Jess Bachman – ScribbleLive http://www.scribblelive.com ScribbleLive is the leading end-to-end platform for content marketing engagement. Thu, 11 Aug 2016 19:37:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://s3.amazonaws.com/scribblelive-com-prod/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/favicon-91x80.png Jess Bachman – ScribbleLive http://www.scribblelive.com 32 32 Designing Infographics For Mobile http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2015/01/06/designing-infographics-mobile/ Tue, 06 Jan 2015 19:00:01 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2015/01/06/designing-infographics-mobile/ Infographics have long been a content marketers staple, but let’s face it, any content that requires viewers to pinch, zoom, and pan is going to turn people off. We simply cannot abandon mobile users if we want our content to have a maximum impact so that means we need to Read more...

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Infographics have long been a content marketers staple, but let’s face it, any content that requires viewers to pinch, zoom, and pan is going to turn people off. We simply cannot abandon mobile users if we want our content to have a maximum impact so that means we need to create or retro-fit infographics for a mobile audience. This is a great infographic by Shelli Walsh, one of our certified designers. Unfortunately, and like most infographics, it doesn’t work well on mobile. 0IBWo2X

Can we have our cake and eat it too?

Ideally we could create infographics that work well on both our 24” monitors and our 4” phones but since the content inside an image is not responsive, that is not an option. A mobile optimized infographic needs to be a separate image, fortunately we do not have to double our efforts to create it.

The Content

Infographics are great at telling stories, as their visuals and text can connect to guide the viewer through the graphic. They can tell complex or emotional stories. But mobile isn’t the place for longer form storytelling when viewers are looking for a quick distraction or your content has to compete with endless notifications. If your main infographic is a series of five major points, you have two options. You can redo the infographic as essentially headlines of the major points with supporting graphics and leave out all the blurbs, callouts, and supporting text paragraphs. Re-use the graphic assets but only where necessary. This will give the user the gist of the story but without the depth, but this is ok. sBPHG8n The second option is to create five separate and shorter infographics, each about one of the major points. It’s best to have a short intro and outro blurb for context, but this allows you to get the depth of each point across. It’s ok if it means the user needs to view five graphics, that is their choice, but at the very least you have created one and possibly five touch points for the viewer. The other side benefit is that you have also created five pieces of micro-content that are already optimized for social platforms in small sizes.

The Format

Most blog format infographics come in under 800px in width. This is because if they are any larger, they run the risk of being shrunken by most publishing platforms. If you have ever viewed an infographic on your phone, you know it’s already a miserable experience, with the graphic being shrunken well beyond illegibility. And nobody wants to ‘navigate’ image based content. So for the best results, keep the pixel width below 640px when designing the infographic. Given an endless array of display sizes and pixel densities, there will never be an image that is optimized for everything, so just give up on that. The best way to see if something works is to judge for yourself. As with other forms of web or application design, there’s no substitute for extensive testing. Bring up the image on your phone, and your friends phone. Is it legible? Is the phone resizing it to an unacceptable level?

The Design

If you thought blog format infographics were restrictive then mobile will really force you to focus. In blog format, you could get away with several items on the same line, but not with mobile. The design for mobile should really focus on one item at a time. Timelines or processes that went left to right need to be recreated to go top to bottom. kL50CaR Blurbs of text that were only three lines on the web will end up being six or more lines on mobile, in which case they are no longer blurbs but paragraphs. So all the text will need to be reduced in length so headlines and callouts can have the same quick impact. A paragraph of text on the web translates to several screens worth of real estate on mobile, and this leaves the viewer with the impression that it’s more ‘info’ than ‘graphic’. When a viewer clicks on an infographic they will have certain expectations so it’s important to keep the graphic portions prominent.

The Call to Action

If the goal is brand awareness, that can be achieved on mobile, but if you want the viewer to do anything more complicated like buy something, sign up for an newletter etc, it’s best to link the viewer back to the main infographic. Something like “See the full infographic at company.com/infographic” will help guide the viewer. Sure you are linking back to a graphic that isn’t suited for mobile, but mobile users are quite accustomed to saving content that isn’t optimized for mobile for later by bookmarking or using Evernote, Instapaper, Pocket or other services. The full infographic will allow you to be more persuasive and provide more motivation for the calls to action that require more of the users time and attention. Let’s not forget the share buttons! Sharing on mobile is second nature to many users and since they will have just found some awesome content that looks awesome on their phone they may be more inclined to share.

The Edge

Optimizing infographics for mobile is currently a very new technique. Do I have any data that this will increase your ROI over the long term? Nope. But in my experience, the biggest ROI gains in content marketing only show themselves when you take the needed risks to get out there early. The edge of the established marketing cliff can be scary at times, but it’s where you get the best view of what’s coming in. sLGi1Uv Fortunately, mobile optimized infographics should cost less to produce than other strategies like small interactives, vines, or other video. So the next time you produce an infographic, take a shot at a mobile version… before everyone else does.

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24 Days of Content Marketing http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/12/16/24-days-content-marketing/ Tue, 16 Dec 2014 19:00:41 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/12/16/24-days-content-marketing/ Sometimes ideas build like a thunderstorm in the distance. Those you can plan for. But often they come like a bolt of lightning, igniting a nearby tree and you just have to run with it. I came up with the idea to do a string of micro-content based on content Read more...

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Sometimes ideas build like a thunderstorm in the distance. Those you can plan for. But often they come like a bolt of lightning, igniting a nearby tree and you just have to run with it. I came up with the idea to do a string of micro-content based on content marketing, and release one a day leading up until Christmas, basically an advent calendar. Hashtag #24daysofContentMarketing. Micro-content is a great way to keep your social channels firing on all cylinders while keeping the content production costs down. It also gives you more at-bats for something to go viral. With this campaign, we would have 24 social touch points in December alone. The problem was this needed to start December 1st, and the lightning had struck on November 28th.
Content Marketing vs Traditional Marketing
by jess.

I managed to crank out a few pieces of content to give us a head start, and roped a colleague into helping me, but neither of us had time to dedicate to this last-minute campaign. At this point, the idea had turned from enthusiasm to burden. Fortunately I knew of a platform full of eager creative talent who could pitch at a moment’s notice. I wrote a creative brief, then filled out our standard form and submitted it to the Visually Marketplace of creative talent, and was actually surprised when a designer accepted within the hour. Tania Schoeman is one of our top-rated creatives, so I had full confidence she could work on these graphics with little oversight. I had the first graphic from her within a day and the rest came shortly afterwards. Stress levels were now back to pre-forest fire levels and I could focus on other aspects like rollout, distribution, and promotion.

Custom Content and The Future of Marketing

We used a few different platforms for distribution. Twitter and Facebook obviously, but the images also worked well as a Pinterest board. We also tested an advent calendar platform called 25daysof.io with mixed results. When the fire is burning, it’s good to just throw different things in there to see what catches. In today’s marketing landscape we cannot always plan a quarter in advance and often the most popular content is topical. For those of us without a crystal ball, the next best tool is agile and rapid content creation. Speed-to-market is not something the bigger companies are known for, but it’s an advantage that smaller organizations or business units can capitalize on with the right tools. As creatives, it’s our instinct to want to keep content creation in-house, but when the deadline is a foggy Christmas Eve, it’s important to know when to give up the reins and let Rudolf take over. You might just go down in history. rudolph Jess Bachman is a Creative Director at Visually. Follow him on Twitter.

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Are Infographics Dead? http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/10/30/infographics-dead/ Thu, 30 Oct 2014 17:00:22 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/10/30/infographics-dead/ Betterbridge’s law of headlines states that “Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no”. So let me start off by concluding that the answer to this headline is an unsatisfactory… yes and no. The Yes Part Infographics have long been the darling of Read more...

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Betterbridge’s law of headlines states that “Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no”. So let me start off by concluding that the answer to this headline is an unsatisfactory… yes and no.

The Yes Part

Infographics have long been the darling of the content marketing world. In fact, there was a time in the not too distant past when simply putting [INFOGRAPHIC] in your headline would yield more clicks. But that was back when infographics were a new medium. Even if the content wasn’t interesting, the form was. But those days are over and the shininess of infographics have worn off. I think it’s fair to say that if infographics were put on the Hype Cycle, we would be somewhere in the trough of disillusionment.  This is usually where most people hop off, and others ride it to greater opportunity. hype-cycle The interest in infographics has flooded the market with producers and products. You can get them for $5 or even free using automated tools. Like most things though, you do get what you pay for. This is what separates those using infographics as a tactic and those using them as a strategy.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

It’s been clearly shown that visuals increase the retention of information and that they are more likely to be shared than written content, but do infographics still have that X-factor, which makes them useful as a tactic for quick and dirty results? I’d say no. Just like keyword stuffing your landing page will have little effect on your search results, mass producing cheap and topic based infographics won’t move the needle much either. A casual search of the Visually site will yeild that almost every topic you can think of has already been done before. And yet there are still enough home run worthy infographics to fill a book each year.  Clearly there is a science and art to this.

The No Part

Should we remove infographics from our toolkit just yet?  No, of course not, just like we shouldn’t remove SEO because old tactics no longer work. The Slope of Enlightenment ahead of us is paved with best practices and quality content. And anyone who is great at SEO knows that the shortcuts are few and far between. The key for content marketers is to up our game where infographics are concerned. So does that mean that interactive infographics or webfographics or any other term to describe traditional infographics gussied up with more bells and whistles are the only future? It might, but probably not. Interactive infographics are on their own journey on the Hype Cycle and it’s unclear whether they will reach the point where mass media hype begins. It’s clear that they can be done very well and go extremely viral. I suspect this is more because of the quality of the content from producers like the the New York Times than because it’s the next new thing. The other major data point is that interactives are often an order of magnitude more expensive. From my previous writing on virality, the amount of views that would result in a positive ROI for an interactive is large. This puts a greater emphasis on luck as a key ingredient which is impossible to bank on. virality-factors So interactives should still be in your toolkit, at least as an experiment to learn from, but to move wholesale from infographics to interactives will greatly reduce the amount of content you can fit into your budget, which in turn reduces the number of times you can step up to the plate looking for a home run. Tactics are still part of the equation, but they have shifted. One technique we use at Visually is to format sections of an infographic into micro-content: small bite-sized portions which can do well on social media and also link back to the original graphic. These singles and doubles can add up if they are done well.

You’re in the Major Leagues Now

The way forward is not a shortcut, but since the shortcutters are hopping off the Hype Cycle, there is an opportunity for those doing it right. This means that the table stakes for infographics will be interesting and engaging content with high quality design. It doesn’t mean an infographic for every topic, but only for those where education and information retention are key components. Infographics for both audiences and producers have matured. It’s the major leagues now and if you aren’t willing to put the effort in to do something right, you might as well not step up to the plate at all. If you need an out-of-house designer, then get one. You can’t just take a swing with a list of facts anymore either. Audiences want stories and narratives, and you might need a journalist to help craft or refine it. At Visually, we’ve streamlined the process of producing quality infographics. Our designers are trained in data visualization and we provide experienced journalists to help you craft the story and find the insights in your data. We also subscribe to a journalistic code of ethics and are committed to accuracy in representing data. Betting on the novelty of any new medium is an unpredictable rat race, but audiences will reward quality content. Not always with virality, but if you can step up to the plate enough times with top notch content, you will hit one into the bleachers. Even Barry Bonds hit a home run only once every 13 at-bats. How many opportunities do you have lined up next quarter?   Jess Bachman is a Creative Director at Visually. Follow him on Twitter.

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5 Things Designers See That You Can’t Unsee http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/09/16/five-things-designers-see-cant-unsee/ Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:00:52 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/09/16/five-things-designers-see-cant-unsee/ 1. Unkerned Letters. Unkerned? Yes it’s a word.  It means not kerned!  Kerned? Yes that’s a word too. It has to do with the spacing between individual letters.  In most applications it’s not an issue, but if left unchecked it can get ugly.  Uncommon fonts are the worst offenders but Read more...

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jpeg

1. Unkerned Letters.

Unkerned? Yes it’s a word.  It means not kerned!  Kerned? Yes that’s a word too. It has to do with the spacing between individual letters.  In most applications it’s not an issue, but if left unchecked it can get ugly.  Uncommon fonts are the worst offenders but only designers will get irritated when the difference is more subtle, like at this airp ort. png

2. JPEG Compression Artifacts.

It doesn’t take an archaeologist to find these artifacts, they are everywhere. If something feels a bit soft, it’s probably those fuzzies that appear around blocks of color when a file isn’t well optimized when saving. They appear in photos as well, but are less noticeable. This is different than the pixelation you see when you take a tiny photo and just enlarge it, but don’t do that either. gif

3. Gradient Banding

Even seasoned designers fall victim to the problem of gradient banding. Gradients have a lot of individual colors, usually more than an image or monitor can handle. The result: rings of certain colors rather than a smooth blend. But it does provide one way of separating the designers from the non-designers in the room. If the rings on the left side of this image put you in a dither, you are probably a designer. gif-1

4. The Jaggies

Told to young designers before bed by their designer parents, “Lie straight in your bed or the Jaggies will get you!” Also known as aliasing, this effect happens when there just aren’t enough pixels to display curved and slanted lines. Since type is mostly tiny curved and slanted lines, it’s always an issue, unless anti-aliasing is used to ‘blur’ out the jaggies. If you want to take a belt sander to the following image, you are probably a designer. gif-2

5. Widows and Orphans

Does your heart open up for widows and orphans?  Then you are not a designer. These are the scraps of bad typesetting and deserve none of your pity. gif-3   Jess Bachman is a Creative Director at Visually. Follow him on Twitter.

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Micro-content: The Best Way to Diversify Your Content Strategy http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/04/14/micro-content-the-best-way-to-diversify-your-content-strategy/ Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:00:01 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/04/14/micro-content-the-best-way-to-diversify-your-content-strategy/ If you want to develop a successful content marketing strategy these days, creating high-quality content is just the beginning. You could add value – and shelf life – to your videos, infographics and even articles by simply using your existing creative assets to develop an accompaniment of related micro-content. Micro-content Read more...

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If you want to develop a successful content marketing strategy these days, creating high-quality content is just the beginning. You could add value – and shelf life – to your videos, infographics and even articles by simply using your existing creative assets to develop an accompaniment of related micro-content. Micro-content is just that: micro content, usually optimized for distribution on social media networks. Think single images that tease a larger infographic and can be shared on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram; or six-second videos to share on Vine or Instagram that can serve as previews for longer videos. Say you put a lot of time and effort into a video about the horrible consequences of the US Drug War. Before you step up to the plate and hope for a home run with the video, try and load the bases with micro-content: This is a powerful image that, combined with a relevant hashtag, could pique some interest on Twitter. The image by itself would take a creative at least an hour to produce, not including the time spent finding the data to visualize. But in this case, it’s just a still image from the video you plan to release and putting it together would be much faster. You see it at :22 seconds in. Videos like this contain multiple stills that can be appropriated as micro-content. But just because you publish micro-content to a social network doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Different networks have different aesthetic norms — or in Vine’s case, timing norms — that you should try to incorporate. The content should be slightly different if you are sharing on Facebook (you don’t need to include hashtags) or other networks; and for Instagram, you should crop the images in the correct proportions. Would you like to learn more about creating viral visuals? Download our white paper, Visuals That Stick, with actionable advice on impactful design from the Visually creative team. [optinlocker]Thank you for your interest in our Visuals That Stick white paper! You can download it here.[/optinlocker] The great thing about video is that it’s… video! So you can pull video-based micro-content out for sharing on Vine or Instagram. Here’s a Vine created from the video above:
  And here’s another one created from a video Visually made almost a year ago about food waste (micro-content is a great way to refresh and recycle existing content, as well):
  Infographics are great fodder for micro-content because they are often already segmented for the viewer. Here is a stand-alone graphic suited for Twitter: It is also a recomposed section of an original infographic produced by Visually and Orbit Media Studios, which itself is based off an article written by Orbit’s co-founder Andy Crestodina, originally published on Spin Sucks. It’s the content version of Inception! The best part? The article and infographic were nearly a year old and the micro-content was able to give it a second (third?) wind:  

You can publish and promote micro-content before your main content to tease your audience, or use it after to drive clicks to the landing page. The rollout strategy really depends on your goals, but having a full clip of micro-content to accompany any premium content is a smart move. You should try to think outside the jpg too. Sometimes, micro-content can be easily turned into an animated gif, as seen here: And gifs can often be distributed as Vines, as well.

Both of these were created using assets from a single infographic and were released weeks before we published the original piece. (You can see it here, hot off the presses.) And sometimes, the micro-content you produce may even end up replacing its full-length predecessor as the focus on your campaign. In the weeks leading up to April Fool’s day this year, we worked with the creative talent on our Visually Marketplace to create a series of visual jokes. We crowd-sourced the jokes, encouraging designers to submit suggestions – provided they are funny and properly sourced. Each designer ended up picking a joke to illustrate. The result was meant to be an infographic, with all jokes neatly displayed two to a row, forming one long comic strip-like visual. But we quickly realized that this type of content would work much better if it were published and distributed individually. The result: a series of micro-graphics we published individually and promoted on Twitter all through the day on April 1, with the hashtag #visualjokes. Here are a couple of examples:  
Whiskey Diet

  The key to getting value out of micro-content is to produce it from existing work. If you set out to create original content for Twitter, it is going to be expensive and you’d be putting all your eggs (and content marketing dollars) in one basket when it comes to distribution and promotion. Instead, you should always be looking for ways to diversify your content strategy portfolio — and micro-content is one relatively easy, low-cost way to do just that. Jess Bachman is a Creative Director at Visually. Follow him on Twitter.

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The Most Important Ingredient of a Viral Video (it isn’t cats) http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/04/08/the-most-important-ingredient-of-a-viral-video/ Tue, 08 Apr 2014 23:52:42 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/04/08/the-most-important-ingredient-of-a-viral-video/ There are many great YouTube personalities who can get hundreds of thousands of views with their jump-cut editing and smart content. One standout team is brothers Hank and John Green, who produce videos hosted on their YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers. I knew that if they tried out Visually’s platform for collaboration Read more...

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There are many great YouTube personalities who can get hundreds of thousands of views with their jump-cut editing and smart content. One standout team is brothers Hank and John Green, who produce videos hosted on their YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers. I knew that if they tried out Visually’s platform for collaboration on creative projects (including videos), something really special would result. So I reached out to them and Hank Green agreed. Hank is, among many things, a great communicator of complicated topics. Pair that ability with a first-rate animator, and the result could be truly remarkable. In our case, it was a video examining an important, yet hugely controversial issue: mass incarceration in the United States. The results speak for themselves. Within three days of publication, the video had nearly 500,000 views and more than 3,500 comments. Take a look: As someone who is involved in the production of visual content daily, I was truly impressed by the speed and ease with which we blew through each production milestone. Having a collaborative platform – the proprietary Project Center on Visual.ly – certainly helped. The Visually process for creating videos starts with writing the script. This phase went quickly, as Hank has this down to a science and required few edits. We chose Phillip Dettmer as the animator because, like Hank, he is good at explaining things — and just happened to be a huge Nerdfighters fan as well. Once the voice over was in, the animation came along pretty quickly. There were a few rounds of revisions in which we discussed the springy-ness of the spanking scene, among other things. Incarceration is a huge topic and simply getting the video under 4 minutes was a small miracle — or a testament to both Hank and Philipp’s mad creative skills. We wrapped up the video and it was time to put it out for the world to see. Distribution is critically important to the success of any visual project. You could have the most insightful content presented in a most creative way, but without a proper distribution platform it would hardly get noticed. I reached out to Hank because I’m a big fan of Vlogbrothers, but also because they have a large distribution channel with almost 2 million YouTube followers. While going viral is often pure luck of the draw, if you know you have great content to share, securing enough distribution should be your top priority. To put it in another way:
Solid Content + Production Quality = A Good Video But Solid Content + Production Quality + Distribution = A Viral Video
With nearly 500,000 views in just a few days, I think we are off to a good start!   Jess Bachman is a Creative Director at Visual.ly. Follow him on Twitter.

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Your Design Work Doesn’t Need a Selfie http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/01/03/your-design-work-doesnt-need-a-selfie/ Fri, 03 Jan 2014 19:00:29 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2014/01/03/your-design-work-doesnt-need-a-selfie/ One of my jobs as creative director at Visually is browsing the portfolios of prospective creative talent (those who apply to be part of the Visually Marketplace) to make sure they are up to our company’s standards. This involves looking at thousands of portfolios. While I certainly appreciate sites like Read more...

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One of my jobs as creative director at Visually is browsing the portfolios of prospective creative talent (those who apply to be part of the Visually Marketplace) to make sure they are up to our company’s standards. This involves looking at thousands of portfolios. While I certainly appreciate sites like Behance and Dribble, which have standardized the portfolio experience, I feel there are certain designer-led trends that are making the experience rather intolerable. Before I get into my peeves, let me tell you what I am looking for: in short, your design work, un-adulterated. I would like to see your work in totality first. This means the whole thing, ideally at full resolution, but if not then a zoomed-out view. In addition to that, and if needed, a close up of your work if a full res is not available. Details matter. Here is what I don’t need.

You holding it!

I appreciate the attempt to show your work “in context,” but this should really ONLY be done with something that is designed to be printed, like brochures, posters, or business cards. “In context” for everything else digital is just that: pixels on the screen. If you are showing off more than your work, you are doing your work a disservice. This also goes for work that is clipped or otherwise hung up on a wire, as if it just came off the printing press. Yes, I know this has been photoshopped — and yes, it makes it look more generic than your work should be.

Displaying it in a way that makes no sense

This work looks really cool on its own. But wait, judging from the size of those clips, this might only be 7 inches across, making the entire thing illegible if printed as depicted. What kind of designer would print something that can’t be read? Not one that I want to work with. Like the creepster photobombing your selfie, displaying your work like this may give off bad information that doesn’t put you in the best light. And those fold marks… aRRG. Why would crease something so wonderfully refined? Oh right… photoshop again.

Showing it off at an angle

There is one more realism trend that turned to the dark side. The “if I show it on an angle, it will look like a real thing” trend. If all I can see of your work is this, I am just moving on. Not only does it obscure the details (and other important aspects) of your work, but the repetitive templating just feels lazy. Trust me, displaying your design work as a hoverboard above a featureless plane is not making it look any more real. Even if your photoshop skills are quite excellent and you can fool 95% of the on lookers with the fake angles and DOF, it’s hard to tell what you are looking to show off? For the untrained eye, it looks as if your photography skills are on display, not your design skills. So my advice to designers looking to impress more than the neophytic onlooker is to keep it simple. Do not call forth into a photoshop existence something that was never meant to exist. If you are designing stationery, then obviously I want to see how it looks on actual stationery. But if you are designing something that will be displayed only on screens, then an on-angle selfie will only make me question your design judgement.   Jess Bachman is a Creative Director at Visual.ly. Follow him on Twitter.

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To Create Great Stories, Data Journalists Need to Meet Designers More Than Half Way http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/10/15/to-create-great-stories-data-journalists-need-to-meet-designers-more-than-half-way/ Tue, 15 Oct 2013 22:54:59 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/10/15/to-create-great-stories-data-journalists-need-to-meet-designers-more-than-half-way/ Data journalism is a relatively new (at least in name) field of reporting. The amount of data created in our lives and work is increasing exponentially, so it makes sense to have journalists dedicated to making sense of it all. But a journalist + data != a data journalist, or Read more...

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Data journalism is a relatively new (at least in name) field of reporting. The amount of data created in our lives and work is increasing exponentially, so it makes sense to have journalists dedicated to making sense of it all. But a journalist + data != a data journalist, or at least not a good one. Great data journalists have another essential quality: a sense of design. At Visual.ly, we use a lot of data journalists and pair them with data designers to get projects done. Most of our journalists only meet the designer halfway by handing off a text-based outline that the design is then supposed to run up field with. This usually results in good projects, but not great projects. A great data journalist, on the other hand, can elevate the outcome to greatness by meeting the designer more than half way — even if the designer is mediocre. The first step to being a great data journalist is to familiarize yourself with the wide array of data viz styles that do NOT come out of Excel. They often have strange names like choropleth, sankey, radial, treemaps, and parallel coordinates. But don’t let the names trip you up. At some point, all of these only existed in the mind some creative individual.
Patent Wars
by visually.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

  Data visualization is a rapidly changing field with plenty of unexplored territory. The above visualization doesn’t have an official name, so I’m calling it “The Hairball.” The chart below is one of the holiest relics of data visualization. It was published in 1869, well before any of the modern tools people use today — like Tableau, Processing, R, or Excel — existed.

Napoleon
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

  So don’t let tools hold you back, either. All you need to get started in visualizing data is paper and a pen, and maybe a ruler. The tools will help you deliver something end-to-end — that is, from data to design — but if you are working with a designer, let them do the final stretch.

See no data, design no data

Once you have familiarized yourself with these design techniques you have to learn to see them in the data you are researching. This is almost a Neo-Matrix like ability, but comes with practice. You, the journalist are the closest person to the data. You have the widest view and can spot the unseen angles and can capture the tone. If all you are presenting to the designer is some bullet points and summarized articles, than that myopic view is all the designer has to work with. A great designer may be able to make some magic with that but great data designers are just as rare as great data journalists. When you are doing your research and looking at a spreadsheet, try to think of possible visualization methods. As an exercise, try to avoid using bar and pie charts. These are the tourist traps of data viz and will distract you from the real wonders down the road. Sometimes the data may fit well into a sankey diagram, or perhaps its a tree map, or stream graph. All of these types can convey a ton of information and carry a story, and if you are not looking for them, you will miss the opportunity for telling a great story with data. I recognize that journalists are not designers and I do not expect them to start pushing pixels or vectors around in Adobe’s creative suite. This is the designer’s job and what they are good at—but meeting the designer more than half way means providing some visual structure that the design can then run with. That can be something as simple as a sketch in a notebook. If all you are delivering is a spreadsheet or bullet points, the design may miss the opportunities in the data simply because you haven’t presented a wide enough picture. But even if you are not as visually oriented to come up with a circular-type chart, you can accomplish the same thing with bullet points (and a few arrows). At Visual.ly, we work hard to maintain and improve our stock of qualified data journalists and we turn out a lot of good projects. But to turn out a great one, I implore data journalists to get out of their comfort zone and take a walk on the design side. We, designers, will owe you a huge high-five (and that is not a data-viz term… yet).

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The Federal Budget, Visualized: Death and Taxes 2014 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/07/24/the-federal-budget-visualized-death-and-taxes-2014/ Thu, 25 Jul 2013 02:37:20 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/07/24/the-federal-budget-visualized-death-and-taxes-2014/ Ten years ago, I created the first in what would become a hugely popular series of annual visualizations of the federal budget, “Death and Taxes.” It was, in retrospect, garbage: There was no reason for it to be anything but garbage. Unbalanced design; no attention to typography. Back then, I Read more...

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Ten years ago, I created the first in what would become a hugely popular series of annual visualizations of the federal budget, “Death and Taxes.” It was, in retrospect, garbage: There was no reason for it to be anything but garbage. Unbalanced design; no attention to typography. Back then, I wasn’t a designer and I didn’t know anything about the federal government. (My day job was selling faux vintage bric-a-brac to identity deficient 20-somethings at Urban Outfitters.) It was 2004 and infographics wasn’t even a word. But if you can’t be the best at something, be the first. Prior to Death and Taxes, the federal budget visualizations were confined to the bounds of a Power Point slide. The pie charts and bar charts worked for the top line figures, but were incompatible with the 1,000-page beast of a budget the govertment put out each year. The only reason the chart became a poster was be cause it was just too large to fit on any computer screen. It still is. The image became a brief internet hit two years later, in 2006, and I started doing one each year. The poster progressed in terms of design, density, and accuracy, too, as I started to develop a sense of how the government worked. Along the way, I became known as an infographics guy, which developed into some great opportunities and partnerships. Infographics themselves rose to prominence, further expanding the poster’s (and my own) reach. Eventually I ended up here as Creative Director of Visual.ly, a long way from selling faux vintage bric-a-brac at Urban Outfitters. But with my own personal development and opportunies came new demands for my time, and the annual research and production of the Death and Taxes poster is not something I could continue. In fact, I didn’t manage to get a poster out for 2013. But it was clear from the emails and feedback that this project just could not fade into the internet ether. It was too important. There is still, after all these year, no more open and accessible record of government spending. Fortunately, around that time I was approached by Nathaniel of Time Plots about continuing the posters’ production. If you don’t know Time Plots, they are the glorious intersection of government, data-vis and posters. Seriously, that is all they do, and they are the best at it. I knew the annual Death and Taxes project would be a natural fit there. So starting with the 2014 edition of Death and Taxes and going forward, Nathan and his crack team will be handling all development and production of the poster. I have a few of the new posters myself and they have already innovated on the concept and design. The Death and Taxes project is an exercise in transparency, accessibility and design of the most important document the federal government puts out each year. It is also solely supported by sales of the poster, so I encourage you all to support the Death and Taxes project buy purchasing a poster this year. Your walls will thank you, and so will I.
Death and Taxes 2014: US Federal Budget
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

  Jess Bachman is a Creative Director at Visual.ly. Follow him on Twitter.

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Orders of Magnitude http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/06/28/orders-of-magnitude/ Fri, 28 Jun 2013 21:35:40 +0000 http://www.scribblelive.com/blog/2013/06/28/orders-of-magnitude/ Infographics often deal with large numbers or large concepts, with the goal of making the viewer understand just how large they really are. This is also a huge failure point because designers and storytellers often don’t keep comparisons in the same orders of magnitude. You have heard the old distance Read more...

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Infographics often deal with large numbers or large concepts, with the goal of making the viewer understand just how large they really are. This is also a huge failure point because designers and storytellers often don’t keep comparisons in the same orders of magnitude. You have heard the old distance metric, “If you stack all the X on top of each other, it would reach to the moon, and back!” This is a good reference to something that is 500,000 miles. People understand the distance to the moon better than they understand 500,000 miles. This is an example of a comparison done right. As soon as the comparison leaves the first order of magnitude, though, it becomes less relatable. Did you know that Chevy Volt owners have surpassed 100 million all-electric miles in the first two months since it launched? That’s like going to the moon and back, 210 times! There have been six man missions to the moon, how can you go there and back 210 times? The comparison simply is not relatable. It would be far better to do some math, a little research and get an example that is in the same magnitude. “In another 4 months, they will have driven the distance the Curiosity spacecraft traveled getting to Mars.” Such mismatched comparisons are often present in poor infographics. A recent report by Bersin & Associates shows that organizations spend $720 million annually to find ways to improve employee engagement. $720 Million dollars? That’s like buying 2,400 Lamborghinis! 2,400 Lamborghinis? What is that? That’s not very relatable, either. So how can we fix it? The trick is to find something else that costs $720,000,000, or thereabouts. This can be tricky, because that is a huge number, and there may not be much to compare it to — but let’s try it anyway. Some research turns up that we misplaced $700 million for post Katrina efforts, and we also spent $700 million on Russian helicopters for the Afghan defense forces. Both of these are off topic, so you need to be creative. It also turns out Lamborghini only makes around 2,400 cars a year. So while 2,400 is certainly out of our order of magnitude, the entire fleet is not. The statement becomes “$720 million dollars? That’s like buying every car Lamborghini made in a year.” That is much more relatable. So if you are creating or reviewing infographics, and you see a comparison, make sure it’s in the same order of magnitude. Jess Bachman is a Creative Director at Visual.ly. Follow him on Twitter.

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