Tag: Visual Journalism

Information Explosion And Journalism

On a trip back to my alma mater today for a meeting, I chanced upon this article in the school’s newspaper, The Nanyang ChronicleIEM pioneers worry about their jobs. It seems that NTU’s first batch of Information Engineering and Media students don’t really know what kind of jobs they can snag with their degrees. Here’s a suggestion: work as journalists.

Based on the curriculum outlined on their website, I think these students are equipped with the technical expertise and the visual skills to create data visualisation. This is a new form of journalism that will become increasingly useful in helping us make sense of a world increasingly awashwith data. Watch this excellent video, Journalism in the Age of Data, to figure what this is all about and some of the issues involved.

However, there is one issue that I think will severely hinder the development of this kind of journalism here — the lack of readily available data. It’s not that it isn’t being collected in this high-tech country, but such data is just not readily made available to anyone except the authorities. For instance, think about how every car in Singapore has an in-vehicle unit that generates a dataset about car usage patterns in Singapore. What is lacking, however, is the presentation of such data in a visual form to help the public better understand how our society depends on cars.

Nigel Holmes: On Information Design

I was browsing Basheer when I chanced upon Steven Heller’s working biography with Nigel Homes, the former Graphics Director of Time Magazine for just $10!

Not only was it a bargain, it was am enlightening and a breeze to read. Set in a question-and-answer format, Nigel takes Steven and the reader through his thoughts about how he got to do what he was doing, what information design is all about and how he does his work.

A trademark in Nigel’s work is a touch of wit and light-heartedness with “metaphoric” elements that some critics would say distract readers from the information graphic. But Nigel defends his approach:

“A good approach to information graphics includes an appeal to the reader, immediately followed by a true account of the story… I want to make room for enjoyment, delight, aesthetic appreciation and wit, and a friendly “you can understand this” approach.”

Published in 2006, Nigel Holmes: On Information Design, is a great book to find out what goes behind the thinking of this “explanation designer” (as he would like to called). In the spirit of his work, Nigel has even drew a graphic about what it takes to be an information designer:

Explaining the Budget 2009

Lots of of numbers and something for everyone, the Budget 2009 announcement yesterday was a great opportunity for the use of information graphics — so which local English paper did it best?


Most engaging concept: The New Paper

You have to give it to the tabloid paper for always trying to make the news accessible and interesting for its readers. Conceptually, the umbrella, an everyday object, to protect you from bad weather is a great analogy of the Budget announcement and something anyone can relate to. And instead of going for the big numbers, it divides the details into neat packages depending on who you are, a businessman, a tax-payer, an adult Singaporean…

todaybudgetMost efficient concept: TODAY

This paper covered all the necessary details in a quarter of a page and with an interesting concept to boot! It clearly knows who its readers are as it divides the budget coverage into clear sections that are represented as “pills”. Not only are you able to get the information in a glance, the graphic also points you to the pages if you plan to read more on the given section.


Most grand concept: The Straits Times (ST)

A full cover and big numbers — when the Budget is discussed in terms of billions, it is hard to relate to it as a person on the street. The paper decided to go for the helicopter-view of things and emphasise on the massive figures as the news point. Unlike TODAY, the infographic does not serve to lead on to the other sections but in its special Budget section, it does divide it to relevant parts for different readers. The paper is definitely aiming to provide depth with an individual section just for the Budget and it clearly expects its readers to read everything on it. Whether this actually pans out in reality, I remain sceptical.

Most no-frills concept: Business Times (BT) & My Paper



Both papers chose to keep things simple, limiting any graphic to just a box and relevant sections. My Paper (right) is clearly more people-oriented while BT’s (left) angle was more for the businessmen.

How do other newspapers cover the Budget? Here is the Spanish 2008 Budget as covered by a Spanish newspaper, Público


This is definitely not something that would work for a TNP reader, but I would hope to see out of ST, BT or TODAY.  It is a sophisicated infographic that shows the complexity and massive figures of the budget instead of telling it by using different colours and sizes for its “pipes”.

Since ST went for the helicopter-view of things, such a graphic would have been a great companion to its pages and pages of text. In fact, it would be something I want to pull out and keep just so I know the Budget 2009 inside out!