Mid term review

Today I have a mid term review, of which the requirements are:

  • A very short statement about the work
  • An image of 1024x768 AND 2048x1536 for publicity for the show
  • Your project work
  • A presentation about the project including background, contextual and theoretical research, what I am making, how I am making it, why I am making it
  • Sketchbooks and/or working notes and files
  • 2x printed A2 storyboards

To make things easier for me to remember, and also help with the presentation, I’m gathering up everything required into one post.

A short statement about the work

DTN is a series of experiments which visually explore the news in various ways to encourage new ways of seeing a predominantly text based medium.

Publicity images

For the publicity images for the show, I chose to use the boat image for a headline about pollution as I feel it best sums up what I am trying to show. It is a graphical representation of a headline, which shows subtle details of the story in the composition.

Publicity S

Your project work

The DesignLab showcases all of the completed work so far, contained in posts which describe how and why I did what I did for each piece of work.

Research and theory

Background: When I started the project my initial idea was to create a piece of artwork every 1-2 days based on what was in the newspapers. When my project expanded, I tried to decide what I wanted to say with each image, with the style and the amount of detail.

Eventually I wanted to create some visualisations of the news. When I researched into visualisations, I discovered alot of what I was planning to do had already been done before, and didn’t feel the need to re-invent the wheel. As I still wanted to experiment with visualisations, I decided to look into static visualisations. Extracting information out of a newspaper for a specific period of time, one week, and creating a series of static visualisations focusing on the weight of the story, the content and theme, the author, the position it appears in the paper, the category, and more.

Research: For the illustrated images I have been mainly looking at different graphic styles and ways of reducing information into its most simple form. To take a headline/story and represent it as a single image without the message being lost is alot about taking the strongest most important points of a story, and focusing on communicating them. With my experiments I have found that over complicating the image with too many elements often misleads the message, as the end user ends up focusing on some insignificant detail rather than the main message.

For the static visualisations, I’ve been looking alot at dynamic visualisations and how they work, what kind of visualisations they produce. Edward Tufte’s book ‘Envisioning Information’ has some interesting ways of mapping complex data, and alot of nautical maps hold some excellent ideas too. Currently I’ve been working on weighting categories and items in news, and simplifying the paper. From the statistics collected so far, even without them being visualised, there are interesting trends to be noticed and further developed.

What I am making: A series of experiments which encourage new ways of visualising a predominantly text based medium. The visuals look at reducing and expanding news to give either a ‘quick message hit’, or further insight into a headline/story. Presented as desktop wallpapers and posters, the images are intended to be used as accompaniment to newspaper articles to encourage a wider audience to dialect about a subject more than a standalone article might.

How I am making it: As the work I’m doing is very graphical, the programs I’ve been using are mainly Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. For some of the visualisations, I’ve been collecting statistics by updating a spreadsheet in OpenOffice, and then using some online tools such as ManyEyes by IBM to see how the data works in a standard dynamic visual.

Why I am making it: Sometimes a headline isn’t enough to attract a reader to an article, and images are used to give a reader further insight and set the scene. I thought that if I could represent the most important elements of the article in a single image, whether the reader actually read the article wouldn’t matter, as they would know by looking at the image what the article was about.

Depending on the complexity of the image, a quick look at the image may offer a user one or two important points. A longer look may offer a user an idea of how the images’ elements are interacting with one another, giving a visual picture of how the headline comes together. For some of the more detailed images, subtle article details are embedded only to be noticed by those who take an engaged approach to understanding the composition.

For the static visualisations, I thought it was interesting to capture a moment in time, instead of having a dynamic visual which changes whenever a new story is published. As I didn’t know what would happen in the one week I recorded the data, it was quite interesting to think what could have happened. For example, if this project was conducted in the week of September 3, 1939, it would have recorded the date when England and France declared war on Germany, or any other significant date in history. However, if a major event like this had happened it wouldn’t have given a true account of what happens in the news the rest of the time. Having a rather major event free news week means the spread of news topics would be on average the same as any other day of the year, giving a clearer picture of what the news is in the UK during this time.

Sketchbooks and/or working notes and files

I have a hell of a lot of notes and idea sketching which I’m not scanning in or posting. Mainly because if I did you wouldn’t be able to decipher my chicken scratch anyhow.

Printed A2 Storyboards

The storyboards can be previewed in PDF format by clicking on the images below. They very briefly explain the project, and showcase some of the work completed so far.

March_1 S


March_2 S

UPDATE: After the review

Well I had my review the other day. All seemed to go pretty well. On the whole it helped me to clarify a few things.

  • What function does the project serve? The project is about visually editing headlines, stories, and newspapers to try to communicate what the subject is about more effectively. Images which appear with news stories are usually there to set the scene or give identity to a character, but what I am trying to do is merge the text and the images into one composition which communicates the facts, and removes the opinion and the unclear.
  • What are the outcomes? Two main strands of work: Visually editing individual news headlines, and creating static visualisations of newspapers as a whole. The headlines will be presented as desktop wallpapers and postcards, and the static visualisations will be printed as large format posters.
  • Why static visuals and not dynamic? There are many other existing projects that create dynamic visuals. For example, the ManyEyes visualisations I created show the data but not styled in the context of the subject. A particularly bad week of news with lots of murder and violence may be dynamically coloured in bright happy colours, not representative of the stories. Plus I don’t want to automate the process. There is a human editor at the top of the newspaper hierarchy who decides what goes in a paper and what doesn’t, so I want to become the visual editor deciding what best commmunicates the story in terms of image compositions.

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