My submission consists of just ten of the hundreds of print pages I worked on last year as the lead designer for the Reach Data Unit’s print output.
The aim is to blend data journalism and thought-provoking graphics to convey agenda-setting stories in an innovative way.
The first page – “Risking their lives to reach Europe” – shows the number of people that every year cross the Mediterranean Sea, putting their lives at risk, to find a better future in our continent. I chose to show the numbers as waves, shaking the fragile paper boats.
As well as data explainers, I have also worked on graphics for other stories – such as “Gentrification in Manchester”. In that case I designed an illustrated map of Manchester to show how gentrification has shaped different parts of the city.
“From Russia With Warships” shows the increasing tensions between the UK and Russia.
I decided to show the story represented as the game battleships, with each square representing a year to show the increased number of russian warships that approached the UK waters, and pegs representing the UK’s response to each approach.
The page is successful as the story is immediately obvious to the reader, based only on a glance.
The page on misperceptions about immigration aims to show how inaccurate the beliefs of the British public are on this important political issue. The main graphic is a to-scale graphic reflecting just how much we overestimate the proportion of immigrants who live in the country.
“Killer cocaine” was based on a huge rise in the number of deaths from cocaine in recent years. In that case a simple line graph was the best way of presenting such a stark increase, and I opted to design it like a ‘mountain’ of the drug. I balanced this with other graphical elements showing the breakdown of deaths by age and gender.
This is only a very small snapshot of my work, but one which I hope shows that the regional press is not just holding its own, but leading the way when it comes to innovation in data journalism design.
What makes this project innovative?
My print pages subvert the traditional process of consuming news - the words complement the graphic, rather than the other way around. The graphic itself often is the news. My aim is to take numbers and statistics and turn them into something that is not just visually pleasing, but which tells a story at a glance in a way words cannot. I want everything we do to be understandable to a wide audience, and to catch every single person’s attention - regardless of every age, class or culture. I believe the most powerful designs are those that include people and do not make them feel excluded by complexity or abstraction.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
My pages are regularly printed across more than a dozen regional titles, including flagship papers such as the Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo and the Chronicle. The success can be measured not only by the high circulation of the titles which carry them, but by the fact that they have received critical acclaim - most notably winning the newsawards 2018 International Printed Innovation of the Year - as well as regularly receiving praise from readers and editors alike.
Source and methodology
By centralising production and automating processes I, along with other team members, have proven it is possible to create award-winning, industry-leading graphic-led data journalism at scale and on deadline. The data for the graphic is usually sourced by one of the dedicated journalists on the team - usually either from FoI, web scraping, APIs, or open Government datasets. After reading the journalist’s copy and looking at their spreadsheet, I start to sketch using pencil and paper. Sketching is essential because it activates my imagination and allows me to find a visual element - a graphic sign or an illustration - that can capture the story. I then design the page using dedicated software, chiefly Adobe Illustrator as it allows me to accurately represent geometries and proportions. Accuracy is highly important in my job. I spend a fair amount of time finding a good balance for each page. Alignment, colours and fonts need to be carefully measured and thought out to create a harmonious appearance.
Pencil and Paper, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign
Marianna Longo - designer. Data journalists: Debora Aru, Alice Cachia, Annie Gouk, Michael Goodier