Anni Murray – ScribbleLive http://www.scribblelive.com ScribbleLive is the leading end-to-end platform for content marketing engagement. Wed, 13 Jul 2016 18:26:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://s3.amazonaws.com/scribblelive-com-prod/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/favicon-91x80.png Anni Murray – ScribbleLive http://www.scribblelive.com 32 32 The Killer Creative Brief: How to Get the Best from Your Team http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2015/09/24/killer-creative-brief-get-best-team/ Thu, 24 Sep 2015 20:46:16 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2015/09/24/killer-creative-brief-get-best-team/ The beginning of a creative project is an exciting time. But it can be daunting too, especially if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for. Writing a creative brief is an exercise in definition. It’s your chance to explore every aspect of your project, from audience to tone, core Read more...

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The beginning of a creative project is an exciting time. But it can be daunting too, especially if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for. Writing a creative brief is an exercise in definition. It’s your chance to explore every aspect of your project, from audience to tone, core message to takeaway. Writing a good brief is also critical to the success of your project. To get things done right (without too many rounds of reviews), you need to make sure your brief communicates exactly what you want. While crafting a well-thought out brief might seem like a pain, it can actually be fun. No joke!

 

From Marketoonist.
From Marketoonist.

 

By taking the time to write everything out, you force yourself to really think through your campaign. Not only is it the most important thing you can do to ensure you get awesome content, every time, it’s also the most important thing you can do to make sure you’re connecting with your audience.

What is a creative brief anyway?

A creative brief is a roadmap for your project. It tells your team about your vision for the project and your goals, describes the people you want the project to reach (your audience), and outlines your brand guidelines. Depending on the type of creative team you’re working with – an in-house team, agency, or independent freelancers – the brief might also include details about deliverables, like how many drafts you expect from each team member, and when each draft will be due.

Why do you need a creative brief?

Writing a creative brief is as much about the process as it is about the end result. Writing a brief forces you to think your project through, from concept to delivery. This process can illuminate problems early, allowing you to make changes before you’ve paid for work, or put time into feedback. And chances are that if ideas don’t resonate when you present your brief internally, they’re not going to resonate when they get in front of your audience. When it comes time to execute, it’s the detail in a creative brief that really helps the team deliver. The clearer you are with your creative team, the better they’ll understand you and your brand, and the better able they’ll be to capture your message and overall vision on the first try. If your team looks like this when you’re done with your brief, chances are there’s more you could be doing:

madmen

 

A brief example

Here’s a common scenario: You have a great idea for a project, but as you start to write your creative brief, you realize your audience and campaign goals aren’t exactly in line with your metrics. You’re heading in the wrong direction and you need to switch formats and concepts to create something effective. To make the example more concrete: imagine you’re about to launch an infographic aimed at Millennials who like baking. You’re thinking it will be fun to include some humorous copy, a few recipes, and irreverent, kitschy visuals. But then you run some numbers and realize your Millennial audience isn’t spending a lot of time on your website – instead they’re mostly engaging with your brand on Facebook.

 

bakinginfographic

 

OK, quick pivot: you need short, engaging visuals you can share on social media channels. Suddenly snackable micro-content makes more sense. Maybe you want to do a series of Betty Crocker-inspired recipe cards instead of one big visual.

Your project just got a lot more engaging, a lot more shareable, and a lot cheaper! Why? Because you took the time to really think through your creative brief. You also saved a lot of time and effort. Rather than send your creative team down the wrong road with a wayward brief, you pinpointed exactly what you wanted before kickoff. Comprehensive briefs focus the creative process. They make it easier, more efficient, and more effective. And they vastly improve your chances of getting great results.

It’s time to write your creative brief, where do you start?

Once you have a solid concept and you know what type of deliverable you’re looking for you’re ready to write your brief. Remember to be as clear as you can about your vision. If you have ideas for icons or characters, transitions or colors, share them. You can always workshop your ideas with your team after you launch the project – the ideas don’t have to be set in stone – but sharing them now will give your team an informed place to start.

How to write killer creative briefs

 

 

What to include in your creative brief: A checklist

  • A paragraph or two about your project’s objectives
  • Your core message and 3-5 proof points or benefits to your audience
  • Notes on themes or ideas, you want the creative to embrace. Make sure to be clear about how closely (or loosely) you want them followed.
  • Your audience: Describe them briefly, give key demographic information, and provide any insights you have about what they’re trying to achieve (and how you’ll help them achieve it).
  • The primary call-to-action or takeaway message.
  • Some examples of what success would look like (website traffic, sales, etc.)
  • Examples of projects you like (or that have been successful) in a similar format (videos, infographics, etc.)
  • Brand and copy style guidelines: the fonts, tone, colors, logos, and other elements that will keep this content consistent with your brand. This doesn’t need to be in your creative brief necessarily, but you should at least explain how external teams can access your style guides.
  • The specifications for the final product: file types, sizes, formats, etc.
  • The full list of assets you need. Will you need a banner ad, too? A blog post? Copy for social media promotions? Scope creep is an easy way to get your project derailed and behind schedule.
  • Clear information about both launch dates and due dates for drafts. (If you have flexibility, make sure to let your team know. Your team may have ideas they won’t share if they think there’s no time.)

Got all that? While you want to communicate all this information, you should also be able to distill it to a page or two (excluding style rules). If your creative brief comes off looking like a Tolstoy novel, chances are it’s not going to get read – or at the very least that some important details will be missed.

You have to really know what you want.

Putting in the time to pin down your project goals early in the process will save everyone time later. It will reduce the number of drafts your team needs to get it right, and will help to keep your project on time and on budget. You’ll get awesome content AND your creative team will be stoked to work with you. That’s at least four wins, not counting the love you’ll get when your campaign crushes it. So go forth, prosper, and don’t forget to brief!

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Uncover The Best Story: Tips For Finding A Narrative In The Data http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/10/15/uncover-best-story-tips-finding-narrative-data/ Wed, 15 Oct 2014 17:00:46 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/10/15/uncover-best-story-tips-finding-narrative-data/ The Information Age is all about data… lots and lots and lots of it. It’s everywhere: data about computer use and cell phone calls, family dynamics and customer demographics, weather patterns and diseases. If you want to know how many people got the flu in Minneapolis, or used a credit Read more...

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The Information Age is all about data… lots and lots and lots of it. It’s everywhere: data about computer use and cell phone calls, family dynamics and customer demographics, weather patterns and diseases. If you want to know how many people got the flu in Minneapolis, or used a credit card in Missouri, or called Hong Kong from Marina del Rey, you can probably find out. Collecting data is easier today than it has ever been. But as the numbers accrue, analyzing them has gotten more and more complicated. Numerical data is so ubiquitous that it’s no longer just the purview of statisticians or analysts. Journalists are increasingly charged with transforming data sets into interesting narratives. But in many cases, it is no longer possible to see that narrative in a raw data file with the naked eye. So journalists need parsing tools to tease out stories, which means they need technical know-how, an eye for detail, and strategies for smart searching. Here are some helpful tips for mining data: techniques and tools that will help you transform a pile of numbers into a story worth telling. Ask Probing Questions All good journalism starts with good questions. Before you start filtering and scanning, start thinking. Chances are you have some idea of what you might find in the data, even if that idea is vague. For example, if you’re looking at a bunch of data about snowfall in Colorado, you may wonder what day saw the most snowfall ever, or the least. You might wonder about the average snowfall on a given day year-to-year, or in a given month. You probably also have some sense of the story you’d like to tell. While it’s important not to try shoehorning data into a pre-conceived narrative, having some feel for what you hope to find will guide your search. As you search, you’ll uncover data that sparks new questions. Follow up on each one, keep careful notes, and be flexible and ready to change your narrative as the story emerges. Learn the Tools of the Trade This can be a tall order, especially if you don’t have a whole lot of experience with data journalism. But some of the most useful tools are relatively easy to use, like Excel. Excel can do a wide range of things. But you don’t have to become an expert to make it work for you. Basic tasks like highlighting minimum/maximum values allow you to quickly scan for specific numbers. You can filter data to exclude results based on defined parameters (useful if, for example, you only want to see rows referring to a particular product or date or time). You can do all sorts of calculations with relatively straightforward formulae (try a Google search for the formula you need – the Internet is full of Excel tutorials). And, if you’re lucky enough to have data in pivot tables, you can check and uncheck options to see relationships in the data in seconds – relationships that would take hours to uncover otherwise. Excel Pivot Tables Familiarizing yourself with visualization tools is helpful too, since these are the tools designers are likely to use to illustrate your narrative. But they’re also useful tools during the story-writing process. They depict the data in a new way, allowing you to see relationships you might otherwise have missed. Google products are free and, like Excel, they are designed for non-coders so they’re accessible without extensive training. For example, you can use Google Spreadsheets to organize data and then Google Fusion Tables to create charts, network graphs, heat maps, and more. Google Fusion Table Heat Map Filter, Reset, and Filter Again In whatever program you use, filtering data is the best way to see relationships. This is how you sort through the haystack stories. Start with your list of questions and think of filters that might answer those questions. Be creative and keep careful notes. This process doesn’t tend to be linear and it’s easy to lose track of leads when you revert to the raw data. Write down your filter parameters alongside interesting results. Then it will be an easy thing to recreate productive searches down the line. Understand Visualization Being familiar with visualization tools is step one. Step two is learning some of the many ways data is visualized, even beyond the capabilities of the tools you’re familiar with. When you understand things like chloropleth maps and coxcomb charts (among many others), you’ll see opportunities for those sorts of visualizations in the data. This will help you refine the story, and work with the designer on telling that story well. Coxcomb Chart Be Ready to Learn Something New Data journalism is a relatively new field. As such, there is a steady stream of new tools available, both free and commercial. Don’t be afraid of experimenting with new programs and platforms. Yes, it may be intimidating at the beginning, but each journalist eventually finds the tools that work best for her, and a familiarity with many different tools makes it much easier to communicate and work with colleagues (like graphic artists and programmers, each of whom probably have their own favorite tools and programs).

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Blurred Lines: Is Native Advertising Bad Or Good? http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/10/13/is-native-advertising-bad/ Mon, 13 Oct 2014 17:00:04 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/10/13/is-native-advertising-bad/ According to John Oliver, nobody wants advertising in his content, especially when that content is passing for news. He says, no matter how advertising is dressed up, if it’s advertising it’s not journalism. But what if that advertising has a legitimate newsworthy message? Is it possible for a creator with Read more...

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According to John Oliver, nobody wants advertising in his content, especially when that content is passing for news. He says, no matter how advertising is dressed up, if it’s advertising it’s not journalism. But what if that advertising has a legitimate newsworthy message? Is it possible for a creator with integrity to put aside her profit-driven hat long enough to identify and create good, responsible, educational content? The digital media age is a world full of blurred lines: between reality and fiction, politics and entertainment, and editorial content and advertising. The idea of a dichotomy – a black and white categorization of all content all the time – may be an antiquarian’s dream. Ads have long inundated content in myriad ways, across many different types of media. Ads becoming content was the next logical step. It’s happening. Railing against it won’t make it stop, but developing solid standards may keep it from undermining the publications in which it appears. In fact, good standards may help native advertising become a new kind of journalism: sponsored, yes, but also responsible. So, while John Oliver may have a point – some native advertising is profit-minded reporting intended to mislead – it’s a big, complex digital world out there that has real momentum. Maybe it’s not all bad news. The Native Adscape A Review of the Controversy Native advertising is controversial, and this makes sense. Handing over journalism’s reins to companies or organizations that are trying to sell something sounds like a terrible idea. And there are many examples of native advertising gone terribly wrong. For example, on January 14th 2013, The Atlantic, a 155-year-old, well-respected publication, ran a now infamous sponsored content/advertorial by The Church of Scientology. The piece wasn’t even trying to be unbiased reporting. It blatantly praised the church and its leader David Miscavige. It was titled: “David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year.” The Atlantic's advertorial on Scientology The piece was met with outrage and was summarily retracted (a screenshot of the ad is all that’s available online). But the event sparked a debate about what sponsored content means, if it can be done well, or if it will usher in the end of true, pure journalism. The Response On January 15th, The Atlantic printed a mea culpa. They admitted to the error of their ways and promised to revise their ad policies to address the special gray areas of sponsored/native content. The new guidelines include two key points, namely: • The Atlantic will not allow any relationship with an advertiser to compromise The Atlantic’s editorial integrity. • All advertising content must be clearly distinguishable from editorial content. To that end, The Atlantic will label an advertisement with the word “Advertisement” when, in its opinion, this is necessary to make clear the distinction between editorial material and advertising. The first point is straightforward. Editorial integrity comes first: always. But the second point leaves room for negotiation. It implies that The Atlantic is still open to publishing unlabeled sponsored content, so long as that content has editorial integrity. The folks at The Atlantic, at least, seem to believe that sponsorship does not necessarily an advertorial make. The Standards So, it’s the standards, the oversight, the purposeful curation of content, that make or break a sponsored editorial. And it’s the publications, not the advertisers, who are responsible for devising and enforcing those standards. So, with strict rules and strategic partnerships, sponsored content can do the same things standard editorial content does. It can become indistinguishable, in a good way. The Huffington Post includes a lot of sponsored content. Some of it is obviously advertorial (and it is labeled) but some is sponsored behind-the-scenes. For example, during Fashion Week, The Huffington Post published a photo slideshow sponsored by Chanel. It was no different from other slideshows for Fashion Week, except for its behind-the-scenes sponsorship. The key is finding opportunities for content a publisher might have published anyway, like the Chanel slideshow. Seeing and following up on those sponsorship connections may be part of the job description of the Native Advertising Journalists of the future. Potential problems Even with strict oversight, exacting standards, and excellent crossover content opportunities, problems still arise. Consider this (to expand on the Chanel example): was Chanel more likely to include pictures of their own designs? Probably. And this may be the insidious, subtle (or not so subtle) native advertising slippery slope that makes people like John Oliver so uncomfortable. The slippery slope lies in the details, and often the details, like the small print, get totally ignored. Again, enter: Native Advertising Journalist. Skills: Attention to detail, bias identification, types 90 wpm. The Bottom Line Without money, news outlets fail. As outlets turn to sponsors for revenue, sponsored content will proliferate. If native advertisers can meet editorial standards, maybe native advertising can actually save the institutions it supposedly imperils. This will require bold guidelines from publications, advertisers committed to editorial integrity, and a public that demands both.

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Six Infographics for Independence Day http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/07/03/independence-day-infographics/ Wed, 03 Jul 2013 17:00:12 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/07/03/independence-day-infographics/ The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4th, 1776, is both a symbol of American liberty and an enduring monument to the philosophy of America’s forefathers. The ideas expressed in the document were those of John Locke and the Continental philosophers, but Thomas Jefferson presented them in a new way: Read more...

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The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4th, 1776, is both a symbol of American liberty and an enduring monument to the philosophy of America’s forefathers. The ideas expressed in the document were those of John Locke and the Continental philosophers, but Thomas Jefferson presented them in a new way: as absolute “self evident” truths. This appealed to the general public, and helped Jefferson to justify his breaking of ties with Europe. Today, Independence Day is more than a celebration of this important moment in history. It’s also an opportunity for robust American fun: fireworks, hot dogs, excessive drinking, and lounging about in the summer sun. Here are infographics that explore the history, patriotism, pyrotechnics, and personal excesses of one of this country’s favorite holidays.

Interesting Facts About Our Nation’s Birthday

America was a different place back in 1776 with only 25 million people. Benjamin Franklin was the Declaration’s oldest signer (at 70) while Edward Rutledge was its youngest (at 26). The infographic below offers up some little known information about the 4th.

BBQ, Beer, and the Pursuit of Celebration

Independence is a good reason to celebrate, and Americans do it, in abundance. For example, more beer is sold and consumed on Independence Day than on any other holiday.

DUI Holiday: Drinking on July 4th

Speaking of beer, more people are arrested for DUI on the 4th than on any other day of the year. If you’re out and about this Independence Day, beware. This is the most dangerous holiday to be driving a car.

Eating Healthy on Independence Day

Healthy eating and the 4th of July are not likely bedfellows. Hamburgers slathered in cheese, American apple pie, sugary sodas, greasy potato chips, and pasta salad dripping with mayonnaise are the orders of the day. Most American revelers aren’t terribly interested in substituting fresh fruit for ice cream or seltzer for Coke. But, for those committed health conscious few, the infographic below offers some suggestions for figure-friendly alternatives to the traditional holiday staples. (Note: look to the end of the infographic for these suggestions.)

Money to Burn: The Complete Guide to 4th of July Fireworks

No Independence Day celebration would be complete without the ubiquitous fireworks display. What could be better for celebrating freedom than giant, exploding fireballs spreading with deafening exuberance across the night sky? But fireworks don’t come cheap: they are a $600 million industry in the U.S. And they aren’t terribly safe: even the seemingly benign sparkler burns at temperatures up to 1800 degrees.

Love fireworks as much as we do? Take a look at our special round-up blog post dedicated to fireworks here.

The Most Patriotic Cities in the United States

Beneath the discarded paper cups; beer cans; and red, white, and blue napkins, their lies a deep-seated patriotism – a love of country that pervades the July 4th holiday like so much confetti and bunting. Today, independence and freedom are American birthrights, but that wasn’t always the case. The signing of the Declaration of Independence was the moment freedom was written into the official American canon. The infographic below highlights America’s most patriotic cities based on voter turnout, and spending on vets, flags, and fireworks. It may not provide a true, empirical look at who loves this country most, but it does illustrate who is the most motivated to celebrate it.

Anni Murray is a writer, editor, multimedia artist, amateur mycologist, and biology student. She is currently working on Prism, a speculative science fiction story cycle. All opinions expressed in this article are her own. Follow her on Twitter.

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Everything You Need to Know About Weddings in 14 Infographics http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/06/26/wedding-infographics/ Wed, 26 Jun 2013 17:00:54 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/06/26/wedding-infographics/ In the U.S., the cost of an average wedding exceeds the median income. This illustrates two points: one, moderately lavish weddings are very culturally important; and two, Americans are willing to sacrifice a lot for that special day. If you’re planning a wedding, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the Read more...

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In the U.S., the cost of an average wedding exceeds the median income. This illustrates two points: one, moderately lavish weddings are very culturally important; and two, Americans are willing to sacrifice a lot for that special day. If you’re planning a wedding, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the task. From rings to cake, dresses to venues, there’s a whole lot of decision making ahead of you. The following infographics provide some guidance to help you plan, pick and choose your way through the American wedding marketplace, and put your own wedding into perspective.

A Brief History of Weddings

Before you embark on your wedding journey, learn a little bit about the institution. The following infographic explores how wedding traditions began and what they signify, and highlights some of the most outrageous wedding gifts of all time.

The Wedding Planner

Planning a wedding is complicated. Even small events require lots of leg-work: booking venues, sending invitations, finding outfits, picking bridesmaids, hiring photographers, choosing the food… the list is long. Many a bride or groom-to-be has put off planning for too long, finding him or herself having to settle for less-than-ideal arrangements at the last minute. The following infographic outlines a 12-month wedding planning schedule to keep busy couples on track.

The True Cost of a Wedding

From napkin rings to tablecloth rentals, corking fees to bridesmaids’ gifts, weddings are notorious for little unexpected expenses that really add up. Remember: Americans typically spend upwards of $27,000 on their weddings. The data visualization below details where some of this money will likely go, and offers some tips for keeping costs under control.

Use this handy printable infographic to keep track of costs as you plan.

When Do You Want to Get Married?

One of the first choices you’ll make is the time of year you’d like to celebrate your wedding. Every season has a traditional color-palette, in-season flowers and foods, and ups and downs weather-wise. The following infographic outlines the aesthetics of each.

Wedding Venues

Once you’ve decided when you’d like to get married, you’ve got to decide where it’s going to happen. Are you looking for an outdoor or indoor venue? Would you rather get married in a fancy hotel, in an old barn with rustic charm, or in a field under the stars? Cost, accessibility, availability, and size will all be important considerations.

Save-the-Date Cards

Save-the-dates aren’t mandatory, but they help your guests plan ahead. They also give you a little extra time to prepare your formal invitations. These don’t have to be expensive or stuffy, as long as they include the critical information: venue, date, time, and your names. Many couples see save-the-dates as an opportunity for creativity and make a video, record a song, print their information on a candy wrapper, or send out picture postcards.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette

Some people really care about wedding invitation etiquette, while others couldn’t care less. Understanding what’s traditional can help you decide where on the spectrum your wedding will fall.

The Rings

Consider this: your wedding ring will (hopefully) reside on your finger for the rest of your life. This makes it important to find one that fits comfortably, complements your skin and hand, and won’t decay over time. Expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for a high-quality ring. (There is no real need to spend the American average of $2,100. Simple, quality gold rings of medium weight start around $300.)

If you’re buying a ring without the input of your partner, you may need to do some sleuthing to find out his or her ring size.

The Dress and Hair

Stylistically, there aren’t any strict guidelines on wedding dresses. Long, short, modern, Victorian, lace, taffeta… the style and material should flatter your figure and match your wedding aesthetic.

Your hairstyle should complement your dress, adding sophistication, elegance, loose abandon or retro flair.

Make Your Wedding Memorable

It’s relatively straight-forward to plan a wedding by the book but what if you’re going for something original, something your guests will really remark on and remember? The following infographic offers ideas for sweet, creative touches to make your wedding stand out. It’s all in the details.

Tech is the New White

Today, no wedding is complete without a little high-tech gusto. Wedding apps help couples plan, pay, register for gifts, find seasonal foods and flowers, book venues, share photographs, and much more. Brides and grooms-to-be are using iTunes playlists instead of DJs or bands, Facebook events instead of save-the-dates, and wedding websites instead of complicated invitations.

Anni Murray is a writer, editor, multimedia artist, amateur mycologist, and biology student. She is currently working on Prism, a speculative science fiction story cycle. All opinions expressed in this article are her own. Follow her on Twitter.

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Marriage Equality, By the Numbers http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/06/19/marriage-equality-by-the-numbers/ Wed, 19 Jun 2013 17:00:13 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/06/19/marriage-equality-by-the-numbers/ Marriage equality is a controversial issue in the United States, but like with Civil Rights in the 1960’s, the public consensus seems to be shifting in a big way. Today, an increasing number of Americans see marriage equality as a basic human rights issue. In honor of equality and of Read more...

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Marriage equality is a controversial issue in the United States, but like with Civil Rights in the 1960’s, the public consensus seems to be shifting in a big way. Today, an increasing number of Americans see marriage equality as a basic human rights issue. In honor of equality and of New York City’s upcoming Pride Week, here is a look at the same-sex marriage fight in America.

Gay Marriage Chronology

The battle for marriage equality has been raging in the courts for more than a decade. The interactive infographic below explores milestones in the fight, and the progress of the states as laws have slowly changed from outright constitutional bans to legalization.

Minnesota Legalizes Gay Marriage

The legislative process of ensuring marriage equality has been an exercise in patience. Minnesota is the most recent state to legalize gay marriage (as of May 2013). Including the District of Columbia, it is the thirteenth state to do so. California may be the next state to legalize, depending on what happens when Proposition 8 comes before the Supreme Court.

Marriage at the Supreme Court

For the first time ever, the Supreme Court is hearing two gay rights cases in one term. One challenges DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The other challenges California’s Proposition 8, which revoked same-sex couples’ freedom to marry in that state. Many proponents see both of these as keystone decisions. If DOMA is reversed, it could dramatically change the marriage equality landscape in the U.S., allowing the government to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples across the country. If Prop 8 is overturned, judges nationwide could use the case as precedent, sparking a flood of new legislation.

The Cost of Same-Sex Marriage Bans

While the emotional cost of marriage inequality is obvious, the financial cost is also very real. For example, a typical same-sex couple in Chicago must spend upwards of $10,000 to draft and file the legal documents necessary to attain the same rights enjoyed by every married couple in America. And the bans aren’t just financially burdensome to the couples who can’t marry, they are burdensome to the states in which they live. The infographic below takes a cold, hard look at the numbers. For example, in New York same-sex couples spent $101.1 million dollars on weddings in the first year of legalization. The total estimated boost to the Massachusetts economy in the first five years was $111 million. And Washington has seen an $88 million influx.

The Challenges to Marriage Equality

People oppose marriage equality for a number of reasons, many of which don’t stand up to scrutiny. For example, some opponents claim same sex couples will raise the divorce rate when in fact the divorce rates are lower in states that allow same-sex marriage. Opponents also claim the children of same-sex couples will be at a disadvantage academically. However, a recent study of census records demonstrated that this is not the case, and that academic performance depends on the level of education of the parents and on their socioeconomic status, not on their sexual orientation. Religious opposition is one of the most common objections to same-sex marriage. Christian religious objectors often say they believe homosexuality is a sin, even though this is never explicitly stated in the New Testament. (It is mentioned in the Old Testament alongside prohibitions about wearing fabrics made from different cloths and eating shellfish. Clearly most modern Christians are not living word-for-word by Old Testament language). The infographic below (which may be controversial for some readers) is a flow chart exploring the reasons why tolerance is an important part of living in a civilized society.

Gay Culture in America

It’s difficult to understand the magnitude of the marriage equality problem without understanding the demographics in America. The infographic below illustrates the distribution of homosexual people across the country. It’s interesting that one of the most densely populated gay states, Florida, has not yet legalized same-sex marriage.

Anni Murray is a writer, editor, multimedia artist, amateur mycologist, and biology student. She is currently working on Prism, a speculative science fiction story cycle. All opinions expressed in this article are her own. Follow her on Twitter.

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Making it Funny: 8 Hilarious Infographics http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/06/12/making-it-funny-8-hilarious-infographics/ Wed, 12 Jun 2013 17:00:57 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/06/12/making-it-funny-8-hilarious-infographics/ Humor is a fickle thing. One person’s laugh-out-loud joke is another person’s head-scratcher. Some people strive for the perfect pun, while others would rather choke on their punini, pun fried noodles, or pun seared scallops than debase themselves with wordplay. What makes a kid laugh uproariously may make an adult Read more...

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Humor is a fickle thing. One person’s laugh-out-loud joke is another person’s head-scratcher. Some people strive for the perfect pun, while others would rather choke on their punini, pun fried noodles, or pun seared scallops than debase themselves with wordplay. What makes a kid laugh uproariously may make an adult groan, and what makes an atheist giggle with glee may make a fundamentalist cringe. Finding that humorous sweet spot is no easy task. In infographics, it’s particularly difficult — especially when the humor plays second fiddle to the narrative message and its supporting data. But some infographics manage to accomplish this Herculean task: deftly balancing data viz and levity, silly graphics and a strong narrative. Others focus solely on the funny, aiming for entertainment and squarely hitting the mark. Here are some infographics to tickle the funnybone, along with color commentary on what makes the good stuff work.

Flow Charts: Funny? Sometimes.

The flow chart is a popular format for humor infographics, perhaps because it lends itself to short, pithy one-liners. It’s like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books: you don’t know where you’re going until you get there. It’s also like fashion magazine quizzes: irresistible because they tell you something about yourself. But silly flow charts are so common – from the social networks to the pages of Maxim – that they can fall flat pretty easily. Too many corny jokes and a viewer’s groans outstrip her chuckles. Still, like with any comedic form, when this one is done well, it’s hilarious. Take the example below. It’s a meta flow chart about flow charts. Meta humor always has a leg-up on its straight-laced regular humor counterparts: it’s a joke before it even gets started.

Nerd Humor: Tech, Geeks vs. Nerds, and More

Nerds, geeks, IT techs and related folk are a big audience for the humor category on Visual.ly. Technology-based knee-slappers abound, as do geek genre infographics about things like Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. Take, for example, the infographic below, “How Working in Residence Life is Like Living in the Star Trek Universe.” (Click on the link below the image to view a larger version.)

Comparisons are also popular in this niche: comparing geeks to hipsters, for example, or geeks to nerds, or geeks to uber geeks. Many of these infographics are delightfully quirky, engagingly fun, and lovely to look at, but most aren’t laugh out loud FUNNY. The funniest infographics in this general tech/geek category tend to be aimed at a larger audience. For example, the infographic below, “What to Do When the Internet Is Down,” is definitely tech-related, but it appeals to geeks and non-geeks alike.

Juxtaposition: The Venn Diagram

Humor thrives on juxtaposition: the comparison of different sorts of information in new ways. For this reason, venn diagrams offer a particularly rich opportunity for laughs. They are an easy visual tool for highlighting what hilariously disparate things have in common (or don’t). Besides, those little segments where the circles overlap are the perfect spots for punchlines. Here are two examples of very funny venn diagrams at work.

Zombies: Innately Funny, If Slightly Overdone

Everybody loves zombies, and, despite how frightening they can be, they are also somehow innately funny. Maybe it’s the ridiculous way they walk, their weird moaning, or their reputation as the schlocky horror go-to creatures of Hollywood. In any event, zombies, the zombie apocalypse, and related genre infographics are both popular and, sometimes, hilarious. Here are some zombie venn diagrams: two great tastes that taste great together (like brains and brains).

Workplace Humor

Sometimes the 9-5 needs a little dose of hilarity… okay, all the time. Having a sense of humor about your job makes frustrations manageable. The best workplace humor infographics make light of the worst things a job has to offer: the long hours, annoying clients, and the potentially soul-crushing tasks that break the will of the worker who takes himself too seriously. The great thing about workplace-related infographics is that not everyone needs to get the joke. As long as the target audience appreciates the humor, professionals will share it with their peers and the infographic will be a success. In most cases, workplace humor is of the funny-because-it’s-true category, like in the infographic below: “A Day in the Life of a Graphic Designer.”

An Infographic In-Joke

In order to get the following infographic, you need to know that Edward Tufte is an American statistician and professor emeritus of statistics and computer science at Yale. He is also a pioneer in the field of data visualization.

Anni Murray is a writer, editor, multimedia artist, amateur mycologist, and biology student. She is currently working on Prism, a speculative science fiction story cycle. All opinions expressed in this article are her own. Follow her on Twitter.

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In Honor of World Oceans Day: Infographics that Explore the Deep Blue Sea http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/06/05/in-honor-of-world-oceans-day-infographics-that-explore-the-deep-blue-sea/ Wed, 05 Jun 2013 17:00:27 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/06/05/in-honor-of-world-oceans-day-infographics-that-explore-the-deep-blue-sea/ “On World Oceans Day people around the planet celebrate and honor the body of water which links us all, for what it provides humans and what it represents.” — WorldOceansDay.org All life started in the salty seas. There is so much to be learned from what lives there today. The Read more...

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On World Oceans Day people around the planet celebrate and honor the body of water which links us all, for what it provides humans and what it represents.” — WorldOceansDay.org All life started in the salty seas. There is so much to be learned from what lives there today. The oceans provide 99 percent of the earth’s living space – the largest space in our universe known to be inhabited by living organisms. Humans have explored less than 10 percent of this space. Indeed, the deepest parts of the oceans are the last great uncharted earth-based frontiers. In addition to holding so many fascinating mysteries, the oceans help regulate the climate. They absorb heat and carbon dioxide, keeping global temperatures relatively stable. In fact, ten meters (33 feet) of ocean depth has the same mass as the whole atmosphere; 2.5 meters (8 feet) holds as much heat as the whole atmosphere; and 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) has as much water as the whole atmosphere. But, just like earth’s terrestrial habitats, the oceans are in peril. Oil spills, over-fishing, plastic and noise pollution, poaching, and global climate change are all threatening the health of ocean ecosystems around the world. Let’s honor World Oceans Day (June 8, 2013) by exploring the world’s oceans through some amazing animal facts, scintillating science, shocking stories of pollution and messages of conservation with the help of the infographics below.

Faster than a Speeding Shark that Can Fly

The oceans cover most of our fair planet and in their murky depths live many extraordinary creatures. The blue whale, the largest animal to have ever lived, is alive today, swimming serenely through the world’s seas. The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, measuring 1,243 miles, is the largest living structure on earth. It can be seen from the Moon. The infographics below explore the lightning speed and incredible leaping abilities of some of the ocean’s most feared and revered creatures: the sharks.

 

Endangered and Threatened Marine Animals

Less than one half of one percent of marine habitats are protected, compared with 11.5 percent of global land habitats. As a result, many marine species are threatened or endangered, and many critical conservation areas are under scrutiny by both private and governmental organizations. Hong Kong’s coast, for example, is home to a large number of rare or endangered animals, as illustrated by the first infographic below. New Zealand is also home to several imperiled marine species, including the critically endangered, slow breeding Maui’s Dolphin: the smallest and rarest marine dolphin on earth. The second, interactive infographic below explores the threats facing this unique species, and the country’s options for protecting the remaining population.

The Cost of Polluting the Oceans

Pollution is a problem worldwide. As human beings consume more year after year, consumer waste clogs landfills, litters the ground, and saturates the world’s oceans. Some of the most common and troublesome pollutants: cigarette butts and filters, food wrappers, caps or lids, and plastic bags. The infographic below compiles data on the debris collected by volunteers on just one day each year over the course of 25 years.

Plastics are particularly problematic: they gather in large, circulating gyres, floating islands of waste. Some of these gyres are enormous. For example, the North Pacific gyre is home to over a million individual pieces of plastic.

But not all pollution is material. Sound pollution is one of the ocean’s primary threats, since so many umbrella species (whales) use sonar to communicate across large distances. Umbrella species are critical to the health of large-scale ecosystems. Loud underwater noise prevents whales from communicating with each other, finding food or mates, and navigating the complex migration paths they’ve used for millions of years. Compounded by centuries of whaling, sound pollution is the biggest threat facing whale species worldwide today.

Over-fishing: Farming Nemo

Over-fishing is another great threat to the world’s oceans, and to the world’s people. More than 3.5 billion people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food. In 20 years, this number could double to 7 billion. As finding fish in the oceans has become increasingly difficult (and ecologically damaging) companies have increasingly turned to fish farming to meet an ever increasing demand. Fish farming or “aquaculture” now accounts for roughly half of the world’s food fish.

Protecting the Oceans: Antarctica

Why is it so important to protect the world’s remaining healthy ecosystems? Take, for example, the oceans of Antarctica: some of the healthiest and most intact ecosystems on the planet. This ecosystem is like a healthy patient: an example of what health looks like. Scientists can’t understand how much damage has been done in a sick ecosystem without a healthy comparison.

Anni Murray is a writer, editor, multimedia artist, amateur mycologist, and biology student. She is currently working on Prism, a speculative science fiction story cycle. All opinions expressed in this article are her own. Follow her on Twitter.

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Beyond Infographics: The Use of Video In Data Visualization http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/05/29/beyond-infographics-the-use-of-video-in-data-visualization/ Wed, 29 May 2013 17:00:54 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/05/29/beyond-infographics-the-use-of-video-in-data-visualization/ Like infographics, video and motion graphics use text and graphic elements (drawings, typography, charts, etc.) to tell an educational story. Unlike infographics, they have such tools at their disposal as animation, live action video, music, and narration to do it. Video has many benefits: it’s dynamic, engages the senses, changes Read more...

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Like infographics, video and motion graphics use text and graphic elements (drawings, typography, charts, etc.) to tell an educational story. Unlike infographics, they have such tools at their disposal as animation, live action video, music, and narration to do it. Video has many benefits: it’s dynamic, engages the senses, changes over time, includes multimedia elements, and is a familiar and enjoyable format for many viewers. On the other hand, video has a time limit, may require loading, is easily overwhelming, isn’t easily referenced at a glance, and relies on a viewer’s willingness to watch (as opposed to an infographic that’s displayed all at once). Clearly, video is best for some projects, while infographics better serve others. Here is an examination of some of the great potential of the video format, and a look at some potential problems.

The Many Benefits of Narration (Or, in Some Cases, Lack Thereof)

Telling a story with text and image alone presents many challenges. How do you keep your audience engaged? How do you pull the eye in the right directions, at the right times? How do you balance image and text for maximum impact? In a video, the answer to all of these problems is narration. A clear, concise, well-written narration does more than text can do alone. It adds inflection: emphasis and character. It engages the ear alongside the eye. It provides an overarching story summary, a scaffold on which the images and text can hang comfortably. A skillful narrative, punctuated by stark statistics and exciting visuals, is a powerful thing. In the motion graphic below, “The Violence of Mexican Drug Cartels,” the narration stands alone, but the visuals do too. Together, they deliver a stark, moving message, a sum greater than its well-conceived parts.

  Some motion graphics don’t have narration, but include music or sound effects to give the piece fluidity and style. This type of video works when the visuals can tell a story on their own. Too much text in a narration-free videographic is a sure-fire recipe for trouble (more on this below). A good example of an effective and compelling narration-free videographic is “Chicago: Five Great Buildings,” below. This project features stunning, eye-catching animation that doesn’t need a narrative. It’s self-explanatory and purposefully architectural in its production. Its purpose is simple and straightforward, warranting a simple and straightforward presentation.

 

When Infographics Make Great Video

When an infographic is particularly concise (it uses minimal text, includes bold visuals, and tells a clear story) it may lend itself to animation. This is particularly true for infographics in a series: images that work together to tell a story over time. The video below, “Visualizing One Trillion Dollars,” began as a series of images (see those here). While these images do stand alone, and may work well in book form or as a poster display, as a collection they’re not particularly conducive to the screen (it takes a persistent viewer to scroll through them all). The video adaptation, however, presents the images alongside a narration, telling the overarching story quickly and effectively for maximum impact. This is another example of the story-telling power of narration.

 

The Bane of Video and Motion Graphics: Too Much Text

There are a few common pitfalls for videographics that dramatically reduce their impact. Perhaps the most frequent offense: too much text presented too quickly. It’s always important to limit text in a graphic project, but in a static infographic, text-heaviness can sometimes work well. This is hardly ever the case with motion graphics. Moving text is difficult to read, and the ticking clock imposes pressure and stress for viewers, each of whom has a different reading speed. Leaving the text on the screen too long may frustrate some fast-reading viewers while shifting through text too quickly may completely stymie the slower readers. The longer the text block, the more obvious the length discrepancies, and the more problematic the speed becomes. Add motion to the text and the problem is compounded further: moving text is difficult to read and may even hurt the eyes. The moral of this story: keep text short, make it bold and easy to read, and leave it on the screen as long as possible without boring the reader.   Anni Murray is a writer, editor, multimedia artist, amateur mycologist, and biology student. She is currently working on Prism, a speculative science fiction story cycle. All opinions expressed in this article are her own. Follow her on Twitter.

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Journalists, Designers, and Clients: Best Practices for Working as a Team http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/05/22/visually-marketplace-best-practices/ Wed, 22 May 2013 17:00:04 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/05/22/visually-marketplace-best-practices/ Visual.ly has a vibrant, dynamic marketplace full of clients from a staggering variety of industries. As a result, journalists and designers have to be versatile above all else: able to craft a narrative image that perfectly meets the expectations of the clients. Here is a user’s guide for the Visual.ly Read more...

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Visual.ly has a vibrant, dynamic marketplace full of clients from a staggering variety of industries. As a result, journalists and designers have to be versatile above all else: able to craft a narrative image that perfectly meets the expectations of the clients. Here is a user’s guide for the Visual.ly journalist or designer – a how-to for successfully navigating the marketplace to deliver excellent client experiences alongside excellent visualizations.

Articulating the Vision

Every project is an exercise in vision actualization. Each client has a vision. Sometimes it is very specific, which makes writing and designing the infographic relatively easy. And sometimes it’s nebulous, based on a slippery concept or set of criteria that are only vaguely defined. In every case, it’s the journalist or designer’s first job to understand the vision. When the vision is clear, understanding involves doing good research: reading the creative brief, researching the company, and asking clarifying questions. When the vision is murky, understanding requires something more. Use your research to suggest specific ideas that the client can accept or reject. This helps you narrow down the field of expectations, to hone in on something actionable. If the client continues to waffle, it’s okay to explain why it’s important to have clear parameters before launching the outline or design. This protects you, the designer or journalist. Since the Visual.ly process has two revision cycles each for outlines and design, it’s imperative that the first one get you more than halfway towards your goal.

Constant, Clear Communication

Any collaborative project requires clear communication, and Visual.ly projects are no exception. The more articulate you are when describing your intentions, explaining your creative vision, and asking questions, the more likely you are to create something that satisfies the client’s needs. Pay particular attention to grammar and punctuation. This is a professional communication and, since it’s mostly text-based, how you write directly impacts your reputation with the client and in the marketplace (for obvious reasons, this is doubly true for journalists).

Attentiveness

Sometimes clients are prompt. They answer questions right away and post feedback immediately after an outline is uploaded. But sometimes they delay the project for days or even weeks while they find additional data, schedule internal meetings, or just get swamped with other company business. Consistent, periodic, polite “checking in” posts remind the client that you’re still there, ready to proceed (once every few days is sufficient). If you don’t hear anything in a week, alert your project manager. As frustrating as it can be to wait for a client, it’s never acceptable to make a client wait for you. As a freelancer, your currency is your attentiveness and reliability. Being available is one of the easiest ways to demonstrate your seriousness, and one of the best ways to get hired for future projects. When you are available, your client can’t complain about deadlines. This is another practice that protects you and your reputation. It also increases the likelihood that your client will make your project a priority and that you will meet the deadlines on your timeline.

Define Your Role

In many cases, clients aren’t familiar with how the Visual.ly workflow typically proceeds. They don’t necessarily understand that the journalist’s outline comes first, the design second. They may ask the journalist design questions, or come to the designer with concerns about the copy. When a journalist is assigned to a project, she is assigned for a reason. Typically the copy is complex, the vision is multifaceted, or extensive research is needed. If you are a journalist, make sure you respond to every copy-related question, regardless of to whom the question is posed. On the flip side, if you’re asked a design question, defer that question to the designer. Hazarding an answer may only confuse the client, adding a layer of obfuscation to an already complicated process. In order to keep roles carefully defined, you must constantly monitor all project communications. Don’t ignore client messages because they happen to be directed to other members of the team. Read everything and respond promptly whenever it is appropriate to do so. Remember also to respect the people you’re working with. Stepping on toes sparks hard feelings even between the most professional freelancers.

Handling Problems: Offer Multiple Solutions

Since the Visual.ly design process is tightly scheduled, it’s important to handle problems quickly. If the client is unhappy with a paragraph of copy or with a particular graphic, offer two or three alternatives rather than just one. You can use the project center to float ideas before you upload a complete draft. Clients appreciate having options, and are more likely to articulate their preferences when they see multiple possible solutions. Anni Murray is a writer, editor, multimedia artist, amateur mycologist, and biology student. She is currently working on Prism, a speculative science fiction story cycle. All opinions expressed in this article are her own. Follow her on Twitter.

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