26 januari 2017

'Image and story have to form one piece'

Data visualisation is more than just data, it's also about design. Leon Postma, visual editor at De Correspondent, knows all about it. The implementation of the design of this digital news medium was a pretty precise exercise, but with a beautiful result. We spoke with Leon about his vision on design.

How did you actually find LocalFocus?
‘It all started at an infographic conference. We ended up talking with the guys from LocalFocus and concluded that it would be super useful to have a tool that easily provides insights in data and produces visualisations in our branding. Many different people work on each story at our editorial office, it is hard to stick to the exact design. When you give them a tool in which the design is set, they have to stick with it.’

How did this proceed?
‘We had a brainstorming session with LocalFocus to identify all the possibilities. It was also new for them to approach their tool from a design point of view instead of a data point of view. We really dived into the design and I think in process we als helped them create a better version of their tool.’

Like the day-night function?
Day and night modus at De Correspondent
‘We came up with this function because we want to give readers the best experience possible when reading De Correspondent day and night. It is not pleasant to look at a bright screen in the dark. We wanted to give the readers the possibility to swap colours, this makes it less stressful for the eyes to read. When we started, this option was not available yet for the graphs. We sat down with the guys from LocalFocus and it became very technical. I will spare you the details. After different tests with colours and how to integrate this in our platform it all worked out. Our readers can pleasantly read graphs in the dark now.’

How is design combined with journalism at your medium?
‘As soon as there is an idea or a story, so in the most early stage possible, we get all people involved together. Not only with regard to the story, but also with regard to design. We try to create one product and we believe this is how you do that.’

Doesn’t it always go like this? 
‘I was a freelancer at a national newspaper in the past and often you see imagery at the bottom of a to-do list. It’s about the writer in the first place, then the article and then “something for decoration”. At De Correspondent we see all parts of a story as one piece. We give the readers an experience in which text and imagery compliment each other’

When does a visualisation add something worthy to an article?
‘I wouldn’t say that a visualisation adds something. I see text and visuals as one whole piece all together. We have a problem when there is some inbalance between imagery and text, but this also depends on the kind of story. Columns demand more text, but a fact-check asks for hard proof. In that case, you often choose a data visualisation.’

Could you tell us more about the moment you choose to visualise data?
‘When you encounter abstract material or a complex topic, you realise soon enough that visual guidance would be nice. Using only text would ask too much of the imagination of the readers. At those moments you choose to visualise data. Visualisations make information more understandable for the reader. Sometimes it works the other way around though. Sometimes we are visualising a story only to realise we want too much.’

Who makes the data visualisations in those cases?
‘We use LocalFocus to give journalists a tool that enables them to make as much graphs as possible for themselves. Some writers were asking so much help from our visuals desk, we didn’t had time for bigger projects anymore. LocalFocus makes journalists self-sufficient. This gives me and my colleague the time to focus on custom-work, complex infographics for example. The visuals desk and the tool compliment each other.’

Do you want to experiment with the LocalFocus yourself?

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