[This is a guest post by Jecoba Denny*, talking about her visualization project, An Image of Our Daily News]
‘An Image of Our Daily News’ is an infographic which is intended to represent the dominance and activity of various news publishers during each hour on any given day.
During the second year studying my degree in computer graphic design, I completed a data visualization assignment which consisted of designing an infographic and displaying it in the form of an A2 sized poster. My classmates and I were given a huge list of news headlines collected over a period of 24 hours from 11 major news sources and were required to use these in order to visually communicate a dominant theme or message about them.
Some of the design students in my class chose to focus on specific stories that dominated the headlines during that time and emphasize these using relevant graphics. One example I remember was an infographic that interpreted the impact of the 2009 Australian bushfires.
While a lot of my classmates were interpreting the data in interesting story or theme inspired ways, my inspiration was somewhat abstract. I was intrigued by the idea of using color to distinguishably represent the data as a set. Ultimately, I wanted to communicate a message using the entire list of headlines which reflected the impact of media in general, rather than focus on a particular aspect of the content. I decided to keep it simple and look at who was dominating the headlines the most during that time frame; it was from here that ‘An Image of Our Daily News’ evolved.
I began by using processing to separate the headlines according to the hour that they were published. Once I had these 24 lists, I made a color key and began color coding each headline according to which publisher published it. Each colorful list was then aligned in an evenly spaced column under the appropriate time segment. The result was far more interesting than I had expected.
The headlines formed columns of bold color encompassing pattern-like effects mimicking intricately woven threads. The inconsistency of the pattern that the headlines formed counteractively, enhanced the overall graphic by displaying sections of detailed symmetry or bold dominant wedges of rich color representing high levels of media activity for single publishers both nationally and internationally at a particular time.
The development of this infographic was a unique experience to say the least. It was my first introduction to the program called Processing; this program is amazing and some of the work designers create using it is outstanding!! I really enjoyed researching for this assignment and looking at all of the incredible work other designers had created using the program.
One obstacle I faced was my computer crashing! It seems my computer did not like rendering all those lines of text (we are talking about approximately 10,000 headlines after all). As I added each column of headlines to the finished poster design, the file lagged more and more until I was literally waiting up to 10 minutes for it to render, not to mention the numerous times illustrator would ‘…quit unexpectedly’ or simply freeze and my most recent work would be lost. But I can’t complain too much, the final result was everything and more than I aimed to achieve; to this day I am still getting compliments and even being given suggestions on how I could further develop the design.
The finished result of ‘An Image of Our Daily News’ is a visually compelling piece that draws attention to the impact various media sources have on our everyday means of connection with events that occur worldwide. Given that this data visualization is built using only a selection of headlines that were published on a random day, this design highlights the significant influence that news headline publishers have in shaping the messages portrayed through our daily news.
*Jecoba is a designer from a beautiful small town in New Zealand who graduated with a degree in Computer Graphic Design with First Class Honors in 2012. She specializes in devising edgy eclectic designs and loves transforming simple objects, environments, information and ideas to reflect unique messages, intuitions and concepts. Creative delivery is what defines her and it is woven through every aspect of her daily life. You can reach her on her website: www.jecobadenny.com