Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Let's design more explanation graphics —but let's edit them more tightly

El Mundo's Emilio Amade has announced their latest project, an impressive scrollytelling infographic and narrated animation (below) commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

Years ago, my colleague Hiram Henríquez published his Master's thesis, “The Importance of Explanatory Infographics” (PDF), in which he chronicled the steady vanishing of pictorial 2D, 3D, and animated explanations from news media, which parallels a substantial increase in the use of data visualization. I discussed some of the reasons in Nerd Journalism.

Pictorial explanation infographics, both static and animated, are still around, but their presence is greatly diminished in the news because they are expensive and time-consuming to produce —and also sometimes to consume: El Mundo's Apollo 11 project is an example; it's marvelous, but I wonder whether it goes into too much detail and takes a bit too long to read, a trap I repeatedly fall myself into when writing articles and books or designing visualizations. I keep reminding myself that graphics are powerful when they are not only beautiful, but also tightly edited. In any case, I hope this type of project will eventually make a big comeback everywhere, as I enjoy explanation graphics a lot. Just take a look at this: