The Functional Art - Interview: John Grimwade
Interviews of John Grimwade gave me not only about core principles of working as an information graphics designer, but also a lot of tips about how to develop a informational graphics designer's thinking process. As we all know, it's an infographic designer's job to create a story based on and by using data or information. But the problem is, how easy or how difficult this story should be? Or maybe it's better to put it in another way, "How to balance the space for understanding and the space for exploration of an infographic?" According to John, all information or data involved in the story needs to be split up into "easily digestible chunks, without losing depth." "Digestible", it means that the infographic itself can explain the main point of the story, readers don't need to take extra effort to figure out what the basic story is. "Without losing depth" means that, it needs to allow readers to explore the data based on their own experience and interest and get a richer understanding out of the infographic, after they understand the main point of the story. To make a story digestible, the point is to have a good and well-organized structure of a story. It's always better to start coming up with the structure of a story on paper since it costs less effort and is less distractive - you can only focus on the structure. No bother to think about alignment, font faces at this step. In order to develop skills in what is the most important part of a story that needs to be communicated clearly and directly to users, John suggested that, it's important for a designer to practice this thinking process in everyday activities - whenever reading newspaper or magazines, do an analysis on how the structure or visual elements help with understanding the main point of this story and if not, is there a better way to improve them?
I have always had a hard time on how to allow more space for my readers to explore my project. I did not do well on this part in my first project. The data I presented/included is only those which support MY argument and based on my understanding. This problems got addressed in my interactive version of this project where I allow audience to see data of each county as they hove over on it in the choropleth map.
In my project 2, I ran into the similar problem but even worse this time - since I didn't have enough data even just for the story I wanted to tell. But at that point, my friend Deb asked me when I showed her my project "There are a lot of things I am curious about when reading your project. For example, how long has the Zero-Tolerance Policies has been existing? Who enacted this policy? How many schools in the U.S. have this Zero-Tolerance Policies? What are the elements of a behavioral chart?" This inspired me to start another round of research focusing on the punitive research and finally found amount of data to bring this story vivid.
In my revised version, I showed the amount of suspension rate across all schools in the U.S.. I showed total number of suspensions by reasons. All these allow readers to explore a bit more than just the story that I told. From what I have learned from this interview with John Grimwade and my friend Deb is that, as an infographic designer, you need to be able to see things from different perspectives. This is a skill that I should practice on everything I read daily, start from asking these two questions, "What is the story?" "How is it presented?" "Is there anything else that is interesting?" and "How are those things involved in this story?"