Meta-information: visualizing the news

A headline from the Guardian

About a year ago, University of Huddersfield design student Dave Bowker created Designing the News, a six-part series of data graphics depicting one week’s worth of information from and about the Guardian. (It earned him a First.)

The methods used in each piece focus on a specific goal of presentation, including the ranking of information, categorisation, colour coordination, illustration, graphing of complex data, and relationship tracking.

The purpose of the project is to present the news in a way that people wouldn’t usually experience it. This is done by attracting the viewers with beautiful graphics, and then holding their attention with a deeper investigation into the information they see everyday.

The rundown of images and approaches can be seen here. Of the various formats and approaches, I think Thursday and Saturday are the most successful. Friday, unfortunately, turns into a blur at 20 paces, while I find Wednesday somewhat hard to interpret and therefore less usable—though still very attractive to look at; I love Dave’s use of color.

By contrast, Information Aesthetics recently featured a visualization of a similar topic: all the stories in the New York Times for the year 1988. The image is beautiful to look at and jampacked with information. Even so—or maybe precisely because of its abundance of data—the reader has to invest time and careful study to extract its literal meaning; as a result, I find it rather unhelpful as a repository of information. It’s more an object of meditation about how world events develop and are reported: a media mandala.

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