The Mario Blog
01.25.2012—4am
Financial Times and “distilled storytelling”

TAKEAWAY: Now that the successful Financial Times series, Capitalism in Crisis, is finished, Kevin Wilson, head of design, explains the concept of the “barcode” as a visual foundation to carry the series from one segment to the next.

Update #2: Wednesday, Jan. 25, Vienna, 08:40

TAKEAWAY: Now that the successful Financial Times series, Capitalism in Crisis, is finished, Kevin Wilson, head of design, explains the concept of the “barcode” as a visual foundation to carry the series from one segment to the next.

When creative visual thinking works well

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We have been highlighting interesting use of info graphics and visual concepts to tell stories in the blog lately. One recent such post was about the use of a “barcode,” a familiar symbol, to illustrate a series of articles about the world’s economy in the Financial Times.

This week I have received a mail from Kevin Wilson, head of design at the FT, who was pleased to see my reference to his team’s work and wanted to let me know. In addition, Kevin has sent me the complete set of pages from that series: a wonderful, surprising collection of pages that are the textbook case study of how to treat a story graphically.

I was impressed by the subtle, but direct, use of the barcode as a graphic element that created an instant element of recognition in the series, and told Kevin that. Here is what he had to say:

“From the scene-setter (the collapsing barcode), to the US angle, to the contrasting fortunes of western and eastern economies, to the political consequences, to alternative models based on partnership, and finally to possible fixes … the barcode shuffling back into line, the concept began as a straightforward logo but I thought it was a neat way to solve the problem of giving the series a distinct identity – created by in-house graphic artist Lloyd Thatcher.”

For those of us who observe and study graphics and design, the Financial Times examples show us all about the ultimate definition of good visual storytelling:
Creative. Free of decorations. Tells the story at a glance.

Kevin has used an intriguing term in his correspondence with me: distilled story-telling

I asked him to amplify on it:

The distilled story-telling is an approach I try to bring to our big feature pages. Each day we’re confronted with heavyweight analysis, often on subjects that don’t suggest obvious visuals (credit default swaps anyone?). So we try to get to the essence of it with the visuals: does it always have to be told in a long story with one image (sometimes yes, and that’s fine)? But can we break it down into a storyboard of concepts and guide the reader through it that way?

And how does that represent the use of the barcode in that series?

The barcode came out of a discussion of what was the simplest but most widespread image to represent capitalism. In the past it might have been a price label – in a way this was an update. It had to be simple enough to use small as a logo but flexible enough to form the base of full-blown illustrations.

Getting that navigation storyboard right

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Tuesday I spent most of the day in Vienna with the team of the Kronen Zeitung’s tablet team.

Indeed, a good presentation of the first interactive prototype for the KZ’s new tablet edition, premiering in the spring. Here you see me going over the very important first step: navigation.
Working closely with our Garcia Media art director, Constantin Eberle, and the KZ team, headed by Robert Kuschela, we had started with a “storyboard” for the entire tablet edition, translating the contents of this, Austria’s largest circulation daily, and how it would flow in the tablet. Also helping us with the concept, Florian Fromm.

The storyboard diagram covers the entire wall, but it is the only way for a tablet team to get a sense of orientation, a necessary first step before one can tend to design and storytelling details.

Stay tuned for case study of the Kronen Zeitung new tablet edition, which will be curated and will be ready for download each evening at 6 pm. Presently, the Kronen Zeitung has a pdf tablet edition, extremely successful, and one that we will keep when the curated one appears.

WoodWing provides technical support for this project.

Of special interest today

People now watch videos nearly 30 percent longer on tablets than desktops
http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/12/people-now-watch-videos-nearly-30-percent-longer-on-tablets-than-desktops/

Apple reports massive 2012 results
http://www.theverge.com/2012/1/24/2730702/apple-reports-massive-q1-2012-results-with-46-33b-in-revenue

Highlight: On the software front, iTunes was responsible for $1.2 billion in revenue this quarter, and there are now 20 million songs in the store, and Apple says $120 million worth of downloads were sold on December 25th last year. Apple says by the end of this month, iOS developers will have earned over $4 billion in total from their work. Also, the new iBooks Author generated 600,000 downloads since last week’s release, and iCloud has 85 million users now.

– UK: ‘Historic’ Move for The Scotsman as iPad App is Launched
http://www.allmediascotland.com/press_news/32621/—historic—move-for-the-scotsman-as-ipad-app-is-launched

– UK: Murdoch to launch Sun on Sunday in April, says source
http://gordonsrepublic.brandrepublic.com/2012/01/23/murdoch-to-launch-sun-on-sunday-in-april-says-source/

– USA: Tablet/e-reader ownership doubles over holiday gift season, says Pew
http://www.knightdigitalmediacenter.org/news_blog/comments/20120123_tablet_e-reader_ownership_doubles_over_holiday_gift_season_says_pe/

– Connected Europe: How Smartphones and Tablets are Shifting Media Consumption
http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Presentations_Whitepapers/2012/Connected_Europe

– Tablets Are Prime-Time Media Devices
http://moconews.net/article/419-tablets-are-prime-time-media-devices

– Q&A: NewsRight’s David Westin on the value of news content in the digital age
http://www.journalism.co.uk/news-features/newsright-david-westin-licensing-copyright/s5/a547559

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