the days I used to run courses with colleague Mike Brough on how to create infographics for newspapers. The programme was devised in the early 90s when Westminster Press believed the future was telling the story visually. Alan Gilliland, head of graphics at The Daily Telegraph, was one of the guest lecturers. We taught Illustrator, FreeHand, typography, colour, research and how to spot the stories that lent themselves to a graphic format. We showed delegates the best and the worst graphics from around the world. And there were certainly some bad ones.
This one, for example, from the front page of the Bucks Free Press, has aliens and cutout cars to illustrate a fatal crash.

This looks like a good idea from the books page of the late Today. Which book would last you the distance of a long-haul flight? The only problem is  the key does not match the graphic. Book No 2, Moon by James Herbert, would take you 5 hours 35 minutes to read, so you could settle down with it if you were off to Dubai. But on the illustration, route No 2 is close to Tokyo. No 5 is Hold The Dream by Barbara Taylor Bradford which would take 12 hours and 50 minutes to read and get you to Rio. According to the graph Rio is located on the East coast of Africa. Every single one of them is wrong.

Back to the Bucks Free Press and its explanation of where the £400 poll tax would be spent. Not only are the segments of the pie chart out of scale ... they add up to £471.
We haven't run the course for a few years now. I thought that was because regional newspapers had decided graphics were no longer part of its armoury and the nationals were on top of their game. 
But maybe there are opportunities emerging again. Must dust down my Barbara Taylor Bradford collection ... Rio here we come. 
Footnote:  I'm not alone in thinking some of these shoddy pieces damage the name of newspapers. A checklist for graphic artists has been created by Juan Antonio Giner and Alberto Cairo as a result of the Bin Laden illustrations. Read it here.  

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