[This a guest post by Andrew Kovalev*, walking us through one of his latest contributions for “Infografika” magazine **, the infographic project ‘Braking Distance‘].
“Infografika” is the first Russian periodical 100% focused on (and consisting completely of) infographics. Starting in 2011 as a personal project of a small group of enthusiasts, today it’s a bi-monthly magazine with 80,000 printed copies distributed for free via 600 outlets (cafes, shops etc.) in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, and is now available as an iPad app.
The magazine’s staff counts 3 full-time members, and for each issue there are 5 to 6 “external collaborators” involved. These collaborators, whom are switched out frequently with each issue, are mostly illustrators and designers.
Starting from its 4th issue, “Infografika” features a new section ”Hand-made” for the infographics that are not made on a computer, but rather, created with real-world materials. The first dozen of works in this section are from russian illustrator Dmitry Golyshev, who is working mostly with paper.
In its most recent issue, art-director Artem Koleganov decided to showcase photography in the “Hand-made” section. This then led to a collaboration with Paris-based Russian photographer, Andrew Kovalev .
“We chose visual style for our infographics to depend on two factors. First, what would be best for displaying this specific information. Second, what would be new and original in our magazine, what we haven’t done before” — Artem Koleganov, “Infografika” art-director.
The subject for that infographics was on braking distances and how they differ with a car on a dry road in comparison to one on a wet road.
“We didn’t want to show that as a simple diagram. Instead, we wanted it to be as literal as possible. So the decision was to go for a driver’s viewpoint. What you see as a result is not just pairs of numbers, but a real person standing very close to you and then a little further in the distance. That’s where you will stop if you are driving at 75 mph on a wet road — it’s really, really far. The more visual it is, the better. It sort of turns on your emotional perception.”
The photographer’s starting point was a draft made by the art-director.
There were two requirements in the initial brief:
- Clean, two-lanes road, no cars, minimum distractions;
- Same model, wearing rainy/dry weather outfits, standing in different spots on the road — to indicate a car’s braking distance for different speeds in different weather conditions;
“Before signing up for the project, I ran a little test. I went to a nearest park with a long enough path with a friend of mine. We had this little spreadsheet with numbers, indicating distances we had to show in the final picture. So we made respective marks on a path in that park, and then my friend was standing on each of them while I was taking pictures of her from the same spot. After, I merged the photos (very roughly) to see if it is possible to visualize the concept in the way the art-director had in mind. The results proved the idea to be pretty feasible, and we started to work” — Andrew Kovalev, photographer.
The very first challenge was discovering a proper location. It is not that easy to find a 150 meters long road in Paris with no cars parked on both sides or not going back and forth in a constant flow.
“We ended up looking outside the city in the end. Google Street View was our salvation. I was going screen by screen through the satellite map around Paris and when an area seemed to fit, I was getting down to see it in a first-person mode. Took a few hours to find the perfect spot. Still, to get pictures of an empty road we had to go there at a sunrise, at 5AM. Even then there were cars every couple of minutes… It was obvious we couldn’t shoot a model on the spot. So, to have an idea of how the light works at this time of day on that exact location, I took a few pictures of my assistant — using portable flashes. Those we later used as a references for lighting in studio and montage/post-production.”
When the on-location and studio shootings were finished, the very first test was used to set distance markers on the final background picture.
“I put the test picture from the park over the picture of the road, combined common points of the two (front edges and far edges of both roads) and thus got the distance markers from initial picture, where they were measured and set, transfered on the final picture.”
After that, it became purely a technical and aesthetical question of incorporating the model into respective spots and making the montage look real.
“We have tried different options and compositions, including putting the girls into two symmetrical lines or spreading both “dry” and “wet” figures across the two sides of the road. At last, we decided on a “asymmetrical but separated” option.”
There was one more final correction when everything was almost done:
“We had to move the whole set of figures backwards, further away from the picture’s front edge. It occurred, that even though all the measurements were properly done, the first figure seemed visually to be standing closer to a viewer, than it should have been with a 9 meters distance. This was our main mistake: we were relying on measured distances rather than on viewer’s real perception. Luckily, that didn’t take a lot of time to fix.”
To complete the image, Artem added the graphical overlays: header, lead, icons and callouts.
“Photography occurred to be quite an efficient tool for infographics. Despite having its limits, it is still a great way to highlight information, to present it in an unusual, eye-catching manner. We hope to continue exploring photography as an instrument. Apart from that, we plan to expand the “Hand-made” section with infographics created with wood, ice, and other natural materials. Another idea is to show infographics integrated into cityscapes. It may be information that already exists in urban environments or we may alter a specific environment to show something else. Obviously, in that case, photography will also be our medium.” — Artem Koleganov, “Infografika” art-director.
A short making-of video:
*Andrew Kovalev is a Russian photographer based in Paris, France. He specializes in environmental and studio portraits and works for numerous clients in Europe, Russia, the UK and the USA. His works has been published in Le Monde, Le Point, Forbes, The Sunday Times, other magazines, and newspapers. Among his corporate clients are PricewaterhouseCoopers, Nike, and TELE2.
**“Infografika” founders are Nikolay Romanov and Artem Koleganov. They both are based in Saint-Petersburg, Russia.
Artem is a graphic designer and art-director for “Infografika”. Before starting his magazine career he worked in several design studios and advertising agencies in Saint-Petersburg. Artem was a speaker and a jury member during the 21st international Malofiej Awards (http://www.malofiejgraphics.com/).
Nikolay is “Infografika” editor-in-chief. He regularly takes part in russian infographics-related conferences as a speaker.
In August 2012 “Infografika” has taken the first prize in Visualizing the London 2012 Olympic challenge .
Recently, Artem and Nikolay have given a master-class during an intensive course of infographics in British Higher School of Art and Design (Moscow).