This series of blog posts will go behind-the-scenes of some of my favourite portfolio pieces, revisiting the challenges and solutions.
INTRO: Yes, it’s busy and overwhelming but I love this piece I designed in 2014 for a collaborative arts project in Birmingham.
BACKGROUND: The project, headed up by a team from University of Birmingham, saw 3 types of organisations come together into smaller project groups to essentially ‘see what they could come up with”. Academics would bring a research capability, SME’s would perhaps offer technical services or design skills and SCOs (Small cultural organisations) would bring cultural awareness and challenges.
BRIEF: my brief was to create a diagram that truly captured the complexity and challenges faced by the project and to give a feeling of chaos moving into organisation.
THE DATA: I was given a Word document table, with a row for each group with the name of each SCO, SME and Higher Education representative in that group.
Expand the data: The data was a useful starting point but I felt there was more interesting data to be uncovered by getting more specific. By drilling down into each individual participant, I uncovered more data and develop a hierarchy / categorisation of everyone involved. So a lecturer from Birmingham University was given a more specific categorisation based on his specialism – e.g. Humanities > History. SME’s and SCO’s were similarly broken down into more specific sub-categories.
Structure the data: Whilst I had added new layers to the information, I also had limited space in which to present it, so I had to go through a round of merging and rethinking in order to create some smaller groupings. I also wanted to get data-sign-off before starting the design stage, as it would be much harder to change later on. I used a wireframing app (e.g. Draw.io or xDiagram (mac)) to create a basic flow chart which the client could easily understand. It was also important for each participant to approve their categorisation – this was to be a permanent record of the project and we needed buy-in from everyone involved. These basic wireframes of each sector were sent to the relevant participants for their comment. As you can imagine there were some changes with some valuable feedback and suggestions. By the end of this process I had a spreadsheet with each participant on a different row, with maximum 4 layers of detail for each one, plus their outcome project title.
Create the basic diagram: I used RAW (http://rawgraphs.io/) to create a basic alluvial diagram. Whilst a complete mess it was simply a starting point and once imported into Illustrator as an SVG it was incredibly useful.
Finalise the diagram: At this point I realised that the left hand side of the chart required a more hand-drawn approach, whilst the right could rely more heavily on the output from RAW. This had the additional benefit of capturing another element of the project. The tree-branch feel on the left represented the human, natural unstructured growth of the participants, but when pulled together they produce a more digital, structured outcome. I spend considerable time in Illustrator developing the left and side of the chart in order to distribute the ‘chaos’ and ‘twists’ evenly, but also aid comprehension.
Infographics can be a really effective way to communicate. Whether you’re a journalist, a researcher or a PR professional, using a visual format COULD be the perfect way for you to reach your audience.
However, the internet is full of terrible examples of infographics that offer little value to the reader.
Here are five ways people are getting it wrong.
You’re doing it for the wrong reasons
When a client approaches me to design an infographic, I ask them a simple question.
“Why do you want one?”
I’m happy when a client answers:
“We have a lot of interesting information that we’d like to get across to our customers”
“We’ve just finished a big project and we’d like to tell our investors all about it”
“We know our audience responds to this format, so we’d like to present our latest report in this way”
However, alarm bells start ringing when I hear:
“Another company down the road has one, and we think we need one too”
That doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Perhaps that company has a different product or audience. Even if they are in the same industry, with the same audience, they may simply have got it wrong – who says it’s right for them?
“Because it will drive a lot of traffic to our website”
Sadly, only a small percentage of infographics ‘go viral”. You are bound to be disappointed if you looking just for clicks. Think about your infographic as a useful communication tool for people interested in your company/product/story. If it’s of wider interest, those people will share it.
If you chase the audience you may end up dumbing down or editing your content – creating a less useful tool.
“I saw one in the paper and it looked cool”
Infographics in magazines and newspapers tend to be content-rich and tell a specific story. Often they’re used to supplement a longer article, helping tell a more complex story. They may have been weeks in the making, with a team of journalists and designers.
Now compare this to the information you’re working with, the time to have to spend on it and the resources available. Will yours look so cool?
Too much “graphic”, not enough “info”
Equal weight should be given to the information and the graphical elements of your infographic.
Too many examples exist online than are thin on content because the creator wanted to produce something that looked good and would attract attention. However, if there’s no content to keep the reader engaged, everyone has wasted their time.
If you don’t have enough information for a strong full-page infographic, think about other approaches. perhaps a smaller graphic would work? Don’t rule out doing some extra research to add more information. Sites like data.gov.uk can be handy for finding national data that could support your arguments.
Treat an infographic like any other form of communication – a report, article, Facebook status update or press release. In each of those you should be tailoring your content, message and language to the audience.
Who is most likely to find your infographic interesting? What do we know about those people? (old, young, male, female, professionals?)
Having this sorted will help you answer some further questions to decide what to feature in your infographic.
what do they know about the subject? (how much do you need to explain?)
how will they feel about the information?
what do you want them to do?
what information do they need / want from your infographic? can they find it quickly?
Also, trying to tailor your infographic to “everyone” means you risk engaging no-one.
You don’t have a clear message
This goes back to the “why?” question in the first point.
What are you trying to say? Take a good look at the information you’re intending to use in your infographic – what is it saying? Are you trying to:
demonstrate your company’s good work over the past year?
persuade the reader to do something?
explain why something has happened?
Make sure you keep this in mind as you are designing – even write it on a post-it and stick it to your computer, so you don’t forget.
I always get my information in shape first. I’ve got a handy process involving lots of post-it notes and big sheets of paper that really helps me assess my information and help me decide if I need to edit it or add to it. It also helps me decide what’s important and begin to develop an overall structure for the final piece.
This helps me stay on message.
You’re trying to do too much
Whilst I use quite a few during my training, I have a fundamental issue with those long thin infographics.
My main issue is that – with no page size to work within – there is no editing or quality control and the creator is tempted to throw everything into it, to make it “better” (read “longer”).
An infographic is not a magic spell that will solve all your problems. Throwing more content into it will only make it less effective. Instead, think – can you break your information down into several smaller infographic images, instead of a full-page? These can be handy for social media, adding to reports or on slides.
Plus – each graphic could have a different message and focus, you could easily create graphics for different audiences.
This series of blog posts will go behind-the-scenes of some of my favourite portfolio pieces, revisiting the challenges and solutions.
INTRO: One of my more recent infographics but definitely a favourite. I’d been looking to create an isometric map for ages, and this seemed like a perfect time to do so. Sadly, I was called away on a family emergency towards the end of this process and would have liked to have tweaked a few things, but all-in-all I’m very happy with it.
BRIEF: I was approached by the University of Oxford to create a series of digital assets for their latest campaign to promote the economic value of the university to the local region.
THE DATA: I was provided with a list of bullet point statistics explaining how much income and jobs students, staff, tourism, science parks and spin-outs bring to the region.
ASSESS THE AIM AND AUDIENCE
Aas part of my new process I now spend time considering the message of the infographic. This helps me shape a clear narrative and decide on an effective design approach. The aim here was to reach people of Oxford, and explain that the University has a value to the whole area, not just the students who attend. This led me to consider a variety of techniques for reaching a local audience – local landmarks, references and maps for example. The client had already asked me not to use the traditional ‘dreaming spires’ imagery of Oxford – and I was glad to oblige. This was a local audience, not necessarily an academic one, so the information had to be relevant, interesting and understandable. We removed one data point regarding the number of ‘spin-outs’ as I felt it was not relevant to this infographic.
EXPLORATION AND WIREFRAMING
Writing the information onto post-it notes I was able to experiment with different layouts quickly. The data lent itself to 2 possible approaches. We had 6 topics, each with 2 data points, which could be arranged into a neat 6×2 grid. Alternatively we could give each topic a geographical location and place all the information on the map. I created two datamaps / wireframes for the client (see below), so they could focus simply on the information being included and feedback on any changes they wanted to the text or narrative. The client eventually opted for the map approach.
LOCATING THE TOPICS
First, I had to allocate each topic a geographical location.
The two science parks were easy to place so they were placed on the map first.
Next I researched the main student residential areas in Oxford (despite the fact so many live in halls) and placed the ‘student’ topic to the east of the city. The ‘staff’ topic was located north-east – where the main administrative building is located. This left tourism, which could easily be located in any part of Oxford, due to its popularity with visitors. The research related to the wider Oxfordshire area, not just Oxford, so this area had to appear on the map. However the locations we were referring to were all clustered in Oxford. I used some artistic license to distribute the locations around the outside of Oxford itself.
CREATING THE ISOMETRIC MAP
The base: Thankfully Adobe Illustrator has an isometric function – which means you can create a grid and tilt it using the Effects > 3D function and changing the option at the top of the box.
The roads: using a screenshot of Oxfordshire I recreated the roads as best i could using the grid format. I did this on a flat square (before I applied the isometric effect above). In retrospect, I would instead use a large green grid, and simply recolour the squares I wanted to show as roads. This would have kept consistency and made for a neater map.
The buildings: I used several buildings from Adobe stock as a base, but amended some key features and added colour to tie in with the topic colour. I attempted to make the science parks look as similar to their real buildings as possible, based on research via Google Earth. I edited some of the windows on the student building to maintain detail-consistency and made some changes to shadow direction as the buildings came from different sources.
The people: I found a set of isometric people which I amended to create the population of the map. I added longer white coats to the scientists, changed the hair colour and dress of the other characters to bring variety.
I’d definitely like to create another isometric map – I really enjoyed the process of creating the universe and found it a creative way to present information.
I’m currently working on a handful of map-based projects for clients.
Two of them are using Tableau to create maps about funding in relation to demographic information. I’m leaning heavily on Mapbox (https://www.mapbox.com) to create personalised maps
The other is a map-based infographic for a new educational client (HINT: a well known top-notch University!)
(note the image above is NOT my map – more on that later)
We have 8/9 key statistics to get across, each of them relating to different groups at the University – e.g. The students, the staff, spin-out businesses etc.
The aim of the map is to highlight the connections with the local community so I’ve decided to put these on a stylised map – with the statistic connected to an area associated with those people e.g. The mainstudent living areas.
The risk now is to avoid the map turning into just a map – as there is a desire to add more locations attatched to the wider project.
I’ve been exploring vairous approaches to the map
> computer-game style
I have come across a great app (http://ift.tt/2ntpUke) that turns any area into a Sims style world – great fun but probably not overly helpful for this project.
I’ve wanted to learn animation for a while. I’d really like to be able to offer simple animated graphics to my clients. Many of them ask for small images to use on social media, as well as full infographics, so I’d like to be able to offer an animated version as well.
Social media is so busy with images, so a GIF that plays and reveals information will help the post really stand out.
I’ve also been feeling creatively dry recently – I’ve had a lot of work on and no time to explore and play with new ideas and methods.
I followed that article to create my first animation – a cheeky robot – using an icon from Noun Project. I specifically didn’t want to spend excess time thinking about the icon itself (I’m no illustrator) so borrowed this cute one and added some simple movement.
Next, I wanted to create something more detailed – but again using a current image. I was a big fan of Kingmaker in the 1990s and remembered their album cover was illustrated and fairly simple – so in theory possible to illustrate with my new skills.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted the image to do, but this was more of an exploration of what was possible.
Step 1 – Prepare the Image
it wasn’t hard to find a copy of the album cover online. I dragged this into Illustrator (artboard 400px x 400px)
I quickly counted the colours that were used, and used the Image Trace tool to vectorise the image down to 6 colours.
After expanding the image I was left with the entire cover broken down by colour area.
Step 2 – Creating Layers
The first step was to break the various elements down into separate layers.
the black background
The pink circle
The 4 spermy things
The drips around the monster tongue
One thing to remember is that the image existed as a flat shape – so the pink circle layer has some very unsightly gaps (see below). The same went for the black layer – which has the outline of the pink circle.
By this point I’d decided I wanted to rotate the pink circle which, in it’s current state, would have left ugly white spaces as it moved round.
My solution was to recreate the black background and pink circle.
The black layer was easy – I simply deleted the old black areas and replaced it with a solid black square that filled the space.
The pink layer was harder – it retrospect I should have simple counted the number of points, however I went through quite a longwinded trial-and-error process to work out the correct number of points.
Once I had completed this I was left with the following layers
Step 3 – The animation elements
The principle for animation in Photoshop is to create different versions of the shape you are moving, and we will move through them in the film.
The circle – the wheel was an easy animation. I duplicated the circle layer 3 times, and rotated each of them slightly. Leaving all 3 layers visible I can ensure I’ve distributed the points evenly to create a smooth motion.
I’ve given each layer a different colour so you can see the distribution:
The spermy things – this was even easier! I duplicated the layer with these little fellas, and flipped them – so they looked like they were swimming in the original film.
The tongue – this was harder and took some trial and error to get the right effect. I broke each drip down into separate layers so I could animate them separately and I tried various patterns of ‘on and off’ to get the right effect.
TIP: The next step is to paste these separate elements into Photoshop. From my robot experiment I found it very hard to make sure all the items are placed in the right spot. So I developed this solution.
Draw a square on one of your layers – as large as you want your final image to be.
Duplicate this square onto all layers and ensure they are aligned.
Set the line and fill colour to transparent.
Then group each layer with the transparent box – now each layer is exactly the same size.
Step 4 – Moving to Photoshop
Open a new document.
Place Illustrator and Photoshop side by side.
In Illustrator, select all the items from one layer (ensure they’re grouped) and paste into Photoshop.
Choose Smart Object, right click and PLACE.
Repeat for each of the images.
Each of your layers now appears as layers in Photoshop which you can rename if you need to.
If it’s not selected, choose TIMELINE from the Windows menu.
All of the layers now appear as purple bars on the timeline – you can slide and move these to turn the elements on and off.
Some of your layers will simply be ON all the time – in this case the black background, the text and the monster face. These purple bars then before full width.
The animated elements will only be on the ‘screen’ for a certain amount of time”
I had 3 versions of the wheel in its rotated stages, I duplicated these to create a faster rotation.
(Duplicate by selecting the elements in the layers menu, hold down ALT and drag!)
This is the circle animation – I’ve coloured the elements (same colours as the wheel breakdown above) so you can see how they repeat.
Each of the 8 drips has a separate layer and I staggered them in the following way to create the effect.
Note: this was lots of trial and error!
Step 5 – export from Photoshop
File > Export > save for Web (legacy)
Ensure the LOOP FOREVER option is selected, make sure you’re happy with the film (check out the preview to see the image online)
You now have an animated GIF.
Step 6 – get this damn thing on Instagram
This is way more complicated than it should be. Instagram doesn’t allow GIFS but can play movie files so you’ll need to convert it.
Man has been daubing on walls and scratching into rock for centuries. Whether it’s “5 Ways to Catch and Skin a Deer” or “The River Styx: Everything You Need to Know”, visual representations of information have been the simplest way to pass information from one person to another.
Nowadays, the data explosion has meant there is not only more information to be conveyed, but an increased demand for access and understanding. We want price checks, reviews and evidence before we hand over our money and companies have to work harder to gain our loyalty. There’s also the decrease in trust of power – public organisations have to be transparent, as each member of the public becomes as hungry for facts and proof as the most voracious reporter of the past. Add the internet and especially social media into the mix and you have the perfect transportation method for this information.
Of course, with every shift in human consciousness, there are those who misunderstand, misuse and abuse this shift. The demand for infographics has reached fever pitch and organisations are now jumping on this dangerously overcrowded bandwagon.
If you’re one of those people thinking, “we need to get visual” but aren’t sure how or why – read on.
What are you visualising?
I’ve been approached by organisations in the past who want infographics creating, but have no idea what the content will be. They’d simply heard the phrase and wanted a piece of the action.
Your visual communication must be driven by content. Would you write a press release or blog post, with no idea at the start what it’s for? Of course not. An infographic or data visualisation must be part of your overall communication message.
If you’d like to use visuals, take a look at your current projects. What kind of information are you dealing with?
For example, are you dealing with numbers/stats, the most common form of content for visual communication? Charts and data visualisation are tried and tested methods of explaining numbers. Great for showing prices, budget cuts, population counts and user demographics.
Perhaps you have location data. Maps are the most obvious way of communicating geographical data, as we understand how maps work and can instantly put ourselves into the picture – we can see how the data will affect us directly. New store locations, country of origin of products, transportation routes all work well mapped.
Many organisations overlook the third type of data: time and dates. Visit a museum and you’ll probably come across a timeline – again, a tool that allows us to put concepts into a visual form for us to understand. If you’re trying to explain the growth of your company, future development plans for an area or a events schedule, a timeline allows the user to access this data in a logical way.
There is another form of data that does not fall into any of these categories, but often requires the most explanation: systems and processes. How your company is structured, how that process works or why that thing happened. Flow diagrams and mindmaps can be useful tools to turn that understanding into something that anyone could follow.
Of course it could be a mix of these – showing stats on a map or the timescale of a process – and this is where infographics and data visualisations get really interesting.
Who is Your Audience?
Spending some time considering your audience will help you pick the right tool for the job. No point using an interactive online only tool if you target audience are not computer users. Of course, infographics and data visualisations can work well in print, whether that’s billboards, posters or flyers – it’s just worth thinking who they are before you start designing.
So here are a few questions to ask yourself about your reader
what do they want from your visual? Why are they engaging with it?
How old are they? You’ll use a different visual for young people and adults
where are they? Reading online? In a doctors surgery? Different attention span, different tool – think
What prior knowledge do they have? Avoid confusing them, but also don’t be condescending.
What are their literacy/numeracy levels? Can you rely on text and stats, or does it need to be simpler than that?
What will they think? You’ll use a different approach to announce job cuts than to promote your new product.
What is their starting point? If you’re mapping libraries in your town, what will they use to search – will they necessarily know the library name or their “ward”? Think about how they’ll interact with your information
Why are you doing this?
What story are you trying to tell with the information? As with a press release, there is something you are trying to get across. Are you announcing some new plans? Is there budget cut information you need to explain?
Each set of data will contain key information – this has probably sparked the idea for a visual in the first place – so make sure your visual tells that story clearly.
Then there’s the message – it may be that you’re not conveying any opinion or feeling on the data – or perhaps you need to make sure you appear sympathetic about those job cuts, or excited about the new product announcements. Either way, you need to make sure that tone is clear through design decisions and tool choice.
The final consideration is action – specifically, what do you want the reader to do? An anti-littering infographic will have the aim of encouraging them to use the rubbish bins. Perhaps you want them to think less harshly of your organisation, or simply understand the situation a little better. Make sure you keep this intended action at the front of your mind when developing your visuals.
Caroline Beavon is a freelance infographic and data visualisation designer. She has worked with local authorities and charities offering information design solutions to comms teams across the UK.
This series of blog posts will go behind-the-scenes of some of my favourite portfolio pieces, revisiting the challenges and solutions.
INTRO: It’s an oldie but definitely one of my favourites. I gave this a refresh a few years back as it was looking a little tired.
BACKGROUND: In 2011 the Guardian newspaper released a story about then-Defence Minister Liam Fox. Specifically it questioned the access his friend Adam Werritty was getting to defence meetings across the world whilst claiming to be Fox’s adviser. The investigation uncovered a series of unsanctioned meetings involving Werritty and Fox subsequently resigned.
BRIEF: This was a personal project. I had just handed in my Masters in Online Journalism final project and used this as a practice piece of data journalism.
THE DATA: The Guardian data blog published an MOD list of all the meetings between Adam Werritty and Liam Fox. That list is still online and available here
Clean the data: I wanted to create a simple yet effective visualisation, so for the purposes of this I simplified the data by removing the US states named, and merging them into USA.
Create the map: I imported the dataset into Tableau and generated a simple circle map – the larger the circle, the more days Werritty spent there. This was quick and effective. I then ‘printed’ the map as a PDF, and imported this into Illustrator, where I could tinker with it further.
Create the timeline: Similarly, I use the data in Tableau to create a timeline with a coloured square foe each date – the colour decided by the country Werritty was in. Again, I ‘printed’ as a PDF and imported into Illustrator.
Create the final image: Once in Illustrator I could begin to connect the map to the timeline with a series of lines. I added the county names, the dates and a darker map to add to the visual appeal.
UX design of infographics – how much can we challenge the reader? Why does everything have to be easy for the reader? Could we convey additional emotion / understanding by making a layout challenging / longwinded / complicated etc?
Total Bombardment – Nellys approach to her work
infographics in every field – using the communication through their visuals
It’s been a month since I moved to Brighton from Birmingham.
I know the city well, having gone to the University of Sussex back in the mid-90s. However, I’ve never had a ‘proper’ job here, so I was keen to jump into the creative / freelance world as soon as possible.
Bell ringing guide at The Skiff, a co-working space in Brighton.
Joining the Skiff was a great decision. It’s know for being one of the cooler and more social co-working spaces (and also one of the more expensive) but it’s been well worth it.
I pay £99 + VAT per month to use the space 2.5 days a week, although they seem fairly laid back about how you use those. It’s all self-managed, so it’s up to each member not to use it more than their membership level allows.
I’ve also met some great people through their fortnightly Friday beers. Free booze and a chance to meet other Skiff members from 5pm has meant a couple of boozy nights out and getting to know my office mates.
Chamber of Commerce
I purposely did not get involved with the Chamber of Commerce in Birmingham. Having interviewed various organisers in the past I felt it was aimed at “men in suits” and the more traditional business world. However, my pre-move research into the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce branch showed they were embracing the creative vibe of the city and doing some relevant and interesting events.
Within a week I’d attended the “new members” event, where I found out that anyone can host a bitesize learning session. I’m definitely considering hosting an infographics workshop in the future. I”m also in conversations with the Chamber organisers to help visualise their most recent survey results.
Change in Attitude
I don’t know if it’s the weather, the proximity to the beach or the general Brighton vibe, but I’m a LOT more chilled out here. I’m still getting things done, and staying on top of work, but I’ve lost that feeling that I have to work every minute of the day. I’m still working early mornings, but I’m far less likely to work into the evening. Instead we’re doing things – like walks on the beach, swimming at a lido in Lewes and Pokemon hunting!
Coffee shop – Presuming Ed, Brighton
Don’t get me wrong – Birmingham is a GREAT city. However, anyone who’s visited Brighton will know it’s an incredibly vibrant, creative and inspiring place. From the art shops on the beach (like Castor and Pollux), the alt coffee shops like Presuming Ed and the bohemian and vintage shops in the North Laine I’m finding inspiration on every corner.
I’m already noticing a change in the colour choices in my work, as I go for more wider palette but with more muted tones. I’ll be interested to see if this sunnier climate will affect my work long term.
Quick thought: When I’m delivering a training session, or talking to clients, I try to avoid using the term ‘data’ and instead use the word ‘information’.
Many clients and trainees fall into the trap of thinking that data means numbers, whether that’s sales figures, yearly activity data or survey results. However, it’s more useful to think of data as information – which can cover anything from times and dates, locations, systems, lists of names … anything that can inform.
In the same way we can turn statistics into charts, so:
– place names can become maps
– dates and times can become timelines
– systems can become diagrams
Adding this non-statistical information to your visuals can help the readers engage with your content. If they’re naturally put off by numbers (as many people are), they may be attracted by a map or diagram alongside them. Adding extra content can also give the reader more rounded information, by adding context to the story. For example, seeing where your offices are located may help the reader understand differences in sales patterns.
The benefits of adding non-statistical information to your graphics
– more context for the reader
– delivers a more rounded insight into the statistics
– more appealing to readers deterred by statistics
If you’re working on an infographic or data visualisation, don’t forget about the other information around this subject. It could make all the difference.
Quick update today – half day in the office finishing off a project then heading home (for a change of scenery) to work on some admit bits and pieces.
Final day of work on this mapping project, which has turned into a bit of a report layout job. This has led me to consider offering layout as an additional service. I’ve always turned work like that down, but I really enjoyed tinkering with this clients text, and whilst there wasn’t time (or permission) to do a full rework, even some colours, smart font choices and smarter ways to show data has made all the difference.
That’s it for design for today. Going head home and get on with some admin tasks
– blog post on Report Beautifying (defiintely needs a new name)
– finances – I tend to throw all my accounts in Tableau and visualise them because I’m a data nerd!
– rework some PDF’s I give to attendees of my training sessions on Tableau, Piktochart and RAW. They’re a bit out of date and could do with redesigning. I’m then going to offer them as incentives to sign up to my mailing list. Which reminds me …
– I need to write my first email for my mailing list :-S
I’m working on a couple of fairly straightforward infographic projects today. I prefer to have several projects on the go at a time – it means I always have something to work on, even if some are with clients for review.
I’m creating 5 A4 graphics to be inserted into a Word report. These 5 pages are made up of stylised maps (of a town, a region and the UK) with points referring to a directory of artists / organisations. Working over several pages has been interesting (most of my work is single page) and wrangling this much text has been fun. I’ve also got to use cute icons and to aid navigation across the page.
18 months ago I worked with a Birmingham recruiter to create a series of infographics to share their key statistics and contact details. Now I’ve been asked to modify one of the pages for a different department. My design skills have improved in 18 months and I’m having to fight the urge to redesign the whole thing. I’m also getting to work with a subtle texture on the page, which really adds something special to the image.
Public health survey
This has been a long running project with some major rethinks along the way. We’re 99% there, and after toying with data visualisations and interactive tools, we’ve now settled on a set of 3 infographics to show the key data from this sexual survey. I’ve wanted to use a hi-res photo background for an infographic for a while, and the image worked perfectly. Bonus that it was one of my 7 free images from Adobe Stock.
For several years I’ve been testing and trying different pricing structures for my freelance design work. However, one area I’ve been looking to explore is agile pricing.
The problems I’m hoping to solve are:
– new clients asking for ideas as part of a ‘pitch process’
– scope creep kicking in and pushing the project over budget, with no clear grounds for me to increase the price
– addition of new items
– blurring between the various stages so unclear when I can resort to my “I charge more for changes in this stage” caveat
What is Agile?
If a project is agile, it is broken down into “sprints”, each of which has a defined and tangible deliverable, in my case, a wireframe, image or report. With a tangible outcome, we can also attach a pre-agreed price to that ‘chunk’ of work.
Each section is priced up during the sprint before it – to allow for changes in scope.
– setting a price for each ‘sprint’ (including initial consultation) will mean I am paid for any work I do, even if the client takes it no further.
– currently my initial suggestions are made with a single pre-defined outcome based on quote price, this allows for more flexibility as we (the client and I) explore the project.
– it is an easy entry point for clients not 100% sure about working with me
– we can easily discuss and price-up changes that arise during each sprint
– if it’s not working for either party and the project does not reach completion, I still get paid for the work done – often not possible to quantify with a flat rate job with one outcome
– it is an unusual approach for design work and might confuse / deter clients
– charging for ‘ideas’ may put some clients off from the outset
– as with hourly – clients may be unwilling to enter into a project with an unknown final price. The solution here may be to offer an estimate or even a Max price.
What are your thoughts? Do you, as a designer, use this method?
I’m about to relocate 3 hours across the country from Birmingham to Brighton. To my American readers that may not seem very far (I know people who’ve moved from New York to LA), but it’s still a big deal to me. I’ve been talking about moving for about 3 years and I’m not going to lie – the main reason it’s taken me so long to actually do it, is my business.
I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked with some great people in and around Birmingham. It’s a big city strong communities in the digital, arts, heritage and local authority fields. I’ve done interesting projects and had great feedback, and so word has spread and I now have clients all over the country.
However, this hasn’t stopped the concerns.
– Will my current clients keep me on, once I’ve moved?
– Will my current cheerleaders (my network in Birmingham) continue to spread the word about me?
– How easy will it be to meet new people, and potential clients, in Brighton?
– Will my freelance business take a hit after I’ve moved?
Here’s my advice:
Keep people informed
Current clients – Back in December I emailed my largest clients and let them know I’d be moving. Word was starting to get out and I wanted to assure them that I would continue to be available for future work. Several of them messaged back, wishing me luck and saying they’d continue to book me in the future.
New clients – Since deciding to move I’ve had several new Birmingham-based clients come on board. I’ve been up-front with them about the relocation and assured them that I’ll still be available (apart from on my move day!)
Via my website / social media – I’ve kept more public discussions of my move under wraps until a little closer to me leaving. I was concerned that it may put people off contacting me about new work.
Find a co-working space
Joining a co-working space will be a great way to meet new people, both socially and for work purposes. Brighton has several to choose from but I’ve settled with The Skiff, which seems to have a laid back vibe and a digital/tech-heavy membership. It also means I get membership to the Wired Sussex network, which means more people and access to jobs and projects forums. I’m planning to visit the The Skiff 2.5 days a week, and will work from home for the rest of the time. Hopefully with a cat.
Find other communities
I’ve used meetups.com to find relevant groups in Brighton, and joined them. I”m not even there yet and my diary is full of things to get along to, when I land. These are a mix of work-related and personal interest groups.
I’ve also volunteered myself to help revive Brighton Hacks and Hackers which should be a lot of fun and great way to meet people.
Lurk like crazy
Social media has been great and tapping into the Brighton scene from a distance, although it was been more successful for my social life than my work life, at the moment. I’ve:
– set up a Brighton Instagram account – no posts yet but following a lot of bars, pubs, cafes, magazines + venues.
– made a Twitter list of creative and digital organisations and people across the city
I’ve had a good couple of years and have managed to save some money in my business account, so I can pay myself and keep my things running for 5/6 months. Hopefully it won’t come to that but it means I won’t have to take any old job that comes along and I can actually spend some time enjoying my new life in Brighton.
Comments disabled but let me know your thoughts via Twitter
I’m in the middle of selling my flat in Birmingham and relocating to Brighton, on the south coast. As with any move there is a huge list of things that need to be done – not the least is packing. However, I’m still waiting for my move date so I can’t really start tackling most of that list as it could be a few weeks away.
Also knowing a move is coming I’ve cleared the decks a little work-wise, so I’m now spinning my wheels a little. I know it’s going to be hectic once we get the dates so I’m trying to enjoy the downtime while I can.
Last week I was approached by a professional organisation to quote for a 4-page infographic report due end April. I sent over a few ideas and some figures and am now keeping my fingers crossed.
I’m due to hear back this week and and keen to get started as soon as possible if I’m successful.
CAR RETAILER CHAIN
A blast from the past this one! A former work colleague contacted me through Facebook to ask about my infographic services. They’re keen to add this communication format to their portfolio, but had no strong ideas of what they wanted to do.
This is quite an unusual situation for me, as I’m usually working with a clients data or information. In this case, I’m pulling from my journalism background to help develop a series of small infographics to be seeded over social media.
Again, a few ideas were sent over .. let’s hope it comes off as I’m really keen to work on this one.
My role as a freelancer means I work on a wide variety of projects. From one-off infographics, to long-running research projects. I’ve found that there is not a single perfect pricing system – instead I make a decision on a project-by-project basis. I will ask myself:
– is there a defined outcome / product?
– have I done anything like this before?
– how easily can I estimate the hours I will spend on this?
– is there a risk of ‘project creep’?
– could there be ongoing work?
– how long will the project last?
– who is the client? How well do I know them?
– does the client have a set budget?
Total Project Cost
I will quote a total project cost if there is a single, defined outcome that I can easily scope. There must be little risk of ‘project creep’ or clearly set boundaries for stages within the project.
– Pro – set price for the client so they’re more likely to agree
– Pro – beneficial for me if the project is completed within my budget
– Pro – project management made easier due to set hours / budget
– Con – I could lose out financially if the project runs over
I will quote hourly if the project brief is still being defined or has the potential to change in scale. If the project is ongoing work with many elements I will quote hourly.
– Pro – I am paid for the work I do – so I will never lose out financially
– Con – clients get nervous if they don’t know the final amount. An estimate is sometimes needed
Hourly (maximum price)
This has been a successful combination of the 2 previous pricing structures. I will invoice based on the hours worked, but the total will never exceed the value stated in the quote. This works if I have some idea on the scope, but there are some uncertainties.
– Pro – client more likely to agree as they know the maximum price
– Pro – In most cases I will be paid for the all work I do
– Con – if the project runs over significantly I could lose out financially
Project BuilderThis structure works if there are multiple ways of presenting the information with sets of images. The client is given a list of potential options with a price-per-item. They can pick and choose items from the list to match their budget.
– Pro – client gets flexibility
– Pro – client has early editorial input
– Pro – flexible if client already has strong ideas
– Pro – pricing per graphic means I am less likely to lose out financially
A client may wish to sign you up for an extended period of time, agreeing to pay you a set amount each month, for a set amount of hours based on your hourly rate. This is different to a full time contract as multiple clients may have you on a retainer. Note: I do not currently have any clients using this pay structure.
– Pro – client has an expected invoice each month
– Pro – I have an guaranteed income each month
– Pro – potential to be paid for hours not worked
– Con – difficulty / reluctance to charge for hours over the monthly allowance
– Con – client may not realistic understanding what is achievable in the monthly allowance
In November 2015 Computer Arts magazine published a list of the top 30 studios in the UK, as chosen by a panel of experts.
I wanted to create a tool to summarise this information, to allow users to check out an individual studio and compare it with the rest of the top 30. This was a personal project and was not commissioned by Computer Arts. Since posting this, however, Computer Arts have been in touch saying how much they like it.
My Route was a heritage project based in Birmingham. I was commissioned to design a touch table that would show the changing history of the Stratford Road, one of the key routes in the city, from the 1940s to today.
Working with digital agency Substrakt, and touch table developer John Sear, we created an interactive touch table that was placed in a local community centre and a library for several weeks for the public to use.
The touch table shows a selection of the businesses, with audio, image and video content. Users interact with the touch table by moving the coloured “decade” lenses over the road, and icons appear when there is content available. Touching the icon reveals the content.
BRIEF: To concept and create a series of graphics for an animated “explainer” video for airline in-flight entertainment company, Paxlife to promote Cloud 10.
This was a collaboration with filmaker / animator Liz Smith (Entertaining TV). who generated the animations and project-managed. Together we planned out the graphics based on the client script and developed a seamless workflow.
It’s been quite a year! Here are a few of my highlights from 2015.
Without doubt, the largest project I’ve ever worked on.
My Route was a heritage project looking at the history of the Stratford Road in Birmingham through the changing businesses.
I was commissioned by Sampad to design a touch table to allow the users to explore a map of the road, and find stories through audio, image and video content.
This involved working with partner organisations over many months before the final project was complete.
Next stage: I’d love to work on something similar again – I found the heritage/tech/design crossover particularly interesting.
I’ve been using Tableau since 2010 but it’s only recently that I’ve actually turned it into a service I can offer clients.
Tableau is a tool that allows you to create quick charts and dashboards with your own data. It’s incredibly powerful and has helped me with many of my own projects in the past. I am now working with a few clients, using Tableau to present their data and create interactive tools for their websites.
The key point for me was working on a ‘for-fun’ project (left) showing the top 30 design studios in the UK. It’s incredible how useful working on personal projects can be, especially if they are a success. This one has currently had over 4000 views and the magazine loved it!
The next stage is to tighten up my Tableau process. I need to develop a defined workflow, as I have for infographics and data design.
Training / Consultancy
The training side of my business has grown considerably this year. During 2014 I was delivering courses to local councils and arts organisations interesting in learning more about infographics and data design.
During 2015 I delivered a training day at the European Research Institute in the Netherlands (with more training to come in that country) and 2 training days at the Press Association for 2 different organisations.
I have realised that there is need for a consultancy service – allowing me to work with organisations, helping them sort their data and build infographics.
The next stage for me is to really develop the consultancy side of my business.
Music Journalism Book
2015 started out with me wrapping up the final edits of a music journalism distance learning book/module for the Open School of Journalism. I’d spent most of November and December writing this, and was so pleased to finally see the finished version in print late 2016.
I was a broadcast journalist for several years (including 5+ as a music reporter at Kerrang! Radio), before moving into infographics design. Writing this book was a great excuse to dig back into my memories and relive some of those moments.
The next stage is for me to turn a version of this text into an ebook (with permission from the School) and sell it on Amazon. That’s a job for 2016.
Planning a Relocation
Anyone who knows me will know I’ve been yearning to move to Brighton for years. I was a student there and always said I’d move back when I could afford to. Well, I’m, not sure WHO could afford to live in Brighton but I’ve decided to make a go of it anyway! My apartment in Birmingham sold quickly and now I’m on the hunt for something down there.
The next stage is to find an apartment in Brighton and set up shop down there! Hopefully my current clients won’t notice too much of a change in service – and for the London ones, I’m even closer. Plus, Brighton is a cool, digital and arty city, and I hope it will bring about more customers.
I know as Brits we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but it seems as good an opportunity as any to send out some THANKS of my own.
I’ve been running my own business for several years now (after a career change brought on by redundancy from my job in commercial radio) and I still have to pinch myself today when I think about all i have achieved. Yes, I work hard, yes I’ve been savvy, but I could not have achieved what I have without the support and kindness of the people I’ve met along the way. The people named below have gone above and beyond in supporting and promoting my business in their respective worlds and in some cases, teaching me invaluable skills.
When I left my radio gig in 2009, I immediately signed up as one of the first students at Birmingham City University‘s MA in Online Journalism. I was looking to shore up my online skills, social media, blogging etc and planned emerge the other end most likely “doing web stuff” for a radio station or newspaper.
Little did I know that I was about to be pulled into the world of data journalism – an area that would shape the job I do today.
Course leader Paul Bradshaw was (and still is) incredibly influential. Not only did he teach me some seriously handy skills and introduce me to a whole new area of journalism, he continues to recommend me for work today. Paul and I still work together today on data projects and the occasional training session. I must also give mention to the “Bradshaw Effect’ -when Paul retweets something of yours, you know about it!!!
￼It was Andy’s invitation to speak at Brewcamp back in 2000-and-something, that threw me headlong into the world of local government comms. I gave a brief talk about my infographics and data work, and was introduced to a handful of people who would go on to be some of my biggest clients and recommend my work to their colleagues. For the last few years local government has been one of my biggest client sectors.
Andy is always supportive and friendly, as continues to share my name throughout his network, leading to a host of new work even today. It is much appreciated!
Dan and Darren were two of my first clients during their time at Walsall Council. I met them at the Brewcamp event I mentioned above and immediately they approached me about some work. Both Dan and Darren have not only hired me directly, but they have pushed me in front of their significant networks and directly led to a massive amount of work.
Both Dan and Darren have been incredibly supportive, and I thank them no end of their ongoing kind words and mentions.
I enjoy working with Pete Jackson. His constant enthusiasm about the design work I do for IEWM is motivating and his willingness to experiment and tackle new approaches is wonderful for a designer. He’s one of life’s genuine ‘good guys’ and is always approaching me with new opportunities and ideas, which have allowed me to expand my skill set and explore new areas.
Lara is one of those people who seems to know everyone. Incredibly well connected, and liked, Lara is a force to be reckoned with. Lara’s links with the arts /culture world, and invitations to speak at various events, has really helped me move into this area. Lara has celebrated my work and helped me forge some fantastic links in this sector. I’ve worked on several of Lara’s own projects,and her introduction to the guys at Sampad has led to a fruitful and ongoing relationship.
What can I say about Sampad? I’ve provided graphics for their annual reports for several years, but it was my work with them on the My Route project that I am the most proud. From my first conversation with Clayton Shaw, he was keen to bring me in to help develop an interactive touch table – and 2 years later, we did it!. As the largest piece of work I have ever worked on, and a totally new area for me, My Route was a dream project, and Sampad were a dream client. They were open minded, creative and willing to experiment with new technologies. Their enthusiasm for my work is always encouraging and the opportunities they have given me have been second to done.
I could go on – there are more people who have hired, praised, supported, recommended, celebrated and promoted my work. There are also people in my personal life (my smarter and weirder other-half Danny Smith and my family) who have been unerringly supportive along the way – I cannot thank you all enough.
There are times in projects when you get completely stuck.
You may find yourself going in circles, with a million reasons why you can’t continue. These could be the fault of the client, overload of tasks, or a general bad feeling about how it’s all progressing.
For example you’re:
waiting for more information from someone else
not enjoying the project
struggling to understand the clients needs
overwhelmed by too many tasks
Every way you turn there is another reason NOT to progress, so nothing gets done.
This happens to me from time to time. I am often working on several projects at a time, and it can be easy to keep heading towards the easier ones than the harder ones. As a freelancer I don’t have a line manager to talk to, so this is one of those times when I need to play both roles.
That’s why I started using a Stuck Wheel.
Some of this stuff may seem really obvious, but it’s helped get me out of a stuck project many times.
You Will Need
A4 sheet of paper / large notebook
2 pens of different colours
Write the name of the project in the centre of an A4 sheet of paper and draw a circle round it.
Then, creating a ‘spider diagram’ (and leaving space between each entry and the edge of the page) write down each of the problems you are facing with the project. All of them. They can be an insignificant or as personal as you like, no one else is going to see this. The idea is to capture all of the BLOCKS you are facing with this project. Think carefully about all the things you need to do, and why you can’t do them right now. Remember: there are no stupid entries here, so if you just hate the project, and don’t want to work on it any more, write it down. Just make sure its not the ONLY thing on your wheel!
Connect each problem to the central circle with a line.
Now it’s time to act like a boss for a moment.
Using the other pen, go through each of the problems and write a response to them. for example:
BLOCK: waiting for a response from client
ANSWER: email or call client for a response
BLOCK: don’t have the software i need
ANSWER: set aside some time to download and install the software
This seems pretty obvious, but it’s amazing how often these little easily solved problems can sit and fester, and halt the whole project.
However, when I do the STUCK WHEEL there are always some emotional blocks as well. The answers to these will depend on the particular project but could go as follows:
BLOCK: I’m worried XYZ will happen
ANSWER: it might. Plan for XYZ to happen by doing ABC
BLOCK: I don’t feel like doing this right now
ANSWER: (if the project is not urgent) – schedule a time to do this in the future, forget about it for now and do something else
ANSWER: (if the project is urgent) -TOUGH! you have a responsibility to your client and your business. JUST GET ON WITH IT
Seriously, this is how I talk to myself in my STUCK WHEEL. Sometimes you need someone to kick your arse, and in this instance, it has to be yourself.
Read back through your answers and transfer any actionable items to your to-do list (in my case a bullet journal).
email client for confirmation on something
schedule a day to work on this another day
download X software
I’ve always used Tableau to quickly get to grips with a new data set and play with different chart types until I come across something effective. I’ve also created several ‘personal’ projects using this tool.
More recently, I’ve been talking to several clients about creating Tableau dashboards or interactive infographics for them.
These are the questions I ask myself / them at the start of any new Tableau project, on top of the usual design questions (which may form another blog post at some point)
My Route was a heritage project based in Birmingham. I was commissioned to design a touch table that would show the changing history of the Stratford Road, one of the key routes in the city, from the 1940s to today. You can find out more about the whole project in this short film
After several months of research and trialling, I began developing a map that would allow users to see the businesses along the road in 10 years intervals. Using the Kelly’s Directories, phone books, Yellow Pages and other research, I created a giant spreadsheet showing the business name, type and category.
Working with digital agency Substrakt, and touch table developer John Sear, we created an interactive touch table that was placed in a local community centre and a library for several weeks for the public to use.
The touch table shows a selection of the businesses, with audio, image and video content.
Users interact with the touch table by moving the coloured “decade” lenses over the road, and icons appear when there is content available. Touching the icon reveals the content.
A few months back I was invited by Glynis Powell and Sue Knox of the Marches Network (a group of museum development officers working across the West Midlands) to create an infographic to show off their work.
The information was a mix of statistics and text-based information on the various projects and successes throughout the year.
Grouping the Information
My first job was to look through the information for groupings – a way to sort the data and allow the reader to approach it in an organised manner.
I settled on 6 category titles:
These neatly covered all the areas of work – and all the data fitted into at least one of these categories – with some falling into more than one. This led to an interesting challenge, showing crossovers, and shared categories. I’ll confess, I’ve been dying to try a tube style map for a while, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
My normal process is to scribble a few words about each “bit” of information onto a post-it note, and spend a good amount of time (1-2 hours) rearranging them on my desk until a pattern or structure appears. However, in this case I felt Gliffy was a better tool. Gliffy is an online mind-mapping/flow diagram tool – and the main benefit for me is the ability to attach connection lines between 2 boxes, which move as you rearrange the boxes. perfect!
I created a series of boxes, one for each section of information, plus one header box for each category and started drawing the connection lines.
See the diagram below.
Note: as with any information – these connections were based on my understanding of the data – the client made some changes and further advice on how they felt the data should be grouped – so this diagram does not match the finished piece.
Moving into Illustrator
This Gliffy diagram gave me a great point of reference – when moving into Illustrator.
Gliffy allows you to export as an SVG file, which can be very useful in Illustrator, however i this case I simply printed off the image and had it next to me as I worked.
I created a grid on my Illustrator page to give me an idea of how large each “text box” should be, and then started creating the individual elements.
Once the tex boxes were in the right place I used the pen tool (with a 2mm curve) to create the lines.
There was some time between getting the brief, and receiving the information, so I spent this time working on the theme and colours I’d use in the infographic. Along with this infographic, there was also a set of 7 infographics I was to create in the future, so wanted to settle on a strong colour scheme that would work across all of them.
Textures and Ephemera
Even from the early drafts I wanted to give the infographics a weathered, archive feel – so used the texture below at 20% opacity. It added a beautiful finish to the infographic.
On the final graphic – I had to remove this texture as it caused some problems with file sizes, to be replaced with a simple pattern of random small dots. However it did reappear in the series of 7 infographics that followed.
I also wanted to add some further elements of “ephemera” to the infographic – museum style items, i.e handwritten notes, postcards, objects that would give that archive feel. As you can see above, the handwritten notes really added some texture>
I sourced these items from a range of places, including Design Cuts, and the host of free-vintage image sites out there including:
Every time I need to create a gender-related chart, i.e. the number of men or women doing XYZ and I need to use colour to define between them, I always ask the same question?
Should I automatically use pink for girls and blue for boys?
There are a dozen reasons why not – and I’d prefer not to get into a gender debate here (there are more suitable locations for that sort of debate).
However, when creating charts it’s important to keep things simple and ask as little as possible of the reader. In this case – should be expect the reader to re-align their assumptions about colours, and have to work out that, for example, green is male and orange female?
Chart A – gender-stereotype arguments aside, it’s clear in this chart what the colours represent.
Chart B – we’re now expecting the reader to not only “de-programme” their assumptions about colour, but also use the key to work out which is which.
A few thoughts:
i guess we should all start “de-programming” ourselves and getting out of the habit of automatically using pink for girls and blue for boys. By continuing to use those colours, we are perpetuating the problem
How do we speed up the processing of the chart, and remove this extra step of looking at the key.
Do we come across the same problems with the male and female “toilet” symbols – yes, we understand what they mean, but again, do they cause issues?
Also, this chart is MUCH harder to read as we are having to analyse the “shape” of the markers (which are very similar), instead of the colour.
Comments are sadly closed due to spamming issues, but I’d love to know your thoughts via the social media buttons you can find on the right!
I’ve been considering the relationship between brand guidelines and infographics recently. I’d love your thoughts on this – tweet me!
A lot of infographics created today are wholly standalone from the rest of the company’s materials.
Is this right? Should infographics be 100% branded, partially or not at all?
(of course, it depends on the use, right?)
In my experience there are 3 potential scenarios:
client wants the infographic to strictly adhere to their brand guidelines
client would like fonts and colours used correctly, but is open about design style
client want’s something completely different to their brand guidelines
Scenario 1 – a client will furnish me with their data, creative brief and brand guidelines. They are insistent that all fonts, colours and logos are used as stated and want an infographic that fits wholly within their communication materials.
I can understand my some organisations would want to maintain a clean, consistent brand: especially if it’s particularly strong. The infographics would be easily recognisable as being from that organisation. They can be used in presentations, reports and alongside other communication materials whilst maintaining a united approach.
However, is there a risk of the infographic appearing too-corporate? If the company has a fun brand style, then it may work well as an infographic. However, a more traditional, staid, (dare we say it boring?) brand could end up looking like a corporate presentation. If you’re trying to reach a new audience, for example younger or more ‘hip”, this brand may not work in this case.
Scenario 2 – this tends to be smaller clients, or those who do not have a defined creative “look” for their organisation. They may not be in the creative or tech industries (i.e. engineering or manufacturing) and are less concerned with their corporate identity.
In these cases I tend to lean towards using the colours in their logo. As they are less defined about their brand, I would want anything I create to fit, in some way if only colour, with their other communication materials.
The risk here is that the client develops a disjointed approach. Yes, the infographic may have been effective in it’s own right – and perhaps that’s enough. However, if the client is considering using the infographic long term, or developing their corporate brand, it may be wise to spend some time thinking about the overall look and feel of the organisation and bring the infographic in line with that.
Scenario 3 – I have had clients who have wanted to try something completely new and move far away from their corporate identity. This tends to be more traditional organisations who recognise that their brand is either not suited to the infographic or would not be well-received by the public.
I am yet to come across a client who wants an infographic without their logo (although I can imagine a public body, for example, may want the focus to be on the message, not on the organisation behind it!)
Organisations that have a range of audiences, i.e. a local council may want to reach out to different people at different times, so would want a range of design approaches.
Surely the audience should come first. If they would respond positively to the clients brand then use it, if not, perhaps go another way?
@carolinebeavon too much adherence to brand guidelines means the end user is forgotten about. Content designed for consumer not brand…
It’s been all about housing associations recently!
I’m currently working on an annual report infographic for Thames Valley Housing (covering their key statistics) but was also recently invited to speak to a network group of National Housing Federation communications professionals in the West Midlands.
I delivered a 45 minute talk on infographics including:
the process of developing them
some key tools.
What I find interesting at these events is hearing about what the individuals are doing, and thinking how infographics / information design could fit into their communication plans.
There was an interesting discussion about newsletters. It seems many of the HA’s still post out a physical newsletter as opposed to email, as some residents don’t have internet access. These newsletters seem to cover the main events and news since the last issue was released.
Infographics would be a great way to engage readers in the developments of the HA, and the changes in their environment. Each issue could include a really simple diagram or chart giving a snapshot of the demographics of other residents, for example, or the number of new homes acquired.
Using a similar style in each issue, and having the infographic on the same page, could become a really interesting destination for readers.
As I mentioned above, I’m currently working on an annual report infographic for Thames Valley Housing. This will sit within their full report, but will also work as a standalone graphic.
Annual reports are chock-full of standalone statistics – i.e. customer demographics, number of homes, moves . new lets, size of homes etc. This is perfect for the infographic layout style.
Leaflets / Flyers
Leaflets are a great way to distribute information, especially to a less digitally-active audience. If you’re trying to drum up interest in a subject, for example – a change in rent, a new development or to highlight a particular problem area (i.e. anti-social behaviour) you could turn the leaflet into a fold-out infographic, or use small diagrams to back up the text/argument.
The housing process can be a stressful time for new residents. The paperwork and process can be confusing so HA’s could head off any tension by creating a series of documents with infographics to explain what, when and how things will happen.
For example, a timeline of the application process will allow people to understand how long it will take, whilst a chart could explain what the rent covers and how often it needs to be paid.
Residents could also learn about the various housing options with infographics showing demographic breakdown (i.e. are there other children nearby for mine to play with? or is it a particularly young area).
Take a look at the image above! There’s no reason to keep infographics on the page or screen. Tidy Street in Brighton plotted their electricity use on the road itself for a few months back in 2011. Read more about this here
It could be about recycling, fundraising or any other group challenge! Why not?
Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details
Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details
PLEASE NOTE: This is a work-in-progress blog post. It would be great to get any feedback or thoughts via the social networks (links right) as I write the remaining sections. I am also posting some questions throughout the article, if you know the answer, do let me know!
By definition, infographics contain information. Organisations are using them to explain systems, demonstrate data and make arguments. They have become so popular that many organisations are relying on them, and forgoing written text.
Infographics are generally a great way to get information out there. The visual form can help people understand complex information and retain the facts. With attention spans ravaged by social media, you’re also more likely to get an audience to engage with an image than a block of text.
Whilst diagrams have long been the default method for explaining data or complex systems, the rise of the internet and social media has meant that infographic images can be shared and viewed at a fast rate. As organisations struggle to be heard over the noise, they are adopting new ways to make their information stand out.
According to the RNIB, almost two million people in the UK are living with sight loss. That’s approximately one person in 30.
That’s a lot of people not getting your information if you ONLY use infographics to communicate.
Any organisation, but especially those delivering public services, really do need to think carefully about these issues.
Further more, if your organisation has an older audience, the statistics are even more sobering, with a fifth of 75+ yr olds and half of 90+ yr olds living with sight loss. That’s a huge percentage of your audience who simply aren’t getting the information.
Visually Impaired Online?
It’s worth remembering a couple of things:
not all visually impaired people are completely sightless
visually impaired people (even those with no sight) ARE accessing the internet
So we ned to not only think about HOW we design the infographics so more people can access them, but also come up with alternative ways to present the information so it’s not all hidden in an image.
Also, remember, the internet is now not only the domain of the young. More and more elderly people are getting online to shop, maintain friendships, pay bills etc. Therefore any infographics you do use need to carefully considered.
Accessible Infographics – a few ideas
I’ll admit, this is a new area for me, but I wanted to look into it as it has been raised several times over the past few weeks, most recently by a Twitter user in response to a blog post I had written:
This section will cover both a way to design an infographic that is open to reader software, but also further down, how to think about the design you do use, to assist people with poor vision or colour blindness.
Do we lose some share-ability here? Yes the link is shareable but is the power of the infographic in the visual impact?
Not all people with a visual impairment are completely blind. Therefore, with some considerate designing, images could still be helpful.
People will poor eyesight may still be able to see your images, with the help of zooming tools, for example. However, infographics are often designed to be viewed as a whole image. Navigation is based on layout and style, so you can easily see where the next set of information is. If you’re zoomed right in, this navigation becomes harder if you can’t see the next header on your screen.
Nowadays there are plenty of tools that can help people with visual impairments use the internet. Screen readers will turn text into audio so everyone can get access to the information. However, most infographics are images which cannot be read by screen readers.
However, the rise of visual graphics has meant that some organisations are using these static “flat” images (where the text is not readable) as the ONLY means of conveying their message.
I’ve seen campaigners as for image descriptions on social media (Blog post) – so if a photo is shared, accompanying text gives a very brief insight into the image to allow visually-impaired people the chance to share in the emotions. I think that’s a great idea and has certainly made me reconsider how I share images online.
When it comes to sharing infographics, it would be impossible to convey all the information in 140 characters (in the case of Twitter) or without resorting to the swathes of text the infographic has replaced.
I’d suggest we post at last SOME text with an infographic, but they so often get separated from their original location, this may be redundant.
I know that my infographics have normally stemmed from a succinct list of statistics and information from the client. Could THIS be cleaned up and posted online for people who use screen readers? I would certainly be happy to offer this as part of my wider infographics design service.
Data visualisations bring about their own set of accessibility problems.
I recently worked on a very complex diagram for an arts project, which featured lots of lines and small (and often curved:) text. It was designed to be purposely complex, but would be very difficult for some people to access.
However, the data visualisation itself was based on a simple 10 column / 50 row spreadsheet.
It seemed logical to be to have this spreadsheet posted as a link near the infographic, so anyone would be able to access it – see example below from the Agency for Healthcare. Research and Equality).
However, what kind of tables can be read by “reading” software, what formatting is needed etc?
I contacted the RNIB for their thoughts. Their usually useful website is being refurbished so they kindly sent me a document of the pages currently offline, and information used to advise their staff. The document can be RNIB advice on Excel spreadsheets, and includes these pointers:
Top ten accessibility pointers
Break down complex data sets into logical tables ideally with their own worksheets. New tables should be created on separate worksheets to aid navigation and understanding.
Reserve the first worksheet for a contents or index page.
The focus of my talk was Presenting Your Big Data, where I was keen to stress the importance of thinking about the audience. Highly technical and numerate crowds often forget that the people they’re communicating with may not understand data as well as they do. It’s important to engage the audience, connect with them, help them understand, reveal the data through navigation and allow the audience to make their own discoveries through exploration. You can see my slides here
Ahead of the event I was collared for a quick interview with Paige from The Information Daily. The interview may be appearing on the Information Daily website soon – I’ll share the link when it goes up!
The presentation was delivered on the Giant Screen at Millennium Point which I wasn’t a huge fan of – no slides look good at that scale and some of the audience looked a little too comfy in those big cinema seats!
I did get the change to have an interesting discussion with Vernon Blackmore about the use of infographics and diagrams in academic documents. Several organisatons are still reliant on heavy text and documentation. A phD student (Stuart?) who joined our chat admitted that his attention span was low and he struggled to tackle weighty tomes! Vernon suggested that there could be some greater encouragement of visual communication within academia, where students are encouraged to demonstrate their learning through diagrams instead of text, and he’s already recommending tools like Infogr.am to help them present their information!
I’ve also spend quite a bit of time this week researching environmental graphic design after a potential client asked be to quote for creating a wall-based infographic for their new building.
This is an interesting area. Museums and galleries are already adept at using their space to relay information but until now my experience has been either on a flat surface (paper or online) or in an animated interactive space (touch table).
The added challenge with this brief was to allow the infographic to be up-dateable on a regular basis (ie monthly) as the statistics change.
After seeing her speak at the Design Festival in Cheltenham, I was taken with Morag Myerscough/Studio Myerscough‘s huge scale graphics, and have been inspired by her use of text, colour and usability. You can see some of the images I’ve pulled together as part of this research on Pinterest
The job would include actually putting the infographic onto the wall, so I’ve also been looking into various techniques for adding lettering and design to a surface – ie vinyl letters, stencils etc.
Fingers crossed the client likes the ideas I sent over!
CUC – Creating Usable Content
I’m in Cardiff next week delivering an Infographics workshop for the Creating Usable Content event. I’ll be travelling down with one of my co-tutors, Pete Ashton, on the Sunday night and spending all of Monday delivering the course several times over.
My aim for the 50 minute workshop is to guide group through the infographics process! Now as this usually takes a couple of days it’s going to be quite fast paced, but I’ve already prepared the information and will be using it to help everyone learn the important of sorting your content and thinking about your audience!
I have a couple of other projects bobbling along nicely right now – I’m working on Sampad’s My Route project, where we’re developing an interactive touch table app to allow people to explore the history of the Stratford Road in Birmingham.
I’m also in the very early stages of writing an e-learning book on Music Journalism for the Open Professional School – I’m making a start on the initial outline next week so will report back then on how it’s coming together!
And finally, I’m trying to find the time to work on a couple of self-initiated projects (i.e. not for a client) including:
an idea for some hyperlocal maps to help people find useful locations in their local area (ie cashpoints, cafes, parks etc) that they may not be aware of
images for Red Bubble – a site which allows customers to “build” their own products (tshirts, iphone cases etc) from images uploaded by designers, who get a cut of the original – not sure if its entirely worth the effort, but I’m currently investigating!
Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details
Given the wide and diverse range of academics, businesses, students and Heritage organisations working collaboratively on the DHD project, we will be hosting free monthly “cake” (Collaboration and Knowledge Exchange) mornings to showcase current developments, discuss funding opportunities and tackle current challenges. Plus – there will be cake!
I went to CAKE for the first time in March, and found it a really interesting event, although I didn’t stick around to properly meet many new people! Thankfully I’ve been invited to speak at the April event, and will make a concerted effort to mingle, and hopefully attract some collaborations and new projects.
The focus of my presentation will be cultural examples of data visualisation and info-visualisation – with a focus on historical and cultural examples!
Big data. Open data. The potential for creating innovative businesses seems limitless. Our communities are looking for useful solutions to complex issues such as mass transit flow, better health systems and effective portals that help us work in new ways.
The Digital World speakers will show how big and open data can be used by individuals and by companies looking to grow. The event is open to all: to those who create, visualise and analyse our data universe; to those seeking new business ideas or research; to those who rebel as well as revel in the opportunities big data brings.
I’m thinking of focusing my talk on past, present and future of data visualisation – harking back to some of the ‘classics’, to what’s being done today and ideas for the future. I’d really like to present an interesting insight into the world of data design – with some historical context, real world examples and advice for companies looking to explore this avenue.
It would also be great to make some new contacts, and there is a chance to network at the event, so I won’t forget to pack my business cards!
The way we communicate has changed. How can we improve the way we engage with colleagues, stakeholders and the public? The Creating Useable Content Learning Event is a day of high-tempo workshops that will equip you with the skills to tell your story in a way that attracts attention and triggers conversations. During the day you’ll discover the benefit of other people sharing your content and spreading your message for you. With a practical, hands-on emphasis, each of the five workshops will give you the opportunity to begin creating useable content right there and then!
This sounds like a great event – delegates will rotate round a series of 50 minute workshops using useful introductory skills like social media management, writing blogs and using photography to promote.
It will be great to develop a quick version of my infographics designing course and, of course, meet lots of new organisations who may benefit from my design services!
I’m a big fan of podcasts.I’m only sad that I don’t have more time to listen to them (for example, I can’t listen whilst I’m working, just when I’m at home, travelling or driving). I use the Pocket Casts app on my iPhone, which is a very smart, easy to use app and for the past 6 months I’ve been listening to a lot of design-related podcasts – here are my favourites (in no particular order!)[toc]
Format: Studio host, with guests, reports and discussion
Tone: informative, intelligent and ever-so-slightly smug.
Usual length: 25 – 40 mins
The first of 2 offering from Monocle, publishers of the high-brow monthly magazine. They run a radio station, but the shows are also released as podcasts. This has been a long-time favourite of mine.
Usually presented by Editor-in-Chief Tyler Brulee, its a 30 minute look at the world of magazine publishing. Guests bring along their favourite titles, and discuss design, content and the wider industry.
Format: studio host and reports from global reporters
Tone: dips a toe in the water of every type of design – a good overview
Usual length: 60 mins
The second podcast from Monocle, this time the design-focused Section D. A recent change of presenter has improved this no end, with a more relaxed style. Covering graphic design, architecture, fashion and everything in between all over the world, it offers an interesting insight into the industry.
Format: radio programme on a different design related subject each week
Tone: highly produced, intelligent with comic asides.
Usual length: around 2o minutes
A recent funding push has meant this brilliant radio series is now weekly, maintaining it’s high standards. A high level of production and presenting means recent topics such as “barcodes”, Pizza Hut buildings and number stations, become fascinating subjects.
Tone: incredibly friendly, passionate and geeky in places
Usual length: 45 – 120 mins
Frequency: monthly (not regular)
I adore this podcast because it lands exactly in my wheelhouse – data and design. The hosts, an academic and a professional data designer, clearly enjoy the podcast and create a friendly and warm environment. Both incredibly knowledgable, they bring in big name guests and cover a range of subjects including, recently, data journalism. As I’m not a coder, I am occasionally lost by some of the code-speak, but it’s handled well and moves quickly.
Do listen out for the adorable cross-nationality marathon goodbye session at the end of the podcast!
This podcast focuses entirely on one subject a week, with an in-depth head to head interview. I’ve found interviews to be interesting and insightful, irrespective of the interviewee, thanks to host bigwig Debbie Milner.
Format: 3 hosts, discussion and listener questions
Tone: friendly, industry-insight discussions and advice
Usual length: 40 – 60 mins
This is a more serious version of Adventures in Design – with 3 professional designers discussing a specific graphic or web design issue each episode. The tone is friendly, with no silliness or banter and the issues are handled professionally.
Format: 3 presenters with chat, occasional interviews and Q & A
Tone: casual, yet informative with occasional (ok, quite a bit) of swearing
Usual length: 1 hr 40 – 2hr
When I was working alone at home, this podcast acted as my colleagues, with enough banter and interesting facts and tips to make me feel human again!! It was great to hear 3 guys chatting about every day designer issues and moans, with some smart ideas and advice thrown in.
Recently the podcasts were recorded on the road as the crew took a trip to the Flatpack Festival in Austin, Texas as part of SXSW with some genuinely funny moments!
The structure of the day meant attendees had to choose between a selection of great workshops and presentations and I found the day incredibly interesting and inspiring.
Here are the top ideas I heard/learnt today:
1. Infographics Are Not Dead
Which is just as well!
I was starting to get a little nervous. Not only has the infographics world been inundated with tacky, cheap and low-value infographics, but this mashup of content and design seems to have very low credibility within the design field. (Is it considered a low-brow artform? Or are graphic designers simply not interested in the presentation of content literally?)
Following the session I asked Jon, as he had briefly touched on the subject, whether the influx of cheap infographics had killed them. Thankfully Jon backed up my feelings, that there will always be a place, but the content has to be strong, but also that interactivity is perhaps a still under-saturated area. He added that it’s very hard to kill something, despite claims to the contrary (TV and print live on, for example despite the death knell!)
2. It’s OK to Have Fun!
(Image: HomeofMetal_Fox_0711 by Guy Evans, on Flickr)
I love what I do, but it’s often easy to get caught up in deadlines, and the process of what you’re doing, and forget all that. So it was great to see how much passion surrounds the design industry, but the subject of having fun was covered heavily by two of the speakers. First, Morag Myerscough (site) (pictured left) during her presentation “Design can create belonging“.
It’s hard not to be cheered up by her vibrant design work but it was great to sense her genuine passion and joy about her work, and see photographs of her laughing with work colleagues as she actually gets her hands dirty doing the painting work on her huge scale projects.
The second dose of “loving the job” came from Nick Eagleton from The Partners. His background was strongly founded in exploratory arts (including some adventures in taxidermy, wire sculpture and studios within studios) although now he has a more structured branding role. However, his sheer joy at being able to bring his passion for surprise and exploration in design was evident – keep it fun!!
3. Meet Your Audience
Another tip from Nick Eagleton (see previous point).
He explained how he was sent to the Falkland Islands to research the design for a new standards logo for produce from the island. Prior to his trip, the team had developed a series of logos all featuring the penguin, a well-used icon in Falklands merchandise. It appears on mugs, websites, hats and mittens!
However, when Nick arrived in the Falklands and began speaking to the locals, he realised quickly that they all hated the penguins, for the simple fact that they’re noisy and crap everywhere. This was made worse by the fact that cartoon penguins appeared everywhere.
Instead, Nick went for a more natural approach, and used the windswept grasses, indigenous to the island, to demonstrate it’s unique weather conditions. Without that trip to the Islands, the logo would have featured a penguin, and not been popular, if it had been taken up at all.
From this, I’m going to endeavour to spend more time getting to know my clients and, if possible, meet in their offices to get a feel for their “brand” and get people more engaged in my work.
“The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias that occurs when consumers place a disproportionally high value on products they partially created. The name derives from the Swedish manufacturer and furniture retailer IKEA, which sells many furniture products that require assembly.”
In short, if someone get’s involved and places some input in your project, they’ll think it’s better than it is.
This not only makes a catchy video but imagine – every single person who appeared in that video probably shared it with their friends – who most likely shared it themselves!
The hint here is that getting people involved in the process is a sure fire to get them on board. Yet another reason to get out of the office more, and into my clients worlds!
And finally …
5. Collaboration is Good
I must confess, I’m not a natural collaborator. Ask anyone who’s worked with me back in my radio days, and they’ll tell you I’d rather do it myself than delegate or collaborate.
And that still stands for work I can do myself (which is one reason I’ll probably never employ someone to do the same role as me). However, that shouldn’t stop me working with people with different skills.
Morag Myerscough covered this during her presentation – explaining the thinking behind Supergroup ,which sees a collection of designers, with varying skills, pool their resources to work together on projects that they’d be unable to take on alone, due to requirements or sheer size.
It’s a smart move. I’ll be collaborating with some developers over the coming months on the My Route project, and I can certainly see the potential of gathering a stable of techies, developers and perhaps statisticians to boost my business model.
I’m constantly pleased to see the number of organisations thinking about visual communication.
Over the last 6 months I’ve been busy with a series of “Influential Analysis” training courses for Understanding Modern Government, where I have been (hopefully) inspiring people to rethink how they communicate information both internally and externally.
Organisations attending the public courses, or booking in-house sessions, include various NHS trusts, Lincolnshire County Council and even the Department of Transport – all of them equally open and welcoming to new ideas for communicating their data.
I’ve been working with the brilliant Ian Taylor, from Flying Binarywho is now taking over the courses. It’s been great working with him, and I’ve learnt a lot. I’d recommend signing up to the next public course if you’re battling with your data.
On the subject of training – I’m testing out an interesting new half-day workshop at Coventry City Council next month. This is a variation of my full-day Data Visualisation training course, but instead of delving into the theory, I’ll be spending 3 hours guiding them through the process of building an infographic from scratch.
I’m interest to see how this is received. I am always preaching that tools like Piktochartallow anyone to create “something” visual – but does it allow them to make something good? With my guidance, I hope so.
I’m also keen to turn my focus back to my design work – which is my real passion. I’ve had a few long running projects on various back burners and these are now springing back into life.
I’m currently working with Lara Ratnaraja on a data-visualisation for the CATH (Collaborative Arts Triple Helix) project.
This sees 3 sectors …
higher education institutions
… working together on a range of really interesting projects, and we want to show those collaborations on a data diagram for the project report. We’re dealing with around 50 organisations, so the trick is to make sure the full complexity of the project is demonstrated, without the chart appearing cluttered.
I’m planning to use RAW to generate an alluvial diagram (above) – but I need to have all the organisations grouped and categorised before I start. The organisations have received the groupings list today and we’re just waiting to get final approval on the copy.
It was also nice this week to receive a “quickie” request – in short, to create an infographic for a PR agency in Germany within 24 hours.
I don’t want to tempt fate (the graphic is currently with the client for approval) but the agency are pleased with the image, and glad I managed to get something turned around so quickly. I’ve normally shied away from this kind of work, but there is definitely a market for these “emergency infographics”!!
They provided all the information, which I shaped and edited down into a structured form that could be transformed into an A4 infographic.
Whether you’re after in-house data visualisation training, a data visualisation or something quick – drop me an email – caroline at carolinebeavon.com
Whilst organisations may have had experience working with graphics or branding designers in the past, the process to develop an infographic is very different.
Ask any graphics designer who’s been asked to convert a 20 page report into an image, and chances are they’ll tell you that designing an infographic requires a whole new set of skills. I think of myself as a designer-meets-journalist-meets-number cruncher – as the content needs editing, selecting and crafting, and *then* designing.
Your input is vital to the success of the project – you know what you want and you know your industry – it’s up to you to point out the important information and decide on your message.
Here is a run down of the process structure I use:
So you’ve decided your company needs an infographic.
You may have a strong idea of what needs communicating (ie you’re end of year finances, a new process or a summary of your work) or you may have simply heard the word, and feel you should get on board.
Knowing what you want communicating (the concept as opposed to the specific content) is important and will save you time . It’s also worth thinking about a few key things, as they will be useful to know at the start of the process:
who is your audience? age, knowledge, gender, nationality
is this for online, print or both?
what is your deadline?
what is your budget?
do you have the information, or do you want me to source it?
You will be asked more questions as the process goes on but these are a good starting point.
Normally via email or social media asking about prices and timescale
Much of my work comes in via email, Twitter or Linkedin – with a client contacting me with a tentative query about costings. It’s such a new area of design that the pricing structure is an unknown – and few designers (including myself) put prices on their websites. (This is because every job is different. Pricing is based on final output, amount of research required and how quickly you need it).
I’m usually happy to give a ballpark figure but always ask for more information before giving an official quote.
Many designers quote by the hour – I quote per job. I find this puts everyone at ease (including myself). Of course, I have contingency plans in place if the project spirals out of control through changes by the client – but these are explained fully with my initial quote.
I’ll give a full and detailed price quote once we have completed the next stage, the initial discussion.
An opportunity for us to set out initial ideas, and discuss the project in great depth
Your initial conversation with your infographic designer is key. It may be held face to face (my preference) or over the telephone. It’s your time to explain what you want, or be honest and say you don’t really know *what* you want. Make sure you have as much information as possible to hand.
Treat it like a first date – find out as much as you can about each other, the process and how each other works. From this you can decide if working together is right for you.
I may do some rough sketching (on an iPad) whilst we are talking, so we can make sure we understand each other.
Once I have a better understanding of the job, and we have worked out the basic aims and objectives, I will send over a final quote, before starting any work. You will be asked to sign a New Job Agreement form, which quotes the price and details of what the quote does (and doesn’t) include.
Depending on the size of the job/length of time it will take, I sometimes ask for 30% or 50% upfront.
A series of draft ideas to show you some options of layout and theme/styling
One we’ve had the initial discussions I’ll spend up to a week (depending on the amount of work you want) developing a series of options. Here I’ll be exploring 2 areas:
styling / theme / concept
I will usually send 2/3 very different images (by PDF or image file), each one showing a different layout and theme, but you can mix and match if you prefer. Of course, you also have the option to scrap all 3 options, and offer feedback or guidance as to why you don’t feel they’re right.
These will not be fully completed images (the themes often develop over time) so I’d ask you to be prepared for some changes in the future and any temporary placeholder content in the image.
One you’ve selected a content layout and theme I will start work on the final image.
Work In Progress
An opportunity for you to see a part-completed image, and make sure you’re happy with the direction
As I said above, this is a collaboration, so I will be checking in with you as I design the final image. This could be for several reasons:
if I shift dramatically from the original image
if I want to confirm you are still happy with image
to avoid the disappointment of you not liking the final image
I may send whole images, or part of images to make sure you’re happy.
Final Proof Image
The final image – before spell-check and final tweaks, for you to approve
Once I’ve worked up a final image I sent it over for you to review. This image may still have typos, spelling errors and require more precise tweaking, but I always leave these until you are is 100% happy with the image (no point pixel-checking content that may change!)
You will then be asked to confirm the content, make any final changes (if major changes it will lead to further charges) and run it past their team (if necessary).
Proof-reading / final tweaks
I employ a proof reader to check final images in terms of spelling mistakes, statistics and grammar issues. If you stare at an image for so long, it’s easy for errors to slip through the net. I also ask you/your team to check the final information as well – the more eyes the better.
Once I’ve made any changes I will tidy the image up, make sure everything is aligned etc and prepare a final files for you (depending on their requirements)
Final image is sent over and once you have given it the final OK, I will invoice for the full/balance amount.
If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a picture I posted recently.
To most people it would have looked like a random arrangement of squiggles, lines and terrible sketches.
In fact it was a draft sketch of the plot of The Warriors, a film that came out in 1979 (trailer)
The plot is set in a slightly-futuristic New York, where gangs in theatrical-costume uniforms roam the streets defending their turf. After being called to an all-gang powwow in the Bronx, the Warriors, from Coney Island have to make their way home with all the other gangs after their blood.
What follows is their route south, to Coney, via the subway network and the highly controversial* 1972 Massimo Vignelli map (right) features heavily. (*the map was controversial as it followed the London underground style of being geographically inaccurate but focussed on connections within the system).
So boiling this down – the film is not only set over a series of locations (as with most films) but the specific locations are crucial, have different gangs attached to each area, and the movement between these areas is central to the plot.
I’ve always admired highly detailed “infographics”, or information design – where extensive time has gone into turning something conceptual into a visual finished piece and I felt the location-centric Warriors plot would work well overlaid on the New York subway map.
However, it would not be enough to simply plot their route across the city, but i wanted to show the key clashes with the other gangs and key plot points.
I have since added another series of elements – key lines from the script at the relevant locations, and the route of the individual Warrior members, if they peel off from the rest of the gang, or are killed.
I was also inspired to use the same effect adopted in the Minard Napoleon campaign data visualisation – where the width of the line denoted the number of men in the army.
This diagram (left) shows the outgoing army via the brown line, as they march to Russia, with the returning army shows in black. The depleted numbers are clear. The diagram also shows how some peeled off from the rest of the group.
This is a great visualisation and very effective and I want to adopt a similar idea for my map – although in this case we have 9 “soldiers” depleted down to 6 (plus an addition).
This is still a work in progress, but here are a couple of screen-grabs of the work so far:
I was recently invited to speak to BA students at BCU about enterprise – and specifically, how I managed to forge a freelance career for myself.
Having retrained (I used to be a commercial radio journalist) I think there are 5 key areas I focused on to make it
GET ALONG WITH PEOPLE
People have to be the main focus of your freelancer career – you work alone so you have to generate all your work yourself.
Social media is a brilliant tool for finding new contacts and maintaining those relationships. I keep an active Twitter account (3 actually, but that’s for another time). I make sure I regularly share interesting links AND reply to people, so my account isn’t just broadcasting. I certainly don’t talk about my own work all the time, although I will tweet when I have a success (i.e. a piece of work doing well in an awards) or about things I am working on. I have regular conversations online and try to be engaging.
However, it’s very easy to rely on social media and never leave the house. As a freelancer you need to be getting out to see people. Talk to people in your field, and look for meetups and groups you can go along to. It’s great to have someone else to talk to, especially as you’re probably on your own all day.
However, don’t fall into the trap of *only* hanging out with people in your field – remember, they’re not likely to employ you (unless you can secure sub-contract work from them). Who are your potential clients? Where do they hang out? If you offer a valid service to different business sectors, offer to talk about your services to them – but don’t just promote yourself, promote the general benefits to them. You’ll be amazed how much work will come your way.
I am eternally grateful to Andy Mabbett (aka @pigsonthewing) for inviting me along to speak at Brewcamp over a year ago. Brewcamp is a local Government comms meetup, where very forward thinking people look for new ways to help councils. I was initially sceptical of the benefits, but that 20 minute talk has led to a host of work and a real reputation in this sector! Thanks Andy!
There is a very active campaign right now to protect interns and young people from exploitation in the work place. However, I’ve always believed that there is too much focus on money. I always recommend students get job to pay the bills (bar work, waitressing etc) and spend their free time working for little/no pay in the area in which they want to work in the future.
So, forget, “don’t work for free” – it’s all about “don’t work for nothing”.
Working for a business can increase your employability no-end by
giving your actual experience
teaching you new skills
meeting new people
boosting your reputation
A year ago I decided I needed to learn a little more about how design agencies work – I was doing more and more design work but with no formal arts training I was lacking those practical skills. I spotted an intern opportunity at a local branding agency, Orb, who were looking for a copywriter one day a week. I spoke to them, explained my situation and they agreed to let me work as a copywriter whilst sitting with the designers to see how they did things!
I did this for 2 months before my own work took off and I had to move on, but I learnt a huge amount about how agencies work.
You have to be flexible. This is a useful skill to have, wherever you work – especially as offices are now merging jobs and roles as they cut back on staff. if you’re working for yourself you have to do everything.
When I first left BCU I used my social media and blogging work to pay the bills whilst I worked to build up my other line of work – this was not only financial necessity, but kept me sane! You’ll get more work if you’re already working. I was also DJing regularly at the Actress and Bishop in Birmingham.
It was being invited by Paul Bradshaw to help teach at his Online Journalism module at BCU that opened up a new area. It’s not only nice to get out of the house but learning now to present and teach has give me a new set of skills, and give me another reason to keep up to date with the industry. This led to more teaching work from Dave Harte (on his MA Social Media course).
If you’d asked me 3 years ago if I wanted to teach, I would have said no, but embracing this has give me more opportunity – corporate training is now a big part of what I do and wouldn’t have been possible without my experience teaching at BCU.
If opportunities present themselves, think “how will this help?”. Always be open to doing new things but do watch out for the Jack-Of-All-Trades pitfall – when you have too many areas of interest, no-one really knows what you do and you’re not considered an expert in anything.
I’m at the stage now where I know I’m going to need to add some new skills to my repertoire, because the industry is changing and clients want new things. For example, I’ve had a spate of clients recently asking for infographics that they can modify themselves, with others asking for animation. In order to keep my clients and stay on top of my game I will have to learn new skills. Luckily there are lots of resources online for training (Youtube is a goldmine) but I am also looking into formal training. The hardest part is finding the time to do it.
Make sure you’re up to date with changes in your industry – there is no excuse with social media and blogs – follow the right people, read the right articles and stay one step ahead. I use an RSS reader to keep an eye on all the major blogs and websites in my field and I always keep an eye on Twitter and Linkedin.
You will underestimate how hard you’re going to have to work – trust me. Be prepared to say goodbye to your evenings and weekends at times. When you’re starting out you’d be foolish to turn any work down – say yes and then work out how to get it all done. If that means working round the clock, or calling on friends to help, then so be it!
Do remember to pace yourself. There will be days when you find yourself with nothing to do. You have 2 choices here, depending on your situation.
If you have a lot of work on, but are waiting on a client, for example, so can’t do anything – enjoy the day off. You never know when your next one is going to be so enjoy it. I’ve been known to have a Saturday on a Wednesday, do my big shop, go to the cinema, meet friends for lunch. Enjoy it!
If you’re not that busy, a free day is a great opportunity to boost your exposure – write a blog post, get involved in some discussions online, go and sit in a coffee shop and make sure tell your contacts where you are through social media. It’s amazing how many people will swing by and see you – and who knows, it might lead to some work!
Make sure you use your time smartly – I am not ashamed to say I have a cleaner. I also have someone to chase my invoices for me, because I was spending a lot of time emailing and calling clients, and I was really, really bad at it. Now I employ the virtual assistant company Lulaberry to do this for me! I also employ a proofreader, the brilliant Editorialgirl as this means my work is spotless, and again frees up time for me to focus on the more creative side of things.
I’ve recently been working on a project which encourages creative SME’s to explore data as a way of improving their business. I’ll blog more about the project at a later date, but I wanted to share on particular element of the project that I thought may be useful.
After discussions with one company, we decided a series of maps would help them plot future business growth. One map would contain their current activities and would be used on their website.
Factors to Consider
the SME could not be expected to pay for the full version of Tableau
the map should be publishable on the web
the client has no experience of Tableau
the client wanted to be able to update the spreadsheet and the map with minimal effort
Create Tableau Public account using their email address (you won’t be able to change email later). You’ll have to get access or ask them to click on the confirmation link when it arrives
Locate your spreadsheet and save in a specific dropbox folder
Login to Tableau Public with their login details and create your visualisation
Save to the web
(If you create any shapes or images, you will also have to copy these into a Dropbox folder)
Send the person a link to Dropbox folder
Ask them to download Tableau Public and login with the details you used above
They should be able to access the workbook that you have created
Ask them to move the spreadsheet file onto their computer.
(if applicable: ask them to drag the Shapes folder into their Shapes Tableau folder
They will need to update the link to the file, from within the workbook. Hit f5 and Tableau will walk you through replacing the original file location with the new one.
Well, blow me down with a feather … new look The Kernel is definitely worth a revisit.
I was always put off by the overly-snarky comments (see below) and it appears I wasn’t the only one. The site has managed to shift from vicious bile to playful teasing – and it works.
It’s definitely back in my RSS feed – I just hope the many tech power-players they took pot shots at in the past are willing to let bygone be bygones.
In terms of content, they are taking full advantage of the benefits an online presence gives them; being able to take a 360 look at a wide variety of issues and giving relevant content the space it deserves (without being tied to filling x-number of pages).
However, the most heartwarming part of this whole experience: receiving a friendly, humble and honest email from The Kernel founder and Editor-in-Chief Milo Yiannopoulos asking for my feedback (in reaction to the post below)
I must admit, I was never a huge fan of the Kernel (the weekly technology newsletter, sharing some news and information, but mainly gossip and judgement).
Actually, that’s not true. I enjoyed the information it shared, but not the snarky way in which it did it – coming across like a bitter and twisted lunatic throwing rocks at those working in the real world. There were some very public spats with some high profile tech journalists (including The Guardian’s Charles Arthur) which drip fed into several tech podcasts leaving a pretty nasty taste in my mouth.
Plus their editor had, what I felt, was a vicious pop at the chaps at Birmingham City University, for their Social Media MA course (a course I am involved in)… and that wasn’t on. (Sadly the website is now down so that post is probably lost forever).
Eventually I cancelled my subscription and thought no more about it.
Until this arrived. The Kernel is back, with a new company behind it, and seemingly a new focus. (my highlighting)
I’m going to give it another go – often the journalism was insightful, and I hope the bumps they’ve had in the road have knocked a few holes in their smuggery.
Although I’m not holding my breath.
Technology magazine The Kernel to be relaunched with fresh investment, new commercial team
BERLIN, 3 June 2013.—BERLIN42, parent company of Axel Springer-backed event series hy! Berlin, today announces it is to relaunch The Kernel, the online technology, media and politics magazine originally launched by high-profile technology journalist Milo Yiannopoulos in 2011. The Kernel suspended publication in March after exhausting personal investment by Yiannopoulos and failing to secure further funding.
BERLIN42 has acquired The Kernel and will operate newly founded publishing company Kernel Media from Berlin. Acquisition terms have not been disclosed. Editorial operations will remain in London. Yiannopoulos will be re-employed as founding Editor-in-Chief of the relaunched publication, while BERLIN42 founding partner Aydoğan Ali Schosswald will serve as founding CEO.
The Kernel will shift focus from startups and startup culture to digital lifestyle and the effect of technology on society, politics and culture. All site content will be published in English.
The Kernel will commit resources to more video and photo content and investigative journalism in areas such as modern warfare, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, pornography and space travel. The “Nutshell” subscription newsletter will not return.
Schosswald said: “BERLIN42 continues its mission to build, accelerate and connect global businesses in technology & media with this latest venture. We are tremendously excited about what Milo and his team can achieve with fresh commercial backing.”
Yiannopoulos said: “The Kernel was a terrific editorial success. I’m thrilled to be getting a second chance at making it work commercially, and on a much larger scale. Hans and Aydo at BERLIN42 understand what I was trying to accomplish the first time around and I could not have wished for a better team to help me build the company into a global media brand.”
Under its former directors, The Kernel incurred debts which were settled by Yiannopoulos privately in April. Six contributors from the previous incarnation of the magazine, including Ezra Butler, James Cook and Greg Stevens – are returning to write for the site, which goes live on Monday 12 August 2013.
As a freelancer it’s very easy to fall into bad habits – working from home, lots of different projects and being my own boss means long days of low productivity, and no clear division between work time and free time.
Since I left my “proper” job in 2009 I’ve been trying a host of ways to get things done – these are the things I’ve learnt work for me.
1. Find Your Work Hours
It’s taken me a while but I’ve found I am super productive early in the morning – irrespective of how tired I am. I had several years working on a radio breakfast show so getting up at the crack-of-dawn doesn’t terrify me, but the point is – find your optimum working hours. I know people who prefer to work in the evening or overnight … whatever works for you, make sure you stick to it
2. Go to Work
One of the perks of working in an office is the division between hometime and work time. I miss the walk to work, those few minutes (in my case) to prepare for the day. Even wearing work clothes changes your mindset.
This is lost when you stumble from bed to sofa in your PJ’s.
This is something I’ve only recently discovered, and is good for both me and my laptop.
I reboot my computer when I change projects. My jobs tend to be very varied, infographic design one minute, and planning social media training the next – so it’s good to have that mental refresh.
Plus. I’m often dealing with big files and my laptops not a robust as it used to be – so a reboot is a useful way to stop it grinding to a halt!
4. Next Task Approach
This is a trick I leaned during my time working for Think Productive. Don’t make endless to-do lists of tasks that can’t be done because they depend on something else happening first. Ie: No point adding Book Plane Tickets to my todo list, when you haven’t Booked Holiday yet.
I only have tasks I can achieve on my list, and replace them with the next doable task when it’s completed!
5. Keep a separate project list
As well as a todo list, I also have a list of all my current projects, and the stage they’re at. I use a great Ipad app for this, called Sticky Notes. It’s essentially a series of pages with digital post-it notes. I have 2 pages:
Page 1 contains post-its of 4 colours
Each post-it contains my Job Code, job title and the price I’ve quoted for it.
PINK – currently working on
GREEN – confirmed projects but not currently working on
YELLOW – awaiting initial meeting
BLUE – random projects I need to decide on
This page helps me manage my workload – I like to have 4 “currently working on” with between 4 and 8 “confirmed but not currently working on”.
Page 2 contains a host of those projects that I’ve been contacted about, but nothing’s come of them yet. I keep them there to chase up when I get a moment, or can refer to if they do spring back in action.
6. Filter and Auto colour emails
Whilst I use Sparrow on my Iphone, I try to do most of the email management on my PC. where I run Postbox. I have 2 main email addresses, with a few random ones too, so it’s a good place to see everything together.
As with most email systems, you can set up filters. Whilst I heavily use filters for social media notifications (and have a regular email reminder to check the folder every few days) the most useful thing helps me deal with those “bacon” emails that come in, ie software updates, service announcements and other content that isn’t spam, but isn’t vitally important right now
I’ve simply built up a filter that turns the text of these emails (in the inbox) pale grey. They’re still there, and I’ll tend to check and delete a few times a day, but they’re in the background when I’m focusing on work.
7. Turn of notifications
I’m a pretty heavy social media user but only recently have decided to turn off all notifications from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Instead, I allow myself to check these accounts whenever I want, so that Social Media and Email Tension doesn’t build up. I’m getting a lot more done and am more relaxed about having long stints of working, knowing I can check them whenever I want.
8. Check email on the hour every hour
I try (although I do fail at this often) to only check my email every hour, on the hour. It’s an easy time to remember, and means I can focus on work for an hour before it comes round again. I have Postbox open at all times, with notifications turned off, and simply switch to that window to see new messages. It takes a second if there’s nothing in there, and with filtering and colouring (as above) it’s easy to see the important emails first.
9. No meeting days – 3 a week
I’ve learnt that I much prefer having a full day to work, without having to dart out for midday meetings. To this end, I try to keep at least 2/3 days a week free from all meetings. On a Sunday night I’ll check the next 2 weeks and add all-day calendar events to the days with no meetings – with the intention of keeping these free.
Similarly, I prefer meetings first thing in the morning or last thing in the day – it means I still get a good few hours to get stuff done!
The 2 infographics designer tools I’ll be comparing are Easel.ly and Piktochart. Scroll down to SUMMARY if you’re short of time!
Both are free services (with pro versions available with more theme options etc.) I’ll be looking at the free versions today.
The principle is that you pick a theme, and remove/change/add graphics and text to illustrate your information.
The 6 themes available with the free version of Piktochart
Piktochart allows you to choose from a selection (seven) themes, which can then be further modified within the editing window i.e. background and images.
The choice of themes is pretty limited (and look a bit dated now) and some of the graphics do verge on the “clipart” but there are some useful items in there if you dig around the “Entertainment” category (would be easier to have broken down a bit!).
You can add or remove entire sections (blocks) within the editing window which is handy for moving chunks of information around the graphic. However, I’ve found this to be more of a hindrance than a help as it’s quick glitchy to use (maybe it needs getting used to!)
Sadly, you cannot accurately use the graphics to denote scale (ie larger circles for larger values) – yes you can manually drag the size of the icons, but not input a specific size – so your I would suggest avoiding “size” as a visual tool altogether.
There is the function to upload and add your own graphics, useful for photos or corporate logos.
Piktochart comes into it’s own, however, with the function to add charts. Dragging the “chart” tool onto the desktop opens a spreadsheet style window that you simply paste your data into (you can also upload a CSV). Don’t expect miracles if you upload huge swathes of data, however – as the charting tool is about as smart as the one in Excel. I suggest uploading a few select statistics and selecting the chart that suits. You can easily modify colours and style, so it’s a great tool for inserting small snappy charts into your infographic.
Just a few of the many themes available with the free version of Easel.ly
Where Piktochart fell down on overall style of themes and graphics, Easel.ly wins hands down. It’s a smooth clean interface, with some great graphics and icons to choose from. It’s very simple to use and there are some very smart themes to give you a head start.
Plus, and this is a big plus for me, you can open a “clear window“, essentially start from scratch. With Piktochart you have to manually delete all the elements, and as the themes are quick complex, with some “locked” content, this can be a big hassle.
The 2 downsides of Easel.ly are biggies, however.
1. You cannot introduce data or charts. This is a real shame as this would put Easel.ly ahead of Piktochart.
2. As with Piktochart, you cannot specify the size of graphics – so could not use this for visually showing scale.
If you need to introduce accurate charts to your infographics, I suggest using Piktochart. If not, Easel.ly wins hands down on style, ease of use and creativity.
nice choice of iconsuseful and stylish layoutseasy to use (not over complicated)simple to use
no charts facilitycannot accurately specify size of objectscan’t specify size of image
allows you add data/chartsability to add “blocks” of content to change size of imageability to move blocks of content around
limited themesno “blank” themetricky to delete current content
cannot accurately specify size of objects
poor choice of icons
Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details
(an edited version of this article originally appeared in the HyperWM newpaper, Nov 2012)
Once upon a time …
When was the last time you sat down and read a fairy story?
It may be a few years, but I’m sure you could tell a few of those childhood stories from memory. Whether it’s the interesting characters, the exciting storylines, the emotion you felt or the moral lessons you learned; the stories stick.
When was the last time you sat down and read a spreadsheet?
I’m guessing, never?
Unlike a fairy story, a spreadsheet has no characters, no thrilling plot, no emotion and no lesson to be learned.
You probably skip straight to the end, check out the total and close the book – you certainly don’t print out all those pages, and take them home for a cosy night by the fire.
However, there IS a story in that spreadsheet – it’s the story of a situation, a rise or a fall, a pattern or a trend. It may be a thrilling rollercoaster of a ride, it may be a fascinating insight into the current landscape. Unfortunately, it’s hidden behind all those rows and columns of numbers.
This is where visualisation comes in – taking those statistics and turning them into something the human eye can fathom – colour and shape, placement and size. By presenting these numbers in a visual way you create something that anyone can understand, irrespective of their literacy, numeracy, language, background or prior knowledge of the subject.
Through bar charts, pie charts, line graphs and full-on infographics, the story is revealed, we can see the characters (the different elements) on their journey – we can see the changes, the excitement and the disappointments.
That story will provoke a reaction – anger, satisfaction, joy or disgust – all emotions that will prompt our next move. Do we stay on the same route, or does something need to change?
Without clear and simple representations of the information, there will be many people who simply don’t get it.
And in the current climate of transparency and accountability – data is only open, if everyone can access it.
Once we reach this point, we can all begin to make clear, informed decisions about our future and the future of others and, hopefully … live happily ever after.
Since I started working for myself, I’ve been on a hunt for that *perfect* place to work.
I tried the various coffee shops around Birmingham (read my findings here) but working in a coffee shop 5 days a week is not financially viable. (In order to stay in a coffee shop guilt-free all day you’d need to buy at least 3 drinks and some food – totting up a daily spend of around £10.) Plus all that coffee isn’t good for you.
quiet – oh so quiet. I am constantly plugged into Spotify so don’t hear the general office noise, but conversations/phone calls are kept short and meetings held in the adjoining lounge.
self-conscious productivity – at home I may stick on a TV show whilst I work – but I just wouldn’t do this at Moseley Exchange
Journey to work – I’ve always missed the walk to work – it sets the start and the end of the day
Set working hours. I’m glad Moseley Exchange isn’t open longer or I’d fall into the same trap as at home – working slowly and for longer periods of time. With an opening time of 9am and closing at anywhere between 6pm and 8pm, it means I can have a solid work session. Plus it’s a really big deal if I have to put my laptop on when I get home
Free tea and coffee. requires no explanation
The plan is that when I buy a 2-bed place, I won’t need Moseley Exchange as I’ll convert the second bedroom into an office – but we’ll see how I get on!
If you have blog, it may be tempting to set up autoposting. This means the site automatically spits out a tweet (if you connect your account) with the blog post title and the link.
Sounds useful enough but there are a few reasons NOT to use it
if you publish your blogpost at midnight, that’s when your tweet will go out. Who will see it?
Your headline may not be snappy enough for a tweet
It won’t make use of hashtags or tagging (see below)
If you post, then go to bed/go out – you won’t be there to manage any responses
I know you don’t *need* to use shortlinks any more (now Twitter allows long links) but I still think they look tidier, don’t you?
Its the difference between:
The Elements of Corporate Social Media http://carolinebeavon.com/2013/03/17/the-4-elements-of-corporate-social-media/
The Elements of Corporate Social Media http://bit.ly/XPITmZ
If I’d wanted to write much more, the tweet would have looked like this
New blog post > The Elements of Corporate Social Media – comments welcome http://carolinebeavon.com/2…..
Use the Bitly service to shorten your links – this service also helps you keep track of clickthroughs!
A hashtag is a handy way to add your tweet to the messages about a certain subject.
Twitter works by showing you the messages by people you follow. However, if you had a particular interest in, say, Leverson, then you could search for the #leverson hashtag and see everyone who’s been tweeting about that subject and using the hashtag.
It also means you can block the hashtag (on some Twitter clients) if you’re not interested! (ie #xfactor)
(Note: interestingly, Facebook is reported to be introducing hashtags to updates very soon!)
When you’re writing a tweet, do a search for relevant hashtags on this story, and add one or two to your Tweet (if you can embed them in the wording even better, you’re saving yourself characters!)
The Elements of Corporate #SocialMedia http://bit.ly/XPITmZ
Corporate Use of #twitter and #facebook http://bit.ly/XPITmZ
Don’t go overboard – multiple hashtags is a waste of space and makes your tweet look spammy!
Mentions / Tagging
If you start a tweet with someones Twitter handle, the message will only be seen by them, and the people that follow you both.
If you put someone’s Twitter handle into the middle of a message, it will be seen by all of your follows, and they will be alerted to the message.
If you are sharing a blog post – make sure you @mention any companies, people or organisations featured. This will alert them to the content, and hopefully they’ll retweet it.
Similarly, if you are simply welcoming a new client, celebrating an award or talking about a person – try to find their Twitter handle and use that in the message.
If you are worried about client confidentiality, ask them if it’s ok to publicise that you’re working together!
Don’t Go On
It can be hard keeping your thoughts to 140 characters – but the shorter your tweet the better. Not only will it be snappier but it will be retweetable. This means that people can forward the tweet onto their followers.
However, if the message is too long, they many not be able to retweet (RT) it (depending on their Twitter client), they may have to edit it first, or the end of the tweet may drop off.
If you are worried about losing important information when your tweet is RT’d, make sure the less important info is at the end – ie any comments or hashtags
New blog post > The Elements of Corporate Social Media http://bit.ly/XPITmZ Comments welcome
If someone RT’d that, the is a chance that the end of the message may “drop off” the end of the tweet. It’s important that the “comments welcome” is the bit that dissapears, and not the link.
What other advise would you recommend for good Twitter writing?
This is a work-in progress – feel free to comment below! Thanks
I am very interested to see the variety of different ways companies use social media.
Some use their Facebook pages to promote their Friday snacks, others use Twitter to talk up their company products and values.
Both of these uses have their place, but should form part of a wider social media personality. Think of the social media forum as a party – don’t be a wallflower whispering in the corner, but don’t be the braying loudmouth in the centre of the room lecturing anyone who will listen.
I like to think of social media covering 4 main areas – each one of them defined by the type of company:
This is the most common reason for companies jumping onto social media – to sell their products and services to an audience – so lets get that out the way first of all.
Of course you want to sell things, you need to make money to pay the bills after all, but sitting there broadcasting about your achievements and products will be a massive turn off to your followers (remember that guy at the party banging on about his new Range Rover? Don’t be that guy).
Make use of the information or biography section of your profile. Facebook has a whole range of boxes and options for pages nowadays, and don’t forget to add your offline contact details (telephone number!). On Twitter, make sure your profile description has a link to your website. If you haven’t visited your LinkedIn profile for a while, it might be worth a visit. They’ve introduced a host of new features, including a products page – get on there and start explaining what you do.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t tweet or post about what you do – but offering examples or showing you “at work” is often more interesting to a potential client than just, “buy this”.
Don’t assume everyone who has come across your account wants to buy your product today – Facebook isn’t the Yellow Pages. Someone hasn’t necessarily come across your page after searching for “plumbers in Tipton”. But that doesn’t mean they they might not want a plumber in the future, in Tipton. If they like you, they’ll remember you.
Which brings me to the interesting part. You. Customers demand their companies have a human face – we’ve had too many years of automated phone lines and anonymous corporations – now we want to do business with a person. Social networks give you a chance to show what you’re like. If you’re going to be heading into someone’s house to do their plumbing, they’d like to know a bit about you first.
A photograph of you and your staff is a good starting point with an introduction of who’s who. Remember how the supermarkets show you staff member of the month posters? Why not keep that in the staff room? because they recognise the value of the people.
Showing snaps of you all at work demonstrates what you do, pictures of new equipment, your office or completed jobs shows customers what to expect, gives them an insight into yourworking practices and makes you seem approachable and human.
The Company Values and Personality
Social media is an outlet for revealing more about your company’s core values and beliefs. Yes, this will be revealed through the staff, but there will be some more solid “brand ideals” that you’ll want to get across.
If your company was a person, what would it be like? How would it speak? Would it crack jokes or be serious and professional? Emulate your idea about your company through the tone and subject matter you post.
A solicitors office would have a very different “personality” to a plumber, use that personality to attract and engage an audience and give them confidence in your brand.
You know what you’re doing – you’ve been doing it long enough. Now prove it. The best way to show you’re the right company for the job, whatever job that is, is by showing you know the industry in which you operate.
Post interesting links on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn with your opinions – do you agree? Disagree? Are you surprised? Shocked? By proving you’re up to speed with industry events, and have an opinion on them will demonstrate your expertise.
Be cheeky – but not too cheeky. Comment on other people’s work, media stories and viral videos doing the rounds with your insight if it fits in with your business.
If you can cover these four bases via your social media profiles, when relevant to your company, you’re definitely on the way!.
I’ve just received this email from Posterous Spaces about the service closing down. I paste it below
Hi Caroline,Posterous launched in 2008. Our mission was to make it easier to share photos and connect with your social networks. Since joining Twitter almost one year ago, we’ve been able to continue that journey, building features to help you discover and share what’s happening in the world – on an even larger scale.
On April 30th, we will turn off posterous.com and our mobile apps in order to focus 100% of our efforts on Twitter. This means that as of April 30, Posterous Spaces will no longer be available either to view or to edit.
Right now and over the next couple months until April 30th, you can download all of your Posterous Spaces including your photos, videos, and documents.
If you want to move your site to another service, WordPress and Squarespace offer importers that can move all of your content over to either service. Just remember: you need to back up your Spaces by April 30.
We’d like to thank the millions of Posterous users who have supported us on our incredible journey. We hope to provide you with as easy a transition as possible, and look forward to seeing you on Twitter. Thank you.
I spotted brand agency Orb were on the hunt for a creative copywriter intern, and thought it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Now, I’m not your run-of-the-mill intern. I’m 37 years old, for starters. I’ve been working as a journalist since 2000 and now specialise in information design and social media/online content.
So, why be an intern? – I hear you ask.
Despite my experience in journalism, I have no formal experience in working for a design agency – and as most of my work nowadays is infographic/information design, I thought I’d gain a lot from seeing how the big boys do it.
Specifically, I believe I need to boost my skills in
1. understanding a brief quickly
2. presenting ideas to a client (without spending hours on completed designs in the early stages)
3. monitoring time / pricing structure
I’ll spend one day a week in the Orb studio copywriting – but as it’s a small office, and the whole team are involved in the project process, I can see how work develops every step of the way.
Some of you may think I’m taking the opportunity away from someone younger, who needs a start in this business – I say, I’m starting out in a new industry, my need is as great as theirs.
Some of you may have a major beef with the internship process – that it’s slave labour and exploitation. You may know my thoughts on this. In this case, I’m being paid for my time (a basic wage, but fantastic considering the opportunity).
Has anyone else done an internship later in life? How did it work out?
As part of my recent New Year Resolutions I mentioned blogging – and more specifically, how I’d like to blog more.
Here are a few of my thoughts about the process.
But I wonder – what stops you from blogging more often?
What I like about blogging is the fact you don’t need to spend hours slaving over an article, creating a story arc or creating a masterpiece – you just need to get the information out there, whether that takes 3/4 paragraphs or a photograph with comment.
However, that’s one of the hardest things to teach someone else, whether it’s a student or a client who wants to develop their own blog.
Students or clients will always produce a “print style” for their first few blog posts.
Also, I’m not saying that you should NOT write long form posts, just don’t wait weeks to post, if you have a nice thought buzzing around your head.
The problem is, unless you are an experienced writer, with hours to spend, this long-form writing style is VERY time consuming.
I don’t know the number of blog posts I currently have in DRAFT mode, because
I ran out of time
I ran out of ideas
The idea was never “finished”
In fact, if I’d simply posted the bare bones of the idea I may have received some interesting feedback or ideas to move the post forward.
So why are new bloggers so reluctant to post short unstructured updates?
keeping client work under wraps
keeping work-in-progress under wraps
writing is your “thing”
By the time young people reach university they have (more than likely) just finished 4 years of exams. If they are coming across me at Uni, there’s a good chance they’ve been studying humanities – traditionally the more essay-based subjects.
For them, producing a piece of work is about the introduction, content, summary and conclusion.
Similarly, clients I work with are still locked into the idea of long-form reports, and even hark back to the days of university or school essays.
PLUS, people are still tied to this “newspaper/magazine” article idea – even the younger generations – as they’re as exposed to long-form structured articles via sites like BBC News and newspaper sites as the rest of us. Every piece that appears online is a long form essay, or article.
There is something fulfilling about writing a well structured article. It’s the closest thing many of us will get to being “published” – and it’s a rush.
We all know that a paragraph featuring some disorganized ideas or random ramblings would not end up in The Guardian, so why should it end up on your blog?
However, if you get around to writing one brilliantly-structured article, then what are you proving? Not much.
You can show off your ideas, your creativity and your writing talent just as well with short, more frequent posts.
It does require a level of bravery to just “put it out there” – you’re opening your self up to criticism and potential ridicule.
What if people think I’m biased or an idiot?
You know the answer?- be honest, tell the world that you are just “putting it out there”
Start your blog post by explaining what you are about to say – ie “I’ve been thinking about XXX. I know there’s a big debate there – here are some of my early thoughts but I’d love to know what you think”
Immediately the reader is not expecting a well-formulated article, but a jumping-off point – a debate that then can get involved in.
Keeping Client Work under wraps
It makes sense that, if you are working on a confidential client project that you would not want to blog about it in small bites.
You don’t want to breach a confidence – and that’s commendable. However, you may attract more work if you show you are actually doing something.
Talk to your client – you never know they may be happy for you to write about your experiences and work in progress.
I tend to blog about my client design work on a Tumblr site but I keep it very theoretical, never revealing the final art work (until the client has) but I simply muse about the process and any hitches.
Talk to your client – you never know, they may be glad for the extra exposure.
Keeping your BIG PROJECT under wraps
Say you’re working on a big TV documentary, launching a start-up or writing a book.
Why on earth would you put all that online for everyone to see, when someone could easily steal your idea?
Writers sending pitches to large media organisations are always encouraged to mail a copy of the manuscript to themselves as well, a trick that can be useful for future copyright claims.
Think about this: if you blog about this – you’re automatically taking ownership. You’re telling the world that this is YOUR idea, and that you are already working on it.
In addition – by showing you’re working-out (like you were encouraged to in maths and science exams) you’re showing you are genuine, knowledgeable and open.
And who wouldn’t be interested in that?
Writing is your “thing”
I know writers. For them, putting anything out into the world that is not completed, polished and a masterpiece would be a crime. For them, writing is their thing, and everything they put online is their portfolio.
Maybe the answer here is multiple blog sites?
Despite all my musings on “short blog posts”, most of the ones on this site are structured ideas (albeit written in one sitting)
However I tend to use my several Tumblr sites for less structured brain dumping.
If writing is your craft, and you want to keep your portfolio site pure – why not branch out and use a separate site for more informal musings? Link to it, don’t link to it – that’s up to you – but it does give you an outlet to relax a little
So come on then – what about you? How do you blog?
I’ve decided to group this years New Year Resolutions into several categories
Health and Well-being
I use social media a lot, but sometimes it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and become distracted with ineffective activities.
As someone who is trying to build a freelance business, I need to be more focused in my online actions.
So, this years New Years Resolutions are:
Rethink my social media presence
Blog more regularly
Rethink My Social Media Presence
As a freelancer working in a range of fields, and having changed careers radically in 2009 (from radio to digital content) I think it’s important to keep track of social media presence, and if necessary, have separate accounts for separate interests. I’m aware that some people I’ve connected with have NO interest in certain areas of my life
This means I sometimes hold back on posting
There is the potential to lose some people along the way
I have recently set up a series of accounts purely for my infographics design work
I will then occasionally retweet these to my main account as well, if of wider interest.
But do I need to go further – should I separate personal and work accounts completely? Do I need a social media presence for other elements of my work?
The New Years Resolution
Conduct a social media audit
what accounts do I use
what do I use them for
what works well on the various accounts
do I need to stop using anything? (might be knocking on your door, Pinterest)
set up new accounts if necessary
Have you done anything similar? What are the pitfalls? Any advice?
Blog More Regularly
WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)
I’m always telling people to blog more regularly – “you don’t need to write a full article” I say, “just pull together an idea and get it up there”.
It’s a great outlet for showcasing work, knowledge, for sharing ideas and connecting with people – and as a freelancer it’s always good to be visible.
The New Years Resolution
I’m going to take my own advice and revive this blog with more ideas and thoughts.
I’m going to do what I promised months ago, and start blogging for MyJQ – a Jewellery Quarter hyperlocal blog in Birmingham
Put more ideas on my design blog (although I’ve not been too bad at doing this recently)
Even though I do get excited when someone comments on a blog post of mine, I am woefully lazy when it comes to commenting on other peoples. Maybe it’s because I do most of my article reading on my mobile, and it’s difficult to comment via mobile. Maybe I’ve been put off by the few times I HAVE commented and either being attacked, or the website has crashed and my well crafted comment has been lost in the ether.
The side effect of thinking about commenting, is that I will read the article fully, not skim it, and take in the information.
The New Years Resolution
Consider commenting on every article I read, and if I have something to contribute, do it!!!
Now I have a cbviz website, Twitter account and Facebook page – it might be a good idea to tie them all together with a logo and some business branding.
I am critically close to the end of my business card stash and have just set up a business bank account, so all in all, it’s a good time to get some new stationery printed off.
The New Years Resolution
Design a logo – apply to Twitter, Facebook, other social media accounts and website
Reliable Witness was a trans-media project, commissioned by the Birmingham Book Festival, during September/October 2012.
Managed by Red Lantern’s Lauren Davies, the project saw a live performance and social media begin a story that the audience would be invited to finish, during an interactive installation.
As Social Media Manager I was responsible for running the Facebook and Twitter accounts for the project, which included:
the project accounts
the character accounts
Set up the accounts
Set up a method for posting and responding to messages
Giving the characters “character”
Introducing plot points and storylines
Phase 1 – setting up the accounts
When I was brought into the project the writers were still in the early stages of developing the story – but the key characters had been defined.
Darren – the boyfriend
Amy – the girlfriend
Ross – Darren’s best friend
Clare – Amy’s friend
Fiona – Ross’s girlfriend
Nadine – Darren’s ex girlfriend
The brief was to create and run Twitter and Facebook accounts for these characters – and make them appear as real people.
I set up each character with a Gmail email address, which would later prove useful for posting messages.
Page or Profile?
Should the characters have Facebook Pages or Profiles?
Profiles are traditionally kept for individuals, not businesses, brands or products – these are encouraged to use the page facility.
Initially I had intended for the characters to have profiles – however Facebook have certain sign-up requirements (such as the need for a mobile phone number) to prove legitimacy and reduce spam accounts.
Whilst there are websites that can generate mobile phone numbers for this purpose, I was reluctant to venture into this territory.
You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
You will not post unauthorized commercial communications (such as spam) on Facebook.
Although highly unlikely, I was concerned that the Facebook accounts were at risk of being closed down, and so I opted for the more legitimate pages option.
Why Facebook Pages Worked
Experience has shown me that people tend to use Twitter for business/less personal interactions, whilst Facebook is for real life friends and family.
Hence, people are far less likely to befriend someone they don’t know on Facebook, thus reducing the activity and impact of the characters.
Introducing the characters as pages was essentially admitting that they were not real, but users are more likely to follow pages than connect as friends, with someone or something they don’t know.
Setting Up the Pages
Information – Setting each character up with a page meant I had to decide how to classify them.
I decided not to choose “fictional character” (so as not to make it blatantly obvious that these were made-up) but instead use the range of professional occupations allowed within pages – ie business person, teacher, doctor etc.
In retrospect I realize some of these were a little far-fetched but within the limits of the Pages set up there were little alternatives.
I knew the rough ages of some of the characters, and invented the rest based on friendships etc, and set each character up with a birthday (which continued onto Google when I set them up with Gmail accounts – to be explained in a future post)
Photographs – Some of the characters had already been cast for the live performance/installation, so we asked them to provide us with a natural head shot and any other shots they wanted. I used these to create a profile picture for the character and add some photographs.
I also scanned and used some of my own holiday snaps (landscapes only) to create some back story for the characters.
ie. The actress playing Amy sent me a picture of her in a hotel room, and another of her ice skating. I combined these pictures with some shots of Reykjavik from one of my own holidays.
I also used personal photographs of Paris on Nadine’s account – the character has been living in France for several years.
In addition to setting up accounts for Darren, Amy, Ross, Clare, Nadine and Fiona – I also wanted to create a series of supporting characters to generate conversation and tease out story points via Facebook.
I decided to create several characters who were friends of both Darren and Amy, others who were friends with Darren and Nadine (a previous relationship), a few friends of Nadine’s, plus Darren’s mum (pic right) and sister.
There was also the character of Big Frank. who videoed the live-performance aspect of the project and ill-advisedly posted it online, thus provoking reaction from the main characters.
These characters were given simple profiles, and were not active in any other discussions other than those related to the plot.
Whilst the technicalities of Facebook made it harder for the characters appear real, the same issues did not apply to Twitter.
Each character was given their own Twitter account, using their unique email address. Profile pictures were matched to the images used on Facebook, and descriptions hinted at their occupation, interests and location.
In order to explain the fact all the main characters joined Twitter at the same time – and to I generated some early conversations between them, which alluded to Darren encouraging them all to join when he did.
Nadine, not part of that circle of friends, joined Twitter some weeks later and was less active on the network.
Brief: to create a series of postcards demonstrating the targets reached by Gateway Family Services, third sector organization.
The images were printed onto postcards for use at meetings and eventsthe services on offer, and contact details
The day started at Brewsmiths – located on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter and home to a dizzying food menu. Whether it’s a sausage and bacon platter you’re after, or something a little healthier, there is something here to satisfy.
For me, a mug of tea and 2 slices of Marmite and toast – keeping it simple. Apology was made for the lack of artisan bread but the 2 slices of white were more than adequate!
There was an initial wobble with the wifi, but after a swift reboot it worked a treat, allowing me to clear a batch of email, reply to tweets and write my to-do list for the day.The vibe was relaxed, despite the comings and goings of the morning customers. The service is always pleasant, and even the pigeon who wandered in looking for crumbs was treated with respect and courtesy whilst being shown the door.
Brewsmiths is a nice location to work in – especially if you can nab one of the plug sockets around the wall. The music is a mind-boggling mix but entertaining none the less, and the general attitude welcomes the wifi jockey!
Mid morning – Home is Where (technically a coffee shop? probably not?)
This is a real gem of Birmingham.
Gloriously decorated and luxurious in both feel and mood – this large cafe and deli was buzzing when I arrived at 9:30am.
Definitely more “breakfast meeting” and “ladies that lunch” than the hardcore laptop-coffee crew, still this is one of my favourite places to work.
Most of the smaller tables were taken, so I set up camp on the large co-working table in the middle of the room. (no plugs nearby … why do coffee shops put co-working tables in the middle of the room?)
Fridays mornings in Home is Where is a regular thing for me. I meet fellow freelancer Mark Steadman, share rounds of drinks, catch up and get stuff done.
There are some very special features that make Home a nice choice. The free water on the table is a genius idea, the soundtrack seems to have been lifted directly from the ipod of a 30-something indie kid and the staff range from nicely polite to downright bubbly!
A productive morning was had (I got most of my to-do list cleared) 3 pots of tea drunk, and it was only a VERY irritating trio shouting loudly at the table next to us that prompted us call it a morning.
And so to seek out some delicious lunch and a visit to the very cute SixEightKafe.
Channelling all the spirit of Amsterdam (no, not THAT spirit), what this small shop lacks in space (expansion news coming soon), it more than makes up for in charm.
Seeing a familiar face in Aaron (ex-Urban Coffee barista), behind the counter and a very friendly manager I was made both welcome and a toasted mozzarella, tomato and pesto foccacia.
Now this was delicious – no mistake – but this does bring me onto one of my constant disappointments with coffee shops, the food.
Yes, the eggs benedict on the brunch menu at Urban Coffee JQ is delicious, but most establishments tend to offer sandwiches more focussed on trendy, than taste. A chunky cheese sandwich, or chicken baguette would suit me fine … maybe thats just me (and I know the point of coffee shops is the coffee not the food, so I won’t hold it against any of you!)
This aside, SixEight was a great choice for lunch – the wifi and tea helped me make some serious progress with this very blog post, and once the lunchtime rush had subsided I could have a good old coffee-shop natter with Aaron.
I even got into an impromptu conversation with the chap at the table next to me – and that hardly ever happens nowadays!
You remember that cool kid at school – the one who had the best haircut, who’s parents would let him drink alcohol and knew all the good bands before anyone else?
And remember how you always thought he’d be a bit of a dickhead, but when you spoke to him you realised his was actually really nice?
Yorks Bakery Cafe is achingly New York cool with exposed air conditioning, wooden floors, designer furniture and huge windows.
A window bar serves as a perfect people-watching-while-you-should-be-working vantage point, but there are plug sockets scattered all over the place so it’s perfect for the wifi jockey.
It’s deceivingly big too … the current owners have almost doubled the floor space from a past incarnation as Coffee Republic and now behind the counter hosts an area of comfy bucket seats, and a couple of tables.
The vast space means there is not only room for plenty of customers, but you never feel pressurized to give up your lone seat for a larger group (as happens in some other places)
Yorks Bakery is a result of the current trend-shift from coffee to bread. Designer coffee art has given way to artisan baking, and there is a resident baker in situ at Yorks conjuring up an array of recipes.
The only problem with Yorks Bakery Cafe is that I’m not entirely sure what to DO with it.
When I ordered a pot of tea I was directed to a bowl of sugar in the corner of the room. But what do I do with the sugar? Ok, if you have one cup, or a takeout coffee, you can just add the sugar you want – but I was settling down for a good 3 hour session with a pot of tea. Perplexing.
There is a table of bread by the window – do I pick up the bread, or do I go to the counter on the opposite wall to ask for it? (update: just spotted bags and tongues – so I’m guessing you help yourself!)
In the mornings there is a toaster there for breakfast – again, is this DIY, like a hotel buffet? Or do I order the toast and does it come over?
And, most importantly, what exactly IS artisan bread?
All these questions aside Yorks Bakery Cafe is definitely my new coffee shop crush – it’s airy, socket laden and a pot of tea here is infinitely cheaper than a one way ticket to the Big Apple.
In 10 WAYS TO USE INFOGRAPHICS: PART 1, I talked about using infographics for linkbait, journalism, article illustrations, annual reports and postcards/posters. This time I’ll be looking at video inserts, explanation, audience analysis, adverts and presentations
Video – bring the numbers to life
It was inevitable that the next stage of business demand would be animated infographics.
This brings in a whole new dimension to the statistics, and requires a different set of skills: animation, use of audio etc. This example, by the New York Times, shows the statistics behind Olympic mens swimming.
Click the image right to watch the animation.
This animation starts with a simple bar chart. Each bar is then turned into a swimming lane, turned on it’s side, add some fantastic design, movement and an audio track and this is a quality tool for showing the facts. There is also the option of animating the visualizations themselves – here is a great example.
Explanation – simplify a complex/unfamiliar situation
http://youtu.be/mkJ-Uy5dt5g We’ve all seen company organization charts – normally a tree shape, with a lone Chief Executive at the top, middle management, and the rest of us at the bottom. These are designed to simplify a complex organization and make sure employees know where they fit in the “big picture” By why stop there? You could use information design / infographics to explain a whole host of useful knowledge to current and new employees.
Office facility map – location of WC’s, kitchen, printers, recycling, water fountain
Local transport information
Company overview – map of other offices, financial information
Information flow / work flow – use a flow diagram or map
I’d love to have a go at designing a series of useful induction infographics … let me know if this appeals to your company.
Audience Analysis: know your visitors
Music festivals, venues, clubs and pubs all generate a huge amount of data.
Whether its ticket sales, audience location (from ticket order postcode), social media stats (RT’s, mentions and likes) and amount spent.
The map to the left (click map for original) was created Zarino Zappia from Scraperwiki at the recent Devlab event in Birmingham. Using data from the south asian arts organisation Sampad, the map shows the location of the audience (from ticket order postcode) and location of the events.
This shows exactly where Sampad has an impact and which areas could potentially benefit from more promotion.
Taking this a stage further – we could add socio-economic and ethnicity data from the census. This would show whether those areas were populated with Sampad’s target audience (as an South Asian arts organisation).
For other organisations a combination social data, ticket sales and events would be a great way to show where your brand is making an impact, and if you are failing to target any relevant audiences.
Adverts – attract your audience
Banner ads are still a big part of web content and print – but seasoned internet users are adopting more ways to filter them out either technologically (with ad blockers for online) or by simply ignoring them.
Look at most banner ads and they adopt a traditional design – text, photographics or logos.
What’s stopping your company using a bright, clear infographic instead of a traditional banner ad? Take a strong statistic from your portfolio, make the image colourful and attractive, and it will stand out on a page of traditional content.
Presentations – impress your clients/your class
Business presentations traditionally feature charts – line charts, pie charts and bar charts – showing the crucial statistics for your company.
These tend to be lifted from spreadsheet software and pasted into the presentation software – uninspiring to say the least. Try rethinking HOW you show your data. Whether you are presenting to your Board of Directors, your entire staff or a room full of children – everyone responds to clear, visually stimulating graphics.
Revisit the list above (under the header “Explanation – simplify a complex/unfamiliar situation”). All that corporate information could be re-purposed for a presentation.
Want to quickly show where your company does business? How about a shaded map
Want to show trade routes or other geographical movement? How about a map with lines and arrows?
Showing personal statistics – people icons are an easy way to represent people count
Teachers could use infographics to explain history timelines, maps to show world events and charts to show population increases. With the reliance on graphic imagery as opposed to text,
Even if you don’t have a graphic designers flare for icons and imagery, or the know-how to fire up Photoshop or Illustrator, some free software like Tableau Public could help you spice up your charts and come up with something pretty special. —————— Caroline Beavon is an infographic designer and data journalist. Contact by email with work or collaboration opportunities
I was recently asked by Paul Bradshaw (online journalist and founder of Help me Investigate) to create an infographic as part of his investigations into the Olympic Torchbearers – and more specifically, who got the places?
Please note: not all images are mine – please click image for source
Infographics are hot property right now. Many companies use them and image sharing sites like Pinterest and Flickr are full of them. Here are 10 ways you could bring your information to life in an interesting and accessible way.
1. “Linkbait” – sell your services
This is THE most popular use of infographics. Most of the ones you see online fall into this category.
They tend to be long thin images, stuffed full of interesting facts on a particular subject. They also bear the name of the company which has commissioned the infographic, to promote their services/business.
If the infographic gets some traction online, and goes viral, then the name of the company goes viral along with it They key is to not overdo the promotional message. The infographic has to be interesting in it’s own right otherwise people will not share it.
Also, think about the subject – pick a topic that will be of interest to potential customers.
Example:The example to the right (click for full image) is an interesting infographic showing a range of education statistics.
I can imagine this being of interest to teachers, education decision makers and funders. These also happen to be the audience who would have a say about the resources used in an educational institution. Scroll to the bottom, and you will see the infographic has been commissioned by Microsoft, to promote their Education services.
2. Journalism – tell a story
A growing area for infographics. A major part of journalism is communicating the details of a situation to an audience.
Infographics are a perfect way to show facts, structures and timelines in a different way. Journalistic infographics tend to be more stylised and have space to show the detail.
They are are often designed to be examined over a longer period of time than the “snapshot” infographics shown above. The Guardian do great work with animated data visualization (see Reading the Riots) There are also opportunities to use video and animation (I created an animated map to demonstrate the The Spread of Tech over time).
Not many magazines are using infographics instead of photographs for print or online articles (the trend tends to be “infographic instead of written article” or use standard bar and line charts if stats need explaining).
Communicate Magazinefeature an article every month focussing on a reader survey. I create several quarter or half page images, each one deals with 1, 2 or 3 particular questions in the survey.
Flick through the magazine and the article stands out – the images are a stark difference to the photographs and adverts.
If your subject does feature statistics, consider moving away from a dry, Excel-chart format and make better use of the space you have. More Communicate work here
4. Annual Report – revive your statistics
Full image not currently available
Annual reports are a great way to show off your company’s work over the past 12 months. It can also be an opportunity to show off your creativity to investors, clients and customers.
The chart to the right (full image not available) was created for the annual report for the Birmingham-based arts organisation Sampad. They had tried infographics before, but with a smaller report planned, they wanted a compact solution to show a series of figures and I managed to match up the data and use a circular chart with a separate map in the middle.
There is so much scope to use your annual statistics to create something very creative and interesting 0- you never know, people may actually start reading your annual report!
5. Postcards/posters – show off your work
The infographic above presented a large amount of data in a small space. However, infographics can also be used to show a few simple facts into a larger, clear graphic.
If your company is attending a conference, hosting a client/investor social event or simply want something to hand out to prospective clients, an infographic can be a short snappy way to show off your achievements. The key here is to find a few vital facts – and presenting them in an easy-to-digest and entertaining way.
The set of postcards to the left were created for Gateway Family Services. The cards were to be scattered on tables at a gala event for the organisations key contacts.
There are also plans to use these as posters- which would be incredibly effective. As each deals with a different subject area, the posters could be used in the relevant user-centres.
The postcards can also be used by staff members to celebrate the work of the organisation in a non-formal setting (eg in meetings, and networking events) —– If you are interested in introducing infographics to your business, let’s talk!
(this post was written weeks ago – just getting around to sending it now)
Well it seems that freelancing is like waiting for a bus.
After a few weeks of not-much-at-all, now I’m going through a very promising patch.
I am currently working on 3 dataviz projects – one for the London Fire Brigade (an infographics on cuts and spending), an infographic for Walsall Council and a project for regular client Communicate magazine.
The Communicate project should be an interesting one, as my work is going to be turned into animations – watch this space!
Today I found out I was to become part of the Compass Design team. I will be helping out with social media, online content and some design bits and pieces, as work comes in. This came from a chance meeting at Birmingham City University, during an MA Social Media class. I was leading the class, whilst Rachel McCollin (from Compass) had been invited to speak to the students about dealing with clients. Over coffee today we decided it would be good to work together.
The recent DevLab event was another boost to my freelancing opportunities.
The event took place on Fri 15th Jun 2012 – Sat 16th Jun 2012 at the Old Library at the Custard Factory in Birmingham, with the aim of bringing together developers and general techy-geeky types with arts organisations keen on investigating the digital world.
As well as some very interesting conversations with several organizations on the day (including Walsall Arts Gallery, SAMPAD and Capsule) I was also lucky enough to work alongside Zarino Zappia, from Scraperwiki on a quick-turnaround project for SAMPAD. The aim is to mash up the organisations mailing list data, with socio-economic data from the region. This should help the organization work out why they are not hitting certain areas of the city (are they a target audience or not etc.)
I’ve never really got on with Scraperwiki (this is a HUGE understatement), and my contibution to the hack was sourcing the extra data, but I get the feeling my conversations with Zarino are not over – I’ve already bent his ear about a WYSIWYG version of Scraperwiki for non-coders like myself.
Are you in the lucky position of having a very active online community on your own website? A busy comments section, or a chatty forum?
Bravo – in today’s world of Facebook and Twitter fever, it’s often hard to get a dedicated community involved in a discussion on your own site. It’s a powerful thing: the discussion is likely to be focussed and relevant to your user and all the discussions go on under YOUR brand’s name. The user knows where they are, who you are and what you stand for. There are also obvious benefits to your on-site advertising revenue as well!
However, a forum on a specialist website, or post comments, can easily become a walled garden. Your community is active, but may not be growing. Despite the increase in sharing tools (eg ShareThis) members rarely flag up their activity off-site so potential new users may not even know you exist.
If you want to maintain the rich discussion on your site, whilst also promoting it to the outside world, you could try setting up accounts with the big boys – Facebook and Twitter.
(Note: several of these ideas may not be relevant if your forum runs on a membership-only basis, or deals with particularly sensitive or private issues. In these cases I would suggest setting up a friendly, simple introductory page explaining who you are, the purpose of the site and the forum and why members get involved and linking to this as opposed to particular discussions).
Keep Branding Consistent
Marketing 101 this, I know, but you’ll be amazed how many companies do not have consistent branding across all of their accounts. Use your regular logo/images and use descriptions (or edited version) from your website so people know the site is genuine. If you are not already on these networks, chances are someone else has set up an unofficial page – make sure your new account stands out as the official one. (If someone has set up a fan or unofficial site – make contact with them, they may be happy to promote your arrival!)
Don’t be tempted to match a members-only environment on your site with one on Facebook or Twitter. You are not trying to replicate your on-site community – this is a tool for promoting the discussion and you want it to be as visible and discoverable as possible.
Don’t Cross-Post Everything
The benefit of the larger social networks is that they’re SO easy to access via phones, tablets and of course, computers. If you replicate all the discussions on Facebook, you are giving your customers an excuse NOT to visit your site.
Keep your unique selling point – the fact that all the conversation happens on YOUR site. By selecting occasional content to flag up on FB or Twitter, you are saying “here’s what you’re missing, get involved”.
Be smart with your messages
Don’t just cross post the title. Instead, draw new audiences in to your community with phrases like “Great discussion going on about England’s chances LINK” or “Dave reckons England are doomed – what do you think? LINK“.
Make sure the link in your social media message links directly to the content – none of this “front page, find it yourself” nonsense. The user won’t do this: they’ll get fed up and probably won’t return or click on one of your links again.
NOTE: If your site runs on a members only basis, deep linking will not be relevant here as the user will immediately be faced with a login screen. Send them to a friendly introductory page instead, or use the link to promote your community on a general level, instead of a specific discussion.
Use a tool like Bitly. Not only does this help with analytics (Bitly can tell you the number of clicks the link has received) it also makes the messages look tidier and easier to retweet/forward.
(this goes for all social media usage)
Make sure you have at least one eye on comments and postings referring to your brand. Use a desktop tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, and have searches running for the various iterations of your name including abbreviations and nicknames. This means you can respond to any feedback swiftly (and in private if necessary)
If someone asks a question that is answered in a forum post, send them the link to a relevant discussion (or introductory page if members-only) and encourage them to get involved. If it is not already covered on your site, either create some content or start the discussion yourself, and point them to that.
Yes, on Twitter hashtags are sometimes overused (or used inappropriately), but they can be useful for engaging with a whole new audience.
Keep an eye on trending hashtags and, avoiding spamming, get involved in the debate. Similarly, keep an eye on relevant events or discussions happening and make sure you your brand is in the mix. if there is a genuine link i.e. “Great to see #internships in the headlines: one of our hot topics this week LINK” or “We’ve been having this very debate recently LINK #internships”
Engage with Other Accounts
There are likely to be a host of organisations similar to your own, or working in the same field, already on these social networks. Find them and connect with them. Chances are they’ll help promote your work by retweets your messages or mentioning you in Facebook posts. All this helps drive users to your site. Also don’t forget to return the favour – start talking about what they are doing too – share and share alike!
Twitter and Facebook are still great ways to promote your brand – due to the sheer numbers of users and the diversity of interests. Handled well, you could generate a lot of interest for your on-site discussions.
This gave me 2 hours do something with a range of data available, to address the issue of the worldwide recession and how national behaviour protected against this, or aided recovery.
Due to the limited time made quick decision to use a simple Excel data set Data World Bank dealing with technological advancements around the world over time.
I edited the many (20+) categories down to 4 – mobile phones, internet users, fixed broadband access and telephone lines. I felt there was a clear link between these, and would give a good demonstration of how technology has moved on.
The categories I decided to eliminate included electricity generation, motor cars, paved roads and access to water.
CREATING THE VIZ
I then posted the edited spreadsheet into Tableau (paid for version – not public)
NOTE: I could have used the entire database in Tableau and simply used the bits I needed, but I often find it easier to edit the base data first (avoids crashing too)
I knew straight away that I wanted a animated map showing the spread of these tech elements over time.
Tableau has an option called Pages, which I haven’t used massively – so the bulk of my time was spent changing the options (right) to create the right set up.
I was not able to remove the ZERO values, which gave those small red dots on every country when the animation starts still need to solve this issue
Another issue to take into account was the order at which circles appear: in order for the latter circles not to appear beneath the earlier ones, they had to be ordered (in Indicator Name) in reverse order – latter elements first.
By sending the animation to Tableau Public, I would be able to embed and link to the animation. Or so I thought.
I attempted to embed the animation into WordPress but usual iframe issues impeded this (seriously – this needs sorting out).
It was now 11:45 – I was running out of time.
I initially settled on linking to the Tableau Public but sadly the Tableau Public version was not an animation, simply a manual click through option – not quite as good looking.
CREATING THE ANIMATED VIDEO
I then decided to make a VIDEO of the viz. I briefly considered exporting then individual screenshots into Moviemaker but this would definitely lose some impact.
According to this Writinghood article, the perfect length is between 500-800 words; other people say shorter is better; but surely there’s more to it than that?
For personal/fun blogging I say do whatever you like, but for something more structured and professional , here are a few things you might want to think about: (feel free to add your tips/thoughts in the comments below).
What is the content? For example, is it an introduction, a product description, a technical report or an opinion blog post? Each of these has a different purpose and require different treatment. Thanks to @theaardvark (via Twitter) who said that posts explaining complex issues (in his case VAT) need to be lengthy in order to achieve their purpose.
What are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to impress the reader with your literary prowess, or prove that you are a snappy, swift communicator who cuts to the chase? If you are selling something, which will convince the reader/customer?
How much have you got to say? Are you getting stuck into a big topic, or making a short comment? A great rule of thumb from several people via Twitter, including @pigsonthewing “I stop writing when I’ve said what I have to say”
What is the subject area? Some interesting research here into the average length of articles from some of the larger specialist sites. Tech stories tend to be shorter, politics and financial tend to be longer.
Just text? Have you created a block of text, or will you break it up with bullet points, images, diagrams, video or audio? Additional content will keep the reader’s attention and make the article easier to read. @hainsworth tweeted: “Can it be read in three minutes, or can it be bulleted or paginated to more than one post? 300 words is usually enough”
Page layout – How much room do you have? Do you want to go “below the fold” (will the user have to scroll down to continue reading?). Look at the page layout, font size – how will it look when it’s published?
How long is the other content on the site – what works, what is the reader expecting? Are certain length articles more popular than others on the site? (Check analytics). (If this is a new site, see 8.)
What are other people in your field / the competition doing? Are they right? Is it working? Are they getting shared/commented upon? Do you want to be different? Could you use the length of your articles to compete/make a point of difference?
How often are you posting? Are you writing daily, weekly or monthly? It may be impractical to deliver 10-page articles every day, and your reader may struggle to keep up.
Mobile – with the increase in mobile browsing, we cannot ignore the necessity for even shorter posts. They are prepared to scroll, but not endlessly. How many users visit your site from mobile devices? Is it worth tailoring content for them?
Do you have anything else you would consider, when writing online?
In the next few days I have an interview for an SEO Copywriter position – which has prompted a very unexpected reaction from my friends and colleagues.
My background: broadcast journalism – 10 years of writing news scripts and documentaries. More recently I have “gone digital”, completed an MA in Online Journalism and worked with clients on social media strategy, content and data visualizations.
It is not a huge leap for me to consider roles which require some technical understanding of the internet, search and content.
So, WHY has there been such a dismissive reaction to this particular role?
Three letters – SEO.
The ones who know what SEO stands for (Search Engine Optimization, for those who do not) are what I call the “good” people of the internet. They are journalists and hyper-local bloggers, trainers working with not-for-profit organizations and university lecturers.
They do worthwhile work. They are good people.
To them, anyone who actively goes after search engine ranking via SEO is, as one put it, “creating all that crap online”.
You Give SEO a Bad Name
Yes, there are some very unscrupulous activities online – web marketing is a big business and naturally companies will be tempted to take the fast-easy route. Various black-hat techniques, link baiting, hidden text, cloaking an, of course, spamming, are a blight.
However, as Google improves its crawling techniques, and its spiders evolve more “human” sentiment, so the cracks will show in traditional “black hat” techniques. It was interesting to see that content was a particular focus of Google’s latest update (nicknamed Panda) and sites that were using article spinning, anchor text and paid links saw their rankings hit.
Google process of judging a website’s content as a reader would, has the potential to drive content quality UP, instead of down.
It’s just a shame that this does not necessarily mean the end of link-farms and poorly-written, keyword stuffed articles. Google is not the only search engine, and some companies get enough business from the less-fickle Yahoo and MSN to not worry about quality content.
Reader or Crawler?
I find the worst web content has been written for a crawler – to generate a high page ranking.
However, with the increase in popularity of social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), and bookmarking tools (e.g. Delicious, Instapaper) the reader now plays a much more active role in the process.
They are now much more than just a number, boosting impression rates. They now have the potential to share, recommend, link to and blog about content they like, whether that is to their friends, or to a niche, specialist circle.
An interesting piece of copy with the relevant material highlighted, tagged and organized will keep the crawlers, and your readers, happy.
It’s an interesting question and one even more relevant today as friendships now exist online as well as in the real world
I recently got into a (mini)debate about this subject over on LinkedIn, where a fellow user posted an article, offering a service of buying Twitter followers.
(See discussion on LinkedIn comments – note: exists within a group – membership required)
To summarise – the poster was offering to get followers for your brand / product via click-sites like Twiends, You Like Hits, Add Me Fast. These are a simple, fast way of getting a lot of followers.
However, I wonder – what is the VALUE of those followers?
You may find a small handful who are interested in what you have to offer but the vast majority won’t be. You are doing the equivalent of the junk-mailout, hoping enough will stick to make it worth your while.
With a mailout, you are hoping the recipient doesn’t throw your letter in the bin and acts upon it.
With a mass-follower approach, you are hoping they follow you back, and act.
But act on what?
Are they going to follow you back – because you followed them? Some may. Others will look at your tweets at ask “what’s in this for me?”. If your Twitter stream is full of sales messages, or even worse, nothing at all, it is unlikely that they will let you into their circle. (and even if they do follow you back – an unfollow is likely if you bombard them with sales pitches)
Are they going to buy your product after a simple Twitter follow? Are they going to be so impressed that you’re found them, that they’ll immediately switch to your brand?
You are not generating any form of loyalty by engaging in mass following.
Social Media is “social”
My advice to any client is to treat social media in the same way you treat making friends/contacts. You do not walk into a dinner party, hand out a load of flyers with your phone number, and walk out again. In reality you have conversations, engage and entertain.
With social media you need to literally “make friends” with your followers. You need to nurture those friendships, avoid upsetting them and keep the conversation going.
Ironically, one of the Twitter follower websites mentioned by our friend in the original article, seems to actively promote this “quality over quantity” approach. (See infographic left – click for original)
There is some excellent advice here – which all point to the social element of social media
It’s a shame that clients are falling for this “mass clicking” approach, when – in the long run – it won’t benefit them at all.
After a relatively quiet period, recently I’ve had a flurry of work and opportunities – and some very interesting ones at that. Excuse the lack of client names, but many of these are active projects.
If you are interested in hiring me – you can find me on Twitter (@carolinebeavon) or email carolinebeavon at gmail.com
Infographic > Local Authority Olympics
I was recently asked to create an infographic of information about the Olympic Torch relay, for a local authority.
This was an unusual project for me as it involved text instead of numbers. Instead of creating charts and diagrams, the project involved illustrating blocks of text and using colour and glyphs to support the issues.
Whilst this infographic was concerning the Olympic Torch Relay, the client was not an official partner of the event. Hence, there are a host of restrictions on use of logo, branding, symbols and colours.
You can read the official guidelines here – and I was genuinely surprised at the extend to which these restrictions extend. For example – the Olympic rings, even if used in silhouette, are restricted, as are the Olympic colours used together in a design.
Working with the client, and based on a website they had already drawn up for the coverage, we opted for simple red, white and blue theme and avoided ALL Olympic shapes or suggestions.
Communicate Magazine is a monthly B2B (business to business) magazine within the Stakeholder Relations field. As their in-house Data Visualization Specialist I work with research data and create 3/4/5 quarter page graphics to support articles in the magazine.
As a very quick favour to my old friends at Kerrang! Radio, I was recently glad to help out with a map visualization of listener postcodes.
I initially gave some advice to the in-house designer/web dude on tools that would be able to create intensity circles on a map (using Fusion Tables etc) but in the end I stepped in and assisted by using Tableau.
I will he holding a workshop on Data Journalism for Publishers at the Specialist Media Show on 24th May 2012
Data is the new buzz word. As public bodies bow under increasing pressure to be transparent and open, so companies are coming under the same pressures. The new breed of savvy consumer is not content with the story that YOU give them. They want the background, they want to interrogate, play, sort, visualize and they want to share across their social networks. It is up to publishers to be more open with their research, and present it in an accessible, interesting and honest way. From simple downloads, to high-end interactive pieces, there are a host of opportunities for publishers to get involved in this data revolution.
Covering live events can be a chaotic, stressful and sometimes unfulfilling experience. Battling with the digital elements can mean the finished product is disappointing.
However- there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself
(feel free to comment with more below – I will also add to this as ideas come to me!)
Find out as much about the event as you can.
Where is it? – how are you going to get there? Public transport? Where can you park?
When is it? – what time does it start? What time do you need to be there?
Where will you be – do you have an allocated desk? Will space be tight (should you get there early to secure a good seat?)
Who is running the event – are you on the event mailing lists?
who is going – try to get a list of speakers / delegates beforehand. This is useful to make contacts and arrange interviews ahead of time!
Make sure you have all the information with you and easy to find. I often make a crib sheet for myself of the address, directions, contact names / numbers etc.
See more on content and research in Live Blogging, below
With the increase in laptop and smartphone use at events, the demand on power outlets is great. Always take a power lead for your device and a LONG extension lead (this means you can share one plug amongst many devices – great for charging phones, laptops etc at the same time).
Vital if you are going to live blog, tweet or in any way cover the event online.
In the days before the event, check with the venue/event organisers if there will be free wifi available and that you will be able to use it. Don’t rely on 3G (especially in old buildings where often traditional mobile coverage tends to drop off).
If there is no wifi available invest in a 3G dongle (although often these struggle in old buildings / internal rooms).
If you are worried, try to visit the venue ahead of the event to check internet coverage. This gives you time to solve any issues.
There are several ways you can cover an event – a straight forward article written after the event for online or print, social media updates (eg Twitter, or Google+), web streaming, audio capturing and live blogging
As with any form of reporting, preparation is key. However, with live blogging especially, ANYTHING you can do to make your job a bit easier once the event gets underway, the better.
If you are using a live blogging tool such as CoverItLive – save as MUCH content in the tool library as you can:
photographs of speakers
build a quick contact sheet for each of them, with Twitter links, websites etc which you can paste in when they begin talking
links to statements, policies, etc.
presentations – easy to embed and link to with tools like SlideShare.
A few other ideas:
If you are there with other reporters, get them to take pictures from different parts of the event and tweet them with a #hashtag. You can then add these into the live blog stream …
Are your podcasts limp and lifeless? Then try these tips to spice up your audio output …
Location Location Location
Get out there!!! You might think that you need peace and quiet to record a podcast, but remember – the joy of a podcast is that you can get to the centre of a situation or story. Sometimes silence just sounds strange.
Example: If your podcast is about farming – why not record it in a field, with the sound of the wind, sheep and birds? Use appropriate background noise (known as wildtrack)
It not only sounds more interesting, it gives the podcast a sense of authenticity and makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about.
Music / Jingles / Sound effects
Have fun with these. They will make your listener smile, and can be useful to break up different segments of the podcast, a change in subject or mood, or simply to illustrate a point. Just be careful where you get music from due to licensing laws. It’s a grey area but it’s best to be safe. I haven’t used these guys, but looks promising (Magnatune)
Example: You’re creating an audio podcast for kids – teaching them English languge basics, How about using sound effects to illustrate the words you are saying – a baaaa-ing lamb, for lamb (lambs again!!!). Its even harder to keep kids interested, but this will definitely help.
Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit
Stop going on … Think about where people will be listening to your podcasts. It could be on the way to work, in the car, on the bus … how many people have an hour-long commute? Some do, but not everyone.
Listening to a speech based podcast for an hour may be a commitment too far for some people. Think about “chunking” … breaking it up into smaller pieces.
In addition, trying to do an hour long podcast regularly will be difficult. Spread out your content or you’ll lose interest over time.
People like to know what to expect. You could start your podcast with an introduction and an audio menu of what’s coming up. Then people can decide whether it’s for them, and what to listen out for. Similarly, you could post a written version of this running order, with times, so people can scroll forward.
You’ve landed a great interview for your podcast – a real find. However, resist the temptation to put the whole interview unedited into your podcast. It will slow the whole thing down. How about playing some clips from it, then putting the whole interview (the “raw”) as a separate podcast? Refer to this in your podcast, and you’ve got them coming back for more!
You could also split the interview over a series of podcasts – imagine saying “more from Dave next week”.
Mix it Up
Have a think who’s listening to the podcast, and what do they want? Think about bringing in different features, or sections to the show. It keeps interest up as you change subject, tone and pace.
Example: A news style bulletin for airport customers could be livened up by adding travel advice, health tips and local recommendations. Also, advice on facilities in departure lounges etc. This would make the podcast a lot more interesting and popular.
I have been a Visiting Tutor at Birmingham City University on and off for more than a year, but today I experienced that mythical “sense of satisfaction” that teachers talk about.
I held a short data visualization workshop for some 2nd year Online Journalism students today – who were incredibly hungry for the information. For the past few weeks they had been gathering spreadsheets and reports and were now desperate for interesting ways to show this. Some were also concerned that they didn’t have any data as such, just lots of information
data is not just numbers – it is information, lists, reports, structures, things you’ve found out – anything that could be displayed visually
expand the data – add new information – i.e. bring value to a list of companies by adding company type, location, size etc.
shrink the data – a list of spending at every university could be rehashed into a smaller dataset of spending in the West Midlands – compare across region.
compare the data – download the same dataset for previous years, so you can compare over time.
confused.com? – untangle a complex situation with an organisational chart – help the reader understand who does what.
processes – have you found out how something gets done? Then, why not create a flow chart showing the process – ie the flow of money, responsibility, communication
missing information? – start a partial organisational chart – flag up where data is unavailable due to corporate privacy protection – ask why
tell the backstory – create a timeline showing key events. Helps the reader understand the context of the story
compare lists side by side – a list of UK universities by League table position, next to a list of UK universities by satisfaction rating – draw lines between the same establishment in each list, and you show any general patterns, are satisfying universities generally the best performing?
Word Clouds – not to be used for academic/journalistic analysis but definitely interesting as a bit of illustration/front cover.
Checking the latest data from the Brit Awards (courtesy of the Guardian Data Blog) is seems 24 is the age a musician is most likely to win a Brit Award
Age of Brit Award Winners (2005-2012)
Since 2005 12 awards have gone to pop stars at this age including Amy Winehouse, Kate Nash and Ellie Goulding. Similarly, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine and JLS all tapped in at this age when they picked up their awards.
Could it be down to our education system, 3 years at uni, where they perhaps form a band, and 3 years focusing on it when they leave? Is it the power of the Brit School (London’s very own pop factory – which has produced Brit Award winners Adele, Amy Winehouse, Jessie J, Ed Sheeran and more) putting its alumni on a sure fire Brit success route within 2/3 years of them leaving? (see Brit School chart below)
Or could it simply be a co-incidence?
It is also interesting to see the spread of ages, over the last few years. It’s no great surprise to see the 20’s (olive green) is the dominant age group, but it is interesting to see the gradual shift to younger artists (although 2012 bucks this trend slightly).
Age of Brit Award Winners over time
This chart also shows an increase in age coverage as a whole, as the bulk of the chart takes a triangular shape, with younger and older artists being represented. (the average age of the charts, however, remains the same.
How about by category? Well, again – no great surprises – although it is interesting to see the change in categories over the years (a removal of genre specific awards, for example)
Issues with the Data
As I worked out their age from the year they were born, as opposed to the exact date, their exact age at the time of the award is a guess. Hence there is a very real chance that the actual date is a bit wonky. However, I had problems finding the YEARS of some peoples birth, finding their exact birthday would be a bigger job for another time.
What I would like to do now is explore more interested elements – perhaps carry out a an age study of the album charts (using the data from my MA Project) and see if there is a similar pattern.
Sometimes I’ll start a data project, and duing the process one of several things may happen:
I lose interest
something more important comes along
I realized it’s just not “working”
The latter happened as I was working on a piece for the latest Information is Beautiful challenge – which involved chomping through a large and very interesting data set regarding Hollywood movies.
These challenges encourage you to use a data set provided by the website to create either a visualization, napkin drawing ( sketch) or an interactive piece.
After several hours of looking through the data, looking for interesting angles, and hunting for more data I could add to the set (via Google Refine) I settled on looking at the connections between the actors involved in the top films.
Ask anyone who’s watched a film with me and they’ll tell you that I have a VERY annoying habit of opening Wikipedia to find out where I’ve seen a particular actor before. It’s annoying in everyday life, but for this – it was a dream.
I was also intrigued by the success of the films starring Seth Rogen / Jonah Hill et al, and the idea of teams working together – and how prevalent this was across other areas of Hollywood.
(see below for more details and why I eventually shelved it)
What it Means
Yes, it’s a bit of a headache isn’t it? The original dataset with featured the films coming out of the major studios, over a certain time period.
I added actor information to the cataset from Freebase (within Google Refine) and worked out which ones had appeared in the most films over the time period. I then cross referenced the films and created the above chart.
I had originally intended to give each film a different colour but this became unworkable – so I limited the colours to the films featuring 3 or more actors on the chart. The rest I coloured in grey.
Why It Didnt Work
For one, it was too damn complicated – no chart should take 3 paragraphs to explain. Kinda defeats the point, right?
Secondly, the choice of resulting entries was nonsense.
Original Data (limited to major studios)
Actors added to each film (according to Wikipedia, via Freebase)
Top 26 hardest working actors selected (based on original list, so ignoring independent or smaller budget films)
And thirdly – it didn’t really say anything. I always put the success of my last Information is Beautiful entry down to the quirky subject matter (comparing the lifespan of important earth resources to celebrities). This didn’t have that element. Yes, it was interesting to see which actors work together, but the dataset was too limited to show any major patterns.
I eventually decided to stop working on the design (hence a few wonky areas) and shelve it.
So why am I publishing it here?
Because I spent all day on it, I like the IDEA and design and I wanted to share my experiences of when to walk away.
I’d love to hear your experiences of when you’ve had to walk away – and why.
There must be something in the water …. twice this week I have received emails from online journalism students asking for my thoughts on data journalism – and more specifically, my data idols.
The first was an email from Germany – or student Katarina Bons to be precise – asking for information about any studies into data journalism in the UK and who the key players were.
During the completion of my final MA Online Journalism project, during a desperate need to relieve tension, I pasted the text of my MA final dissertation into Wordle. Whilst I regrettably did not save the final image there were some surprising, and not so surprising results. Data, was of course – one of the most commonly used words (so much in fact that the A key on my laptop broke off and flew across the room).
Another word that cropped up, worryingly often, was McCandless.
Poster boy for the data generation, but not without his critics, David McCandless is definitely my data-crush – his simplistic yet visually stimulating work is a definite inspiration to me and – in times of creative drought – I have asked – “what would McCandless do?”. (to make the shortlist of an Information is Beautiful challenge was one of my personal highlights)
Then I received an email, a few days later, from BCU MA Online Journalism student Duarte Romero Varela asking for a recorded interview about data journalism.
Being an alumni of that particular course, and a self-confessed data geek, I was more than happy to hold forth.
Meeting in Cafe Blend in Birmingham, Duarte interviewed me for a podcast (listen here) covering a range of issues including:
Q: who is my data viz hero? (A: see above)
Q: what tools do I use? (A: Excel > Tableau > Illustrator)
Q: what is more important, how clear a viz is, or how it looks? (A: both – a clear ugly chart is like a badly written article – who’d want to publish it?)
This question was of particular interest to me – the tide does appear to be turning against data viz / infographics at the moment, thanks to the tsunami of terrible examples finding their way into web content, newspapers and onto billboards, bus stops and the side of coffee cups. There are cases, and I am definitely guilty of this at times, of being seduced along a path of beauty, and forgetting about the practicalities and the journalism.
Here’s how I see it …
Journalism: what are you trying to convey? What is the story?
Clarity: it has to tell that story
Design: it has to look attractive for people to want to interact with it
It’s a shame that there are so bad examples out there, outweighing the good and giving the whole area a bad name.
There is a real need in some cases for highly complex information to be reworked into a visible format and it would be a shame if we threw the useful bar chart out with the overdesigned viz
In something of a mid-February resolution, I’ve decided to do more day-to-day blogging about the various online activities I am involved in. You have been warned
Yesterday I found myself at the SoLoMoDEN conference in Manchester. Right in the heart of Media City, it was hard not to be inspired about the future of the profession – even though there was a slight Legoland feeling to this regenerated part of Salford.
The “DEN” bit of SoLoMoDEN, stands for the Digital Editors Network – a group for anyone with an interest in online journalism ventures. Entrepreneurs, reporters and students rub shoulders, exchanging business cards and ideas. (As someone who has been to a large number of these new media journalism conferences, this is still my favourite, due to a very friendly crowd, accessible subject areas and free ticket (donation is optional)
The “SoLoMo” part of the event title captured the buzz phrase of the moment – Social LocalMobile … the holy triumvirate of online news innovation – and the event focussed on these issues specifically with presentations on
One of the chaps behind DEN, the softly spoken (but don’t be fooled) @Francoisnel is an academic interested in sustainability of online news models, and he used the event to launch his latest venture MADE – an incubation support project for such ventures.
However, it was the presentation by Greg Hadfield (@greghadfield) that certainly got me, and a few other people, all of a flutter.
Firstly, it was great to see someone so genuinely excited about open data – but refreshing to see it applied to both social good, and commercial viability.
Secondly – as I was in the process of writing my application for the role of Electronic Editor at the Express and Star, it gave me some fantastic ideas.
The evening ended, inevitably with a few drinkies with a nice crew including @foodiesarah, @alisongow @paulbradshaw + some new friends, before Paul Bradshaw and I legged it for a train at Manchester Picadilly back to Birmingham.
An interesting spat broke on Twitter this morning.
At the centre of it all, wannabe Birmingham mayor (yes, Birmingham is in the process of deciding if it wants an elected mayor not not) Gisela Stuart (@giselastuart) took an open pot shot at the local website, Birmingham: It’s Not Shit
Note: in the spirit of transparency and all-that, I must now insert some form of disclaimer here that I know the chap behind BINS – @bounder, and my better half (@probablydrunk) often pens articles for the site. However, I have been aware of the site for years, often interviewing Bounds as a response to the yearly poundings of Birmingham in various travel guides.
Get a Grip
I’m not even a Brummie (I am originally from Wolverhampton) but even I feel incredibly proud of this city. Yes, it has it’s issues (which urban area doesn’t?), and the city is constantly on the back foot defending itself from it’s industrial, grubby past but anyone who’s stepped foot in the city (especially after a long absence) is genuinely surprised at it’s transformation. Which Brummie hasn’t puffed their chest a little when someone from “out of town” nods their head approvingly at the Bullring or Brindley Place?
What makes us different from the host of other rejuvenated cities such as Newcastle, Manchester and Belfast, is that we don’t shout Birmingham’s name from the rooftops. Instead we take the knocks on the chin and wait patiently until someone notices our new hairdo.
For years Birmingham, and in fact most of the West Midlands, has been seen as the dirty, noisy, arguing folk living next door to the glamorous south. It’s something people in this city have grown to accept with a huge dose of grace and humour.
Close it Down??
Which brings me to Birmingham: It’s Not Shit – and Stuart’s call to for it to be closed down.
For starters, it is a website run by a fiercely proud Brummie who uses a tongue-in-cheek style to draw attention to the good things happening in this city. Accusing @bounder (and his writers) of a lack of pride is an enormous insult to the people actually doing something to change perception, both inside and outside of the city.
Secondly, she called for the site to be “closed down” (then “renamed” in a later tweet), revealing a lack of understanding. I can’t work out if she’s misread the title, didn’t visit the site before commenting, or simply has no sense of humour – either way, it was pretty badly handled.
ADD: Gisela Stuart has now apologized to BINS (“Apologies to @BirminghamiNS and thanks all for putting me right!”) and the matter is now put to bed.
Evernote Hello (for collecting information to help you remember people you meet)
As a well-documented Evernote bore, I had to give them all a go.
I have no real use for Peek, have used Evernote Clearly and Food once or twice – but I was keen to give Evernote Hello a go.
It’s a great idea. I am useless at remembering names (great a faces, which means I know exactly WHO’s name I’ve forgotten) and am always looking for new tools to beat this affliction.
How it works
Evernote Hello encourages you to formally gather information about a person when you first meet them via an iPhone app.
In a traditional setting, you’d receive someones business card during the conversation, which ends up in your pocket with all the other business cards to gather dust and become a notepad for other more pressing bits of information (train times, phone numbers etc).
This app allows you to gather the Twitter name, email address and telephone number of the person AND, most importantly, a photograph – which will then sit within the app, and within your Evernote account. It also logs where you met them, and allows you to link this contact to notes within Evernote.
So far so good.
(and this is the entire crux of the app) … I must admit to being far too polite to ask to take someone’s photograph, on first meeting. It just is not in my nature to do that. Asking for their Twitter name, or email address is one thing – a photograph? … a step too far.
Is this just a British thing? Are other nationalities more easy going about this?
It is interesting to see this issue raised on the Evernote forum (post here)
Starting to Use It
There have been multiple opportunities for me to use to use this app – the recent News:Rewired journalism conference the major one.
However, I am no point felt it was the right time, during a conversation, to whip out my phone and take a strangers picture (and it would have been even more creepy to take a picture of them on the sly)
This week I began teaching a new class (MA Social Media) at Birmingham City University as a visiting tutor. I will be working with them for several weeks so it was a great chance to test this app out. As a small group of tech-friendly people – I hoped they would be open to me gathering their information at the start of the class so I could begin to learn names, as well as pick up twitter and email account details.
The phone gives you several ways to add information, You can pass them your phone (often easier than trying to spell complex twitter names and risk mistakes), you can do it yourself or link the contact with one already in your address book.
As I passed my phone around the (small) class, the general concern that I was going to put the images online (probably thanks to culture of endless tagging on Facebook). This was not the case – it was simply for my records.
Interestingly, we realized that if an email address is added by the contact, they receive a message from Evernote Hello, with MY details – very useful for automatically exchanging contacts.
This app is – in theory – a great idea. However, whipping my iPhone out asking to take someones picture is just not going to happen.
Instead, I am going to start using it to gather contacts in the normal way. So, at the end of a conversation, when I would normally ask for the persons email or Twitter details – I will let them manually add into Evernote Hello. There is a photograph button clearly visible, and I am hoping people will be intrigued by the app and volunteer to take picture themselves.
It is no secret that I am an Evernote fangirl. I love the fact I can send pretty much everything I find online, into one huge vat of stuff.
Recently I decided to take this one step further and use Evernote to read and process all of my emails.
Use the FORWARDING feature in Gmail to send all emails to Evernote
Tell Gmail to keep the email, but mark as read (this means I can still access the messages via Gmail if I need to, but they won’t show as unread in my inbox on my phone)
Within Evernote, you can SHARE notes, so simply paste the email address into the SHARE facility, and reply to email.
EASE – Evernote is far less clunky via desktop than Gmail
IT WORKED – I had been having problems using Gmail through Thunderbird and other desktop email apps, but Evernote worked
TIME – I was forwarding so many emails, it seemed to make sense to forward them all, and delete the ones I didn’t want.
ATTACHMENTS – You can merge notes so send several attachments to one person (easier than adding attachments via normal email)
INTEGRATION – Sending my emails into Evernote immediately puts them in the mix with my documents, PDFs, articles etc – where they can be easily searched and grouped.
TAGGING – being able to integrate your email with other information I had stored, documents etc meant I could group project information together, and tag items that required action.
The Negatives (and why it eventually failed as a process for me)
SPACE: I use Evernote premium (which allows you 1GB of uploads per month) and for normal usage, this is perfect. Unfortunately, this month I have found receiving a much higher volume of emails (due to several projects and the subsequent discussions). I have already used a quarter of my upload quota and I’m only a few days into my month.
REPLYING: when you receive an email in Evernote, it shows the SENDERS email address, which means you simply need to copy this and paste it into the SHARE box. Simple. Unfortunately, as Evernote is not an email system, it does not show when the email has been CC’d, so they would miss out on any replies. In the end I was having to use my old system for replying to group emails
UNRELIABILITY: Several times emails have simply not arrived.
SPAM – Some of the emails were ending up in spam, and some users were not spotting this – so the email was not received.
CLUTTER – Again, as Evernote is not an email system, it does not have an UNREAD facility so I was often missing emails in my inbox, as it was in amongst the posts, tweets etc that I was sending.
If you have any suggestions of how I could overcome the above problems, I would love to hear from you, but for now, this is my solution:
Download the new version of Thunderbird which seems to be coping with Gmail right now. (I am also trying a free trial of Postbox, although this is £30 if I want to use it beyond a month)
Forward emails into Evernote that require action (I could potentially use IFTTT.com to autoforward anything I tag with TODO in Gmail, but I have found IFTTT.com strips too much formatting from an email rendering them often unusable)
Forward emails into Evernote that need archiving – articles, information etc.
Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details
(a few notes/ideas of using online resources for journalism from a recent 30 minute workshop with 2nd year Online Journalism students) – this is by no means definitive, so feel free to add any suggestions, comments below
There are so many ways a journalist can follow the story, search for contacts or get leads online – but starting off is the hardest part.
In this blog post I’l be running through a few very easy steps to jumping in – often using tools you may already be aware of.
eg Twitter, Facebook (less mainstream ones mentioned in Other Tools below)
I would suggest having a professional account, especially if you already have an account and use it for day to day chatting to friends, posting pictures of nights out etc.
If you need convincing – perhaps these reasons will help:
Reason 1 – potential to upset bosses
Countless examples of people being fired for criticizing their bosses, talking about getting another job. being unprofessional, being offensive etc. drunk pictures, sweary tweets. keep them separate.
This doesn’t mean you cant be human on your professional tweet, just not an animal.
Reason 2 – your company could claim ownership of your followers
Recently a man was sued for his followers, He was using his own account to promote the companys work – when he left, they wanted him to leave his Twitter account, and his followers, behind.
Reason 3 – Content may not be suitable for your personal account
Friends don’t necessarily want to see your work
some may not like the work you are doing … may not be suitable
Imagine youre doing research on neo-fascists – and you decide to follow a few groups for research – do you want your friends seeing that?
Now, whether that is true or not – it shows that if you are searching for something a little unsavoury, illegal etc or dealing with people, it is best to have a separate account.
Name: If you already have an account using your full name, consider changing it to a nickname, and using your full name on your professional account – remember, a potential employer/contact will probably do a search for you – which account do you want them to find?
Also, avoid a username that alludes to your current situation – eg Davethestudent, or JohnBCU – in 2/3 years you won’t be a student any more. Also avoid employer names for the same reason.
picture – I would choose something clear and recognizable – it’s amazing how many people at events will come over because they’ve seen you on Twitter.
So now you have your account set up, the question is …
WHO TO FOLLOW
Who’s on there
you’ll end up following lots of people
don’t be afraid to stop following people if your interest changes
e.g. you’re working on an education story – so you’ll follow lots of teachers – for example. once the story is over, you don’t need to keep getting their updates
use lists – group the types of people you are interested in so you can see them all together
Finding that first person
name search people/organizations/publications you know
check articles on the subject – is the writer online?
check organizations websites – a lot now promote their social network accounts
Google search subject area + social network name …
Youve now found someone to follow …
check their profile – they may have other accounts, organizations mentioned
who are they following? (very useful) who follows them? (not as useful)
Lists – the lists they follow and the lists they are a member of – find similar people
look through some of their tweets – who are they talking to / replying to?
As well as following people, you can follow events (whether temporary or ongoing) with hashtags. These are words, preceeded by a #, which users use to show the subject of their tweet.
With certain services you can search and follow hashtags .. which can be set up for TV shows (eg #xfactor, or for individual conferences, events.
An interesting project to emerge in this time when questions are being asked about the role of the mainstream media is The Hidden City. It is a website covering the hidden stories of Birmingham through audio slideshows (a slideshow of relevant photographs with an audio track underneath).
The brainchild of the guys behind Fourseventy Media, a local media production company specializing in audio, The Hidden City is a not-for profit project funded by donations and sponsorship. All money raised will go back into the project to cover costs, (eg travel expenses)
With local newspapers shutting down and broadcast newsrooms co-locating out of the region, this site hopes to focus attention back on the local people, stories and events happening across the region and are inviting the public to submit story ideas. Once these ideas are submitted, the site will either assign it to one of their reporters, or help the member of the public to cover it themselves.
Checking the site out at today’s launch, at Brewsmiths Coffee shop in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, there are a handful of stories up there, as produced by the FourSeventy Media guys, and a small army of local media/tech students from Birmingham City University. Reports currently on the site deal with subjects including squatters rights, the history of UB40, an old-school barbers shop and street sport.
Right now these are accessible through “pins on a map”, housed on the front page (See screengrab below) – although they are not categorized into subject area/themes. (there are plans for themed/colour coded pins in the future)
I was concerned about the issue of quality control. Right now, the site houses some top notch content – produced by a professional company, and students trained by them. I was assured that content standards would remain high, and that all submitted work would be either produced entirely in-house, or under supervision/editorial guidance from the in house team. There is also common sense here – with the guys clearly going for quality over quantity – there will be 2/3 audio slideshows (or audio/video in the future) uploaded her month.
Overall, it is an interesting project and I wish them all the luck!
What is the role of the journalist in today’s world?
During the Birmingham riots, when a huge amount of rumour and speculation was being passed around the social networks (Riot rumours – Guardian), should the local media have also stepped in to set the records straight?
Many believe that journalists should only deal with news — a rumour is not news, and should be left alone.
This may have been the case before the era of social networks and citizen journalists – when the journalists had the monopoly on the information reaching the public, and to mention “rumour” was to give it credence.
However, today – thanks to the power of the online world, rumour has credence without the journalists being involved.
Consider this example: a station is evacuated due to a suspect package. Word breaks online and spreads quickly.
Traditionally we would turn to our the established news outlets (local radio, local newspaper website etc) for confirmation or, at least, information. However, if they are saying nothing about it because nothing has been confirmed, then that organization will quickly lose its reputation. Concerned parties will instead continue to believe the information being passed around online.
Those local news outlets should be on Twitter and Facebook saying what they know about this situation. They should besaying that the station has been evacuated. They should also be passing on information as they receive it. Granted, it probably won’t make a story, but people are talking about it – hence it deserves attention.
Now we are left with a situation where minute-to-minute updates are handled by the sources themselves (police, Government, NHS) and an army of citizen journalists.
It is no wonder that local/regional news outlets are losing their grip on their regions – when there are other sources of information not concerned with filling pages, and maintaining exclusives.
Embargo: a request by a source that the information or news provided by that source not be published until a certain date or certain conditions have been met News embargo – Wikipedia
A lot of talk recently about embargoes, after a journalist for the New Yorker posted a review of the new David Fincher film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ahead of an agreed embargo date.
You can read the email exchanges between the reporter – David Denham and Sony here but Denham’s points appear to be:
They were trying to spread reviews to avoid a “jam up” of articles featuring the large number of important movies released at the same time
His review was positive – he says he would not have broken an embargo with a “bad” review
“madness” of early publication dates in the run up to the Xmas period and a need for serious content for this particular edition.
Sony retaliated by accusing him of doing “a deeply lousy and immoral thing“, that the glut of Xmas films is nothing new and that the needs of the magazine should not come ahead of an agreement.
Embargo’s are designed to structure the flow of information between a source and a journalist within an environment of trust and it is important that they are maintained. They not only offer an obvious benefit to the source (by controlling coverage) and the wider situation (e.g.protecting police operations, court cases etc) there are also definite benefits to the journalist.
A journalist who is given access to embargoed information is working within a privileged position. The source considers their, or their outlet’s reputation to warrant this trust and in return the that journalist is given time to absorb and develop the story.
With the online information-explosion thanks social networks and blogging, it is important for traditional news outlets to play to their strengths. Whilst many are excelling in breaking news in innovative ways, they still have a definite advantage when it comes to their access to information. This head-start gives the perfect opportunity to prepare a well-researched, in-depth piece ahead of time.
A journalist who breaks an embargo is often punished in the future by missing out on information – it would be a shame if this becomes a habit and more journalists ignore this agreement that is there for the greater good.
In the future, will the embargo become a more important tool or an obsolete tradition?
Just received this Email from the Google Wave guys … Despite my ups and downs with Wave, it’s still sad but good for Google for giving it a go!
More than a year ago, we announced that Google Wave would no longer be developed as a separate product. At the time, we committed to maintaining the site at least through to the end of 2010. Today, we are sharing the specific dates for ending this maintenance period and shutting down Wave. As of January 31, 2012, all waves will be read-only, and the Wave service will be turned off on April 30, 2012. You will be able to continue exporting individual waves using the existing PDF export feature until the Google Wave service is turned off. We encourage you to export any important data before April 30, 2012.
If you would like to continue using Wave, there are a number of open source projects, including Apache Wave. There is also an open source project called Walkaround that includes an experimental feature that lets you import all your Waves from Google. This feature will also work until the Wave service is turned off on April 30, 2012.
Is your email inbox bursting at the seams? Overrun with nonsense,? Drowning in newsletters?
Here are a few easy tips to get your wayward email inbox whipped into shape.
The idea here is to reduce the number of emails in your inbox, so the important ones aren’t forgotten about.
Before you clear out your inbox (we’ll do that later), LOOK at the emails in there – they should fall into one of four categories:
EASY TO DEAL WITH EMAILS
Deal with them … right now. Sounds silly, but the rush you’ll get by just getting it down will be worth it
Alternatively, if you’d prefer and have the facility – convert the email to a task
Unsubscribe from them. There should be an unsubscribe option at the bottom. It seems like a hassle now, but think – how many of these emails do you delete every week? Trust me – it’s worth it.
If you are receiving unwanted emails from individuals simply ask to stop receiving them. A polite email explaining why (i.e. your job role has changed, your interests have changed, or you get the information from other sources etc.) should do the job. This also applies to chain email that at some point applied to you, but don’t now.
You could also set up a filter to delete unwanted mailouts before they even enter your inbox BUT be warned: in the future you may want to resubscribe to this service, so you will need to remove the filter if so. Also, the more specific you cna be with your filter, the less chance of other emails being caught.
“NEED LATER” EMAILS
These re messages you don’t need to see now, but will need later.
The answer here is to FILTER. If you use a free-mail service, like GMail or Hotmail, or Outlook, make use of the filtering / archiving process which skips the inbox and moves the emails directly into a folder.
newsletters from fashion stores / vouchers etc. can be hidden away until your next shopping trip
work documents that I will need for a future task but don’t need reviewing now
job alerts – I file these away, and set myself a calendar reminder to check that folder every couple of days so I don’t miss anything important
PESKY EMAILS (aka All the rest …)
These emails will annoy the hell out of you, and make you feel bad about yourself until you can deal with them. Often these depend on other people/situations. My solution is to remove it from your inbox but set up a reminder to deal with it, when you know you’ll be able to.
In order to do this – think – what’s stopping you from answering it immediately?
You need to consider your response / it’s not urgent and you’re busy right now – Sometimes you’re just not in the mood, right? Sometimes it’s just not a priority. Sometimes that difficult email needs an extra cup of coffee / lunchbreak or an entire day before you feel up to dealing with it. First, be honest – are you just procrastinating, or does this really need some thought? If so, allocate yourself a time of the day/week to deal with emails like this. End of the day perhaps? Start of the day – before things get to hectic? Set yourself a timed reminder, or a morning todo list, archive the email and forget about it until then.
Are you waiting for a specific date? – either archive and set yourself an calendar reminder, or – if it’s an email that needs sending – does your email system have a DELAY email function? (you could also give ifttt.com a go – this allows you to schedule emails to a specific person through your Google Calendar – very geeky and very clever). There are other email schedulers available – these seem to allow a small number of free emails (eg 10 a month) but for larger amounts you will need to pay.
Are you waiting for an email from someone else? – if so, archive the email currently in your inbox – the email from them will remind you to deal with this
Do you need to have a phone call/conversation/meeting with someone else first? – do you know when this will be? If so, you could either set yourself a calendar reminder for the date you will find out the information, or a reminder for the deadline when it has to be dealt with.
A few more things you can do …
Turn off social network notifications – if you are on Twitter / Facebook all day anyway (or have an app on your smartphone) do you really need an email alert as well? If you’re like me you are signed up to a lot of accounts, so the notifications are endless!! Also think – what’s the point of getting a Facebook alert if you’re at work and can’t do anything about it? Turn them off, save yourself the frustration!
Preview setting on mobile email readers – I miss important emails because I review them on my mobile, but can’t deal with them. Now I use the “PREVIEW 5 lines” function (IPhone) so I can get an idea of what the email is about, without having to open it (which marks it as read). It will then remain in your inbox unread, until you get to office/home etc.
Similarly, review your the “mark as read” setting on your desktop email – change this from “mark as read as soon as open” to something that means you have really processed with it. It means emails will stay as unread until dealt with.
Reduce the time you spend receiving emails. This takes self-control and is definitely not suited to every role. Decide how often you will check your email (2/3 times a day) and set an autoresponder (out of office reply) explaining this fact. Also spell out WHEN you will be replying to the email, if one is required. This will cut down on email “ping pong” – when an email turns into an entire conversation as senders will be a LOT more concise and it won’t turn into a conversation.
Mailing Lists – consider changing the settings of these. Do you really need to receive ever update of an email list – or would a daily / weekly email be enough?
NOW ITS TIME TO BE RUTHLESS
Go through your emails and decide – are they:
dealt with – then delete
contain important information – archive or remove info (ie contact details) and delete
pending – process as above … archive and setting dated/timed calender reminders
Also – depending on your workflow, I would say bulk archiving emails before a certain date is a good move. Think about it, they’ve probably been resolved now anyway.
NEED MORE ROOM?
All of this archiving can put a strain on your email account size – even giant accounts like Gmail have a limit, and corporate accounts are very limiting when it comes to how much you can archive Consider an archiving / filing service like Evernote / Springpad (useful list here).
These are cloud based and will store your files, emails etc. so you can retrieve them from in different ways (i.e. computer, smart phone, tablet etc.).
I use Evernote, and as it comes with an email address, I now forward a lot of emails to this automatically, and also manually when they arrive. (using Gmail filters) but there are others available (both free and paid for) – find the one that suits you the best!
Goodsync – a very useful desktop tool anyway for backing up files/moving etc, but great for syncing Dropbox with Evernote.
I wanted to use this to automatically backup my portfolio as I develop it, but it could be used for anything (images, documents etc).
Point Goodsync at the source file, and again at your Evernote desktop shortcut, and viola! (you can also alter the settings – so you can have a 2 way sync (not useful here), backup or move (ie delete file from source location)
I have also used this to move a host of images from my IPhone and IPad (before I upgraded to IOS5) to Evernote.
By installing the Dropbox App I uploaded ALL my images to my Dropbox > Evernote folder, and they are – one by one – moved (and then deleted) from Dropbox to Evernote Import (by Goodsync) then moved (and deleted form source) into Evernote automatically. (I currently use this to move my IPad screen captures into Evernote)
3. SYNC ICLOUD to EVERNOTE
(Disclaimer: I’m not entirely sure HOW I’ve achieved this. I set up a LOT of different syncing techniques and I’m now unable to find out which one works .. but I think this is it – but apologies if it doesn’t work for you)
ICloud is Apple’s latest product to sync items on all of your kit – Ipad, IPhone, Mac etc.
I used Goodsync (above) to link your C:UserssonyPicturesPhoto StreamUploads folder to my Evernote import folder (as set up above)
Now this only works when my laptop is on, but that works for me: Goodsync moves all the images that appear in my photostream into Evernote
This is useful for keeping track of snaps I take, but ALSO, more importantly for me, screen captures I take on my Iphone (and soon IPad)
Ifttt is a very useful website (a little clunky in places) but great tool for moving pretty much any online content, to somewhere else.
I currently have it sorting certain GMmail messages. Pro: You can specify the Evernote folder in which the item will be moved Con: 1. Sometimes it cuts off the body of the text 2. It does not delete the original message. For some emails now I have reverted to Gmail Filters – see next tip)
I have it moving anything I post to my Tumblr images account (http://www.carolinebeavon.tumblr.com) as an image into Evernote
Articles I “star” in Google Reader are now moved to Evernote – this does not copy the body, just the title so this is not perfect for reading but useful to a degree
Messages I “favourite” on Twitter are sent to Evenote
Anything I send to Instapaper (I have a magazine reader on my Ipad that does not have an Evernote link) i import to Evernote.
5. GMAIL FILTERS
> using a filter to forward / move certain emails into Evernote
As stated above – the con of this system is that you cannot specify which Evernote folder the email goes into but it is a trustworthy system.
Find your Evernote email address – within Evernote
Set up a filter to forward and keep (or forward and delete) emails into Evernote
When you log into Evernote you will have to deal with them in your default folder
6. GOOGLE CHROME EVERNOTE PLUGIN
Such a useful tool and I’m sure IE and Firefox have a similar thing.
It’s a button that sits in your toolbar, that lets you grab webpage and send it to Evernote – allowing you to grab bits of pages, entire pages or URL’s of the page you are looking at. You can also specify the destination folder AND add tags as you go.
Now, what are you tips for using Evernote?
Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details
Having worked as a broadcast journalist (most recently on bulletins and documentaries for Kerrang Radio) for 10 years I can certainly tick “communication” as a skill. Thanks to my studies I can now also add a dizzying number of technical skills including:
CMS – WordPress, Blogger
Online Content – writing for the web, SEO, layout and design
Data Journalism – Tableau, Outwithub
Social Media – to discover and share news content
Social Reporting – audio, video, Storify, audio slideshows
So the hunt begins. I’ve seen a very interesting digital editor role going (local too)… I’ll most certainly be throwing my hat into the ring for that one.
In the meantime I’ll be boosting my CV by teaching myself some more key skills:
– I’d definitely like to get to grips with Scraperwiki
– adding to my experience with Adobe Illustrator would be great
– design: with no formal art background, but a good eye, I would like to firm up my knowledge of design basics
Any more suggestions of good CV additions feel free to comment below.
If you are in the market for a digital content person with a fetish for visualisations, data and general social media goodness, feel free to drop me a line via Twitter @carolinebeavon or email@example.com
Yahoo! is excited to announce that Delicious has been acquired by the founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. As creators of the largest online video platform, Hurley and Chen have firsthand expertise enabling millions of consumers to share their experiences with the world. Delicious will become part of their new Internet company, AVOS.
Reasons to let Yahoo! transfer your bookmarks
• Continue uninterrupted use of Delicious.
• Keep your Delicious account and all your bookmarks.
• Enjoy the same look and feel of Delicious today plus future product innovations.
What happens if you do not transfer your bookmarks
• Delicious in its current form will be available until approximately July 2011.
• After that, you will no longer be able to use your existing Delicious account and will not have access to your existing bookmarks or account information.
AVOS is a new Internet company founded by Chad Hurley and Steve Chen who, in 2005, founded YouTube, the world’s largest online video platform. Before YouTube, Hurley and Chen were early employees at PayPal, a leading online payment service that is now part of eBay. Delicious will become a part of AVOS, based in San Mateo, California.
Thank you for using Delicious. Yahoo! has appreciated having you with us, and we are pleased to be able to transfer Delicious to an incredible new owner — you’re in good hands.
The Yahoo! Delicious Team
Demand Media acquired CoveritLive in February:
Many of our biggest customers already know this but for those of you who didn’t…surprise. It’s all very very good for us and for them. Given that Demand is a publicly traded company, I can’t really talk too much about the acquisition other than: a) it made us all happy; and, b) it will make all of our customers happier.
Live Gaming is Live:
We’re crazy excited about this. Customers love our Polls feature where they can ask the audience a question and get instant votes back. Take that idea, but now it’s a Trivia Question and your readers earn points on a live scoreboard. Imagine the engagement you can drive with that. We even created a version where you can take live ‘bets’ (no, not real money) on things like, “who will score first tonight?” or, “Who will the Bucs take in the 5th round?”. Your readers will be stuck to their devices earning points and having fun. Like all things we do, no setup required…just click the tab under Polls & Interactive and you’re live.
Android App is Live:
We’re sorry it took this long. Really. But now that CoveritLive is part of Demand Media, we have more resources for development and testing which means more cool stuff for you. We know iPhone users love mobile coverage with our iPhone app but now Android joins the party. It’s a really good first version with more upgrades, as usual, to come quickly. Go to the Android Marketplace to get it today.
Facebook sharing and Polls:
Live Polls are an extremely popular feature and now your readers are prompted to share their votes on Facebook immediately after they vote. Their friends come back to your site.
Last, I wanted to personally, as best I can, thank the many of you who helped make CoveritLive the company it is today. Your feedback, patience and support has meant a lot to me personally and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching so many customers around the world engage audiences with what we’ve built. The acquisition does start a new chapter for us (sorry, not sure how to say that without sounding corny) and it should be a great one.
Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details
Are you blog posts not getting the attention they deserve?
Check out these points to improve your writing and reduce that bounce rate
1. Too Clever/Too Boring/Too Complex Title
The title of an online post needs to be clear and succinct – no clever tabloid puns or vagueness here please!
Avoid figures, but use place names, people etc. they will catch attention.
The difference between: “Birmingham man falls into pub-cellar after night out” and “Down the Hatch”
Avoid long titles, they’ll drop off the end of tweets if people share your story. Rethink your focus if you are struggling to write a clear title.
2. Images to big/boring/stock photos
Images are a useful way to not only break up a story but also to improve traffic. Have you ever seen a story posted onto Facebook? Often the article IMAGE is the first thing you will see. Remember that!
Size: Don’t automatically use the original size. Unless the image is VITAL to the article (i.e. if it is illustrating a point) keep it small, and wrap the text around the image to avoid white space.
Location: Does that image REALLY have to be at the top on the left hand side? Would it work better further down? Consider using it to break up a block of text, or illustrate a particular point in the article.
Multiple Pictures: Instead of ONE picture, how about several? How about an embedded Flickr slideshow? A gallery?
Diagrams: Not all images have to be photographs. Is the story complex – would it benefit from a diagram? How about drawing your own with an art package (even Paint can work for simple diagrams), then save it and embed. (If it’s a personal blog, how about taking a photograph of your own doodles, flow charts, schedules etc and posting those up?)
3. Epic Paragraphs
It’s a common mistake of print journalists – they simply paste their copy online, add an image and have done with.
The eye simply cannot cope with the same about of text on a screen. Also, image if someone is reading the article on a mobile phone.
Keep paragraphs short
One idea, one paragraph.
People will scan the article – they will glance at paragraphs, and move on if it does not interest them. Don’t bury the facts in a paragraph they may not read.
4. No Header / Subheader
If the article is long, breaking it up into sections will help the reader find what that want quickly.
See how this article is divided into sections? Did it help you find what you wanted? Good.
5. No links / links not working
Links are vital – and useful.
they give the reader a chance to find out more about a story
they give your story credibility
the linked person will know you’ve linked to them – creating interest and a possible link back
you can keep your article short by linking to a resource elsewhere (read more here, see full list here etc.)
Never post a full link into your article – it looks messy and amateurish. Instead create a LINK within the article using relevant words (more here, for example).
See below (Spreading the Word – for details of creating short links)
6. No Lists
What would you prefer to read?
The company has created websites for Exfan, Doldoran. The Burmese Artichoke Foundation, Sandcastle Equities, Danders, Phirman Enterprises and Zhulom Corporation
The company has created websites for:
The Burmese Artichoke Foundation
And don’t forget to use those bullet point as LINKS to the relevant page.
7. Fact and Figures
Above I mentioned how diagrams were a useful addition to an article to explain a point. If your story is very NUMBER heavy, how about using a table or a chart to explain the figures?
For WordPress, I have discovered that creating the table in Word, then “pasting from Word” places the table into the post with no strange formatting.
Also think about a chart – input the data into a spreadsheet program (ie Excel) create a chart, copy it, paste into Paint and add as an image to your article.
8. Tagging and Categories
These are crucial. They allow people to navigate your site, and flag up what the article is about.
If your articles have a lot of links and tag words, consider using Zemanta (no students, we can’t have this on the uni computers). It finds possible links and tags and allows you to add them automatically. By no means does this pick every link, but saves a lot of time with the obvious ones.
Add tag words that a relevant only – don’t add everything – you don’t want to be using tag words to get people to your article under false pretenses.
9. Spread the Word
If you don’t tell anyone about your article, no-one, apart from your mum, will read it.
Here are some ways of spreading the word:
Post the link on Twitter but ALWAYS use a short link (I use Bit.ly – it shortens the link and allows you to track the number of clicks – great/terrible for the ego!)
Post it on Facebook – (useful tip: if you use Hootsuite as a Twitter /Facebook client you can CHOOSE which image will appear next to the link)
Are there forums on this subject? Post it on there. – but be respectful of forum policy – forums are notoriously feisty when it it comes to spamming.
Send it to the contacts, sources and interviewees that you used – they will like to see it and may post it on their websites. Again, send them a short link so you can keep track of the traffic.
Get an email sig that allows you to promote your blog (I use Wisestamp, it adds links to my social networks AND an RSS feed of my blog).
10. Feel free to suggest a Number 10, below …
Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details
Yes, I’m old. Actually, no – I’m not old. I still have all my own teeth, wear converse, own, and know how to use, an iPhone, and have a vague idea of new music.
I am, however, at that stage when certain phrases, terms and vocabulary are completely alien to me. It’s perfectly understandable as the younger generations strive to create their own identity and language. It creates a sense of membership and, at times, exclusivity for the cool brigade.
Unfortunately, it means the rest of us are clammering around trying to work out exactly WHAT that message from your niece means, or whether that person on Facebook is insulting you or not …
He’s a short list of some of the most useful, interesting and strange abbreviations (as provided by the listeners to Kerrang! Radio)
I’ve recently been helping out with teaching 1st year Journalism students at BCU in Birmingham.
Dan Davies – who is leading the course – and I are both former Online Journalism MA students, and hence very wired in to the social networks, blogs etc. However, it’s not our background and education which makes us HUGE Twitter fans, but our AGE.
The students we teach are all Facebook afficionados, they use it every day, and often it’s the first site they log into on the computers, NOT their email. So when we got onto the subject of sources, we began preaching about the benefits of using Twitter.
We’d hoped we’d be preaching to the converted, but as it happens, this is not the case.
In fact the response to Twitter has been VERY slow amongst the 18 year old age group. 1 or 2 (out of 25) in each class had accounts, a few others were former users but, as with many people, “didn’t get it” so swiftly logged off. There was also reluctance to sign up to the service, when we asked them. They just don’t like it.
75% if students have a handheld device or smartphone.
21% of students with handheld smartphones/devices use it to follow ur update microblogs (eg Twitter)
76.9% use it to use social network sites, eg Facebook, Myspace, Bebo or LinkedIn
When it comes to computers, the figures are even more interesting
90.4% of students use computers to access social networks, only 43.5% use it to access microblogs.
21% of students with handheld smartphones/devices use it to follow ur update microblogs (eg Twitter)76.9% use it to use social network sites, eg Facebook, Myspace, Bebo or LinkedIn
When it comes to computers, the figures are even more interesting
90.4% of students use computers to access social networks, only 43.5% use it to access microblogs.
So WHY don’t teenagers like Twitter?
LEAN FORWARD V LEAN BACK
Is Facebook the new TV?, a so called lean-back technology, where the information is pumped directly to you and requires very little effort – think about it, Facebook keeps giving, even if you don’t.
Twitter, on the other hand, needs participation to yield results: you have to follow the right people to get the right information (which, I know, is the case with Facebook but sheer numbers have given that the momentum now to carry on).
The content on Twitter is hard work sometimes: that extra click to watch that video clip, or read that article may put some people off, and a stream of text could be seen as a turn off. Facebook, on the other hand, is littered with pretty pictures and video to keep you engaged. A string of words holds less appeal than a brightly coloured link.
All the reasons the Twitterati have shifted from Facebook are exactly the reasons the teenagers love it, the clutter – the bright lights and excitement, the noise and the shouting.
I’m intrigued as to why some record labels still don’t allow embedding of their music videos on Youtube.
Surely Youtube is a KEY viral marketing tool, which means your artist’s music is spread around the net and promotes the album?
MP3’s yes – restrict those all you want if you believe it will impact on album sales (a whole other debate that I won’t go into now), but videos?
Unfortunately you restricting embedding won’t stop the videos being shared, all you’ll get is people making their own copies (whether ripped from online or even videos via phones from TV video channels) and sharing those instead. This means poorer quality, 3rd generation videos are doing the rounds, and end up being used by bloggers/journalists and fans on their social network profiles.
In this day and age, surely sharing videos is key?
I do a LOT of music searching online – I write band biogs, Facebook events and Tweets … I need a great one stop shop for band info (line-up, tour dates, pictures) – and, despite the fact it’s the biggest social network on the web, Facebook is NOT it. It still needs to serious work to bring quick-to-find information together in one go.
Myspace may have had it’s problems (it’s pretty much killed itself as a social network by allowing people to personalise their sites to the extent that they became unreadable and not coming down hard enough on spam in those early days) but it’s still the single best resource for bands. Facebook just doesn’t do it yet, and even bands own websites are either over-stylised, and hence are a navigation nightmare, or are out of date.
Myspace offers all the information in one place. Plus, it’s also normally the 1st or 2nd search when you Google a band.
Well, it was…
Today I’ve noticed a MAJOR shift in the placing of Myspace in the Google search – it doesn’t exist.
I know there’s a LOT of anger about this from bands who use Myspace as their sole online presence – and it’s not going to do Myspace any good at all surely?
Can anyone cast any light on this?
There is some speculation that this is down to the deal between Facebook and Myspace. Facebook famously does NOT share it’s information with Google, is the search engine now being pedantic and saying, no Facebook online? Right, no Myspace either …
Out of interest, I’ve just received this circular message from Myspace:
Monday 22 November, 2010
From: Myspace UK
Subject: The wait is over…
The new Myspace is here
Since you’ve been so loyal to us, we wanted you to be one of the first to see the newly, redesigned Myspace.
Updated and new features include:
(list embedded and wouldn’t copy on iPhone) will update later …
See what’s new
We’ll be rolling out more changes over the next few months, so stay tuned for more updates.
The NUJ have launched a campaign highlighting the fact that anyone who’s worked as an unpaid intern over the past six years COULD be entitled to minimum wage back pay – irrespective of the terms of the internship at the time. (They make a clear distinction,however, between internships and work experience. Internships tend to be longer and you make a contribution to the company. Unfortunately individuals on work experience often slip into an internship role, if they have anything about them they will do all they can to make a contribution to the company)
I am a fully paid up member of the NUJ but this concerns me.
Yes, companies DO take advantage of unpaid workers but don’t believe that this is entirely a one way street. With so many teenagers heading to university nowadays, and coming out with a range of weird and wonderful degrees, anyone serious about getting into the media can’t rely on a Desmond in Media Studies any more. I actively encourage students to get as much work experience as possible. Not only are they, as I did, putting themselves in a prime position for any vacancies that DO come up, but they are making contacts, learning about the industry and picking up new skills that their university may omit to teach them.
You simply cannot put a price on that.
This added pressure on media companies concerns me because it could …
1. put those who have used interns in the past in a dire financial situation if they had to dig deep and find back pay
2. discourage others from offering internships in the future
Don’t think that companies will immediately start finding money to pay interns in the future, they won’t. It simply means the opportunities will close up and there will be fewer chances to get a foot in the door for the media workers of the future. On the other hand, as I explained above, there is a distinction between Intern and Work Experience. Maybe we’ll see a drop off in internships and a shift to work experience. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad thing?
I also have concerns when young people complain they do not have time to intern. Yes, they find time to go to football on a Saturday, see their friends a few nights a week and still have time to watch TV, play computer games and sleep.
It comes down to how badly you want it. I understand that not everyone has the luxury of supportive parents. But I do wonder how desperate you are for a role in this industry, if you are not prepared to give up some of your spare time getting experience>
As part of my job I manage several social media accounts. This includes Twitter and Facebook (profiles, fan pages, and groups).
From a perfect social media desktop client I need to:
monitor all of these accounts simultaneously
receive notifications when someone comments or messages – with the option to pick and choose which notifications I receive, and how
be able to schedule tweets and status updates
I must be able to pick the image that goes with the update, if I include a link
I know Facebook tagging from a 3rd party app is pie in the sky right now but if Social Media Santa is listening, then come on – it would be good.
This is in no way an exhaustive list a- and I would love to hear your suggestions for what I should try next …
I have, until now, been using HOOTSUITE. It does all of the above, (apart from Facebook tagging). It’s an unbelievably powerful site – you can monitor a bunch of accounts (including Facebook) , you can schedule tweets, easily pick the image to go with a Facebook post – it’s wonderful. However, recently Hootsuite has been failing to send a lot of messages. There has been come discussion of this on the Hootsuite forum but as yet, no solutions. So the hunt starts for a replacement for Hootsuite.
I have been using Tweetdeck for my personal Twitter accounts (x2) for a while now. The pro’s are that it is very easy to use, it’s slick and smooth and syncs with your iPhone. It also never fails, unlike Hootsuite, to pick user names when you start typing them in (Hootsuite is a little hit and miss).
However, it only supports ONE Facebook account, which is fine for just me, but not so helpful for multiple account management.
Here logic goes out of the window. After all my bitching and moaning about the perfect uber-social media manager, one that can handle multiple accounts, I have actually fallen head over heels in lov with DestroyTwitter. It’s totally inappropriate for corporate use (one Twitter account only and no Facebook) but it’s so handsome and slick and gorgeous that I’ve actually switched from Tweetdeck, now using it as my main personal Twitter account. The workaround for my second, less busy account, is to set up a name search – so if I am messaged, I will see the update in that column. DestroyTwitter has destroyed Tweetdeck for me, and I thought that was perfect.
So after my brief flirtation, and switching to DestroyTwitter, the search continues for the perfect corporate Social Media management tool …
The first thing that strikes you about Seesmic 2 is that it looks beautiful. It’s kinda interesting (with spinning menus) and generally is a pleasure to use. Unfortunately it falls down on 2 major points for me:
you can’t schedule tweets
you can’t control which notifications you receive – the only options are “on or off” and “sound or no sound”. I really don’t need a notification when my All stream gets updated – I really don’t. However, but turning it off you are then potentially missing @ mentions and DM’s.
Sorry Seesmic, you just don’t cut it. With those 2 issues, it’s not even worth pursuing.
Now we move into more corporate realms. I am currently testing out the FREE level of account where I can have up to 4 channels. As I monitor 2 different companies accounts, I have decided to split them using Tweetdeck for one, and Sendible for the other (if Sendible comes good and saves my mind I may consider paying for a larger account and switching them all to it).
I could fully understand why the Twitter devotees would hate Sendible. It’s a corporate, marketing, scheduling machine – it’s all about the message and NOT about the conversation. Whilst you do have the option to read the feed of your Twitter account, it’s not the first thing you come across.
However, it does put all replies and messages into ONE in box so you don’t have to flit around the various accounts to find out what people are saying which is wonderful (See note below) – unfortunately there is no way of knowing, if you are off doing something else, that anyone has messaged as there is no option for a desktop or audio notification. Frustratingly there is an RSS option, but this does not cover the INBOX, only the messages you send out. Work on this, and Sendible may be perfect.
NOTE: The inbox feature is flawed. Messages I was sent last night are in the inbox, but ones that have come in the past 30 minutes are not. I’ve even tried a good ole F5 kick up the butt, but nothing. Sendible – you were looking so good – but you have failed.
I am currently exploring the various avenues for making money from online news as part of my MA Online Journalism.
Over a series of Posts I hope to explore the various methods of generating revenue from online content – looking at the various issues, and pitfalls along the way.
My idea is a website that offers short, exclusive video interviews with bands – often bands that would not get mainstream coverage elsewhere (e.g. radio and television) but have a small, but cult, following.
The Money Making Options
Standard Banner Ads
Ad-content (more on this in future posts)
First, then – the big talking point of the moment, Paywalls.
I would not even consider a paywall model, were I providing standard, general interest news that could be read anywhere. Why would people want to pay for my content, if they could read it for free on a rival site? The beauty of the internet is the sheer volume of material out there, and the means by which to get at it. Websites, RSS feeds, email, social networks – they are all serious competition now for the news outlet.
The Times is attempting to do exactly this with their paywall. Initial figures are not healthy (losing 2 thirds of their online readership). Of course, that means a third of their readers are happy to pay £2 a week for online news – and those figures may eventually work in their favour, who knows. This is The Times, however, they had more readers to play with in the first place. A small local paper that attempted a paywall would be looking at 33% of not-very-much – an impossible situation.
There have been more successful attempts at a Paywall, all of them offering something unique to the reader (the old ad-men phrase of the USP) be it useful information (in the example of the FT or Wall Street Journal), or “celeb-toriety” (right wing commentator RushLimbaugh in the USA). In fact, many of us already accept paywalls as a way of life – Sky TV subscriptions anyone? Again – offering something that you cannot get for free elsewhere.
The question really is not, WILL people pay for “exclusive” content, but how much?
The content I am offering is exclusive video interviews with bands.
These will be video interviews, which are quick to digest, interesting to watch and entertaining.
The bands I am interviewing are small enough not to get mainstream media coverage (radio or TV) hence the content has a unique value
The bands have a cult following within their field and there is a genuine interest in their activities
Content will tend to gathered in batches (ie at festivals) so there is an opportunity to promote interest between similar bands
This audience are not a business audience – they are music fans (teenagers, early 20’s) who consume their magazines, news etc online via social networks, websites and apps.
They will be happy shopping online, and in theory, would be comfortable using Paypal to sign up to a site
However, would they see the value of this content? And how much would they be willing to pay for it?
Maintaining the Exclusivity
Image via Wikipedia
I would go to great lengths to maintain the exclusivity of this content – attending small niche festivals where no other media is interviewing, locking the content as private on video website Viddler, and embedding it behind a subscription page on my own site.
The downside of this is that the content itself cannot be shared, passed on or promoted – only the link to the page – for which you would need to have paid to access.
I am currently working with several companies to develop their online marketing via Twitter, Facebook etc.
A new client currently has a profile, which they actively use, and a Group. However, I wonder if this is the most effective way of marketing their company, besides which, having 2 searchable profiles (group and page) is confusing to the searching user and hard work to maintain.
I am proposing they focus instead on a Fan page. However, with more than 2500 members of the group, moving away from it is a big decision. Or is it?
I have started investigating the pro’s and con’s of a Page, against a Group, and I am still convinced that, for a business with ongoing activity, a Page is the better option.
A Page is Open: once a person “likes” the page, updates will then appear in their News Stream. The only way for Group members to find out what you are doing is for you to invite them to an event or message them. Many people are now event and message weary on Facebook.
Cross Promotion: a persons activities within a Group are not posted onto their wall – so other people are not exposed to the group or it’s activities. A fan page, however, is open and Likes, Comments etc, appear on that persons wall. This leads to free promotion to their friends.
Easier to join – like buttons on sites etc automatically add people
Clear message – Groups can turn into a free for-all with random people posting random things on the wall. The Group messages are then lost in a sea of irrelevant chat. A Fan page allows the reader to pick JUST the page owner, or page owner and others. The message is more focussed.
Remote posting/monitoring – You cannot post to a group remotely (from a 3rd party programme like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, only a Page) For round the clock management and monitoring, a Fan Page is easier to monitor, along with Twitter and other accounts, from one location.
Analytics: Fan Pages come with detailed analytics of members, interactions, quality of posts etc so you can monitor how your page is doing. Groups do not have this luxury.
How to make the jump:
First thing is to HIDE the profile – we still need it as a base for the new fan page – but we don’t want more people to join it.
Launch a fan page, Anyone now searching for the product will find the Fan Page NOT the profile – this is what we want.
Promote the fan page on the Group and the profile page encouraging people to LIKE
Place a button on every page of the website/other social networks, which people can simply click to “like”
Phase out activity on the group but continue to advertise the Fan page
Close the group.
It may seem like a risky move but the effort currently going into promoting through the group, which people are not reading, interacting with or mentioning on their own site, seems wasteful.
Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details
Everyone is talking about data journalism nowadays: creating maps, visualizations and infographics. However, before you can do any of that you need some DATA
Here is how I sourced the data for my Datamud project, a look at the statistics behind the big UK music music festivals.
The last thing you want to do is call up a press officer asking for some stats, when they are there, for all to see, on the website. Dig around in any areas labelled information, statistics, FOI and Press Area. Often companies will post useful statistics if they are often requested,but they won’t necessarily make those statistics easy to find.
The Glastonbury Festival Educational Resources area is rich with information. A series of PDF’s contain details about every element of the event – from crowd management, security, stalls, sanitation etc. As the UK’s largest festival is is often the subject of assignments and reports. This was useful as I looked for recycling information to back up the organisers claims that they are a green event.
Google is a wonderful tool – it not only searches websites, but also blogs, news postings, pictures and videos. It’s well worth checking the NEWS section as someone else may have already done similar research and posted the stats online.
Unfortunately a search can return thousands of pages, so you need to be smart when submitting your search. Inverted commas around a phrase will search for those words as written, but combined with simple searches it can be a useful tool.
e.g. “were arrested” 2010
Don’t forget to check the later pages of the search too – sometimes you will find some juicy stuff buried on the less Google juicy sites.
Often Google won’t be able to pick up deep linked pages, or documents embedded or linked in pages so it’s always worth looking at official agencies and Governing bodies websites too.
Councils and the Government are now much better at archiving their agendas and minutes and whilst the search facilities are still pretty archaic and frustrating, it’s a start.
None of the various police forces websites had the crime stats that I needed, although they do often have documents that may be of use e.g. Leicestershire Police
Search / Scraping Sites
Although I did not use this during this assignment, in retrospect using a site like Scraperwiki to access data from an official site would have saved me a lot of time. I could have used it to draw together all the line ups, for example, instead of a long winded cut-and-paste process, and plenty of cleaning up.
Nowadays there are also sites that have done a lot of the work for you, by monitoring official sites and databases and turning the data into an easy to handle format.
First stop should be What Do They Know – a site geared up around FOI requests (more on this in a moment) but also you should definitely visit TheyWorkForYou (I set up an alert in regards to the Glastonbury festival, which would tell me whenever it was mentioned. My hope was that the crime levels, or crowd management would be raised at some point and reference to information given.)
I mentioned Google News search above, but it’s also worth looking for sites that deal with the specific subject area. They may have useful resources but may not appear on page 1 of a Google Search.
When I was compiling lists of the bands playing the various festivals, often the official sites were clunky or the names were shown on a JPG of the official event poster. However festival news/interest sites, such as EFestivals, present the information in a more useful way
2. ASK PRESS OFFICE
For archive or very up to date statistics, often a call to the press office is necessary.
I wanted to find out more about historical weather forecasts so a visit to the MetOffice website informed me that they had a library of data that could be accessed. Within one quick email conversation I was furnished with a link to a host of archive weather data with records often going back to the 1700’sIn CSV format, these were simple to manipulate and visualise.
Press Offices are used to to dealing with requests for information, its their job, as well as being happy to help you meet deadlines.
FOI requests are for those tricky bits of data othat an organisation is less reluctant to send out (for time, size, sensitivity etc issues). I set ONE FOI request, for crime stats to a police force, foolishly thinking this would be quicker than contacting the press office directly. It was not.
Use these if you do not need the information urgently (it can take up to a month from start to finish)
Of course carrying out ryour own research is one way of gathering data, but this project relied on the theory that “many hands make light work”.
I wanted to find out how much it would cost to see the various mainstage bands, if you were to see them on their own headline tours. I could have spent DAYS trawling the internet ticketing sites (both UK and international) collecting the data. Instead I started a public Google Docs spreadsheet. Through the social networks I encouraged people to enter the prices of tickets they had recently bought. The database was soon a third full, and a chance message from an old friend (the man behind Ents24) completed the rest by gaining access to their database.
Google Docs is a fantastic way of collaborating and getting large jobs completed.
5. I GOT MY CALCULATOR OUT
This can be hard work if you are dealing with a lot of data, but for me it was feasible
I wanted to assess the nationalities of the various bands, and compare the overall nationalties of the different lineups. This involved a lot of searches on Myspace and Wikipedia (still both very useful resources for the facts about bands) and using visualisation Software Tableau.
In retrospect I should have doubled this database up with the ticket prices one, and asked people to fill in the nationalities of the bands as well. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Recently I began writing a blog and looking after the social interaction for a music venue.
Here are a few things I have learnt along the way (NOTE: this is a work in progress and will be updated – feel free to comment with any suggestions below):
* Polls work. People love them. Asking people for their opinion on something gets them excited.
Image via CrunchBase
A recent poll asking simply “Which band are you most looking forward to seeing” not only attracted a lot of visits, but also a lot of click-throughs to the ticket selling page. (I’d put links for all the shows below the link to the poll).
* Talk / reply / comment – responding to people’s comments is a sure fire way to drum up interest in what you are doing. Even a simple acknowledgement of their response it better than nothing
* Horses for Courses: Different bands draw traffic from different social networks. All blog links are placed on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace (which never delivers). The header is also fed onto the venues ticketing website.
Facebook and Twitter do pull in readers, but it entirely depends on the band. Almost 100% of the traffic to a Carl Barat story came from Twitter, whereas the bands Exit Calm and Band of Horses pulled in traffic from Facebook. Older bands seem to generate the majority of traffic from the ticketing website onto the blog, not vice versa.
I always tag the bands in the post – LIKE them on facebook, befriend them on Twitter – then use an @ to link to their page.
* Buzzwords are great – think, what will people be searching for on a particular day? Events that are going on, celebrities? Without unnecessary shoehorning, a post about the World Cup or Glastonbury festival can be very effective.
* Double tag: working for a venue, it is quite easy to “double tag” a post – i.e. talk about 2 different bands in one post. A review of last nights show, doubled with a review of this evenings works well.
* Multiple tag: a new format of post I am experimenting with is the “news roundup”. By following all the bands due to play the venue over the next few months, I put together a “Road to Wolves” post with smal tidbits, links etc about those bands. One post in, and it has proved popular.
WHAT NOT TO DO
* false promises: it seem to be clever to write the headline “Meet s0-and-so’s support band” – for an introductory piece about the smaller bands on the bill. With a lot of visits I pressumed people were generally interested in finding out more about the support band. Unfortunately a high bounce rate and a glance at the search words (Meet so-and so”) proved that people wanted to know how to meet the headliners. The post was offering something it could not deliver.
I am currently looking into the controversial world of corporate blogging as part of my MA Online Journalism at BCU
I have found a massive anti-campaign towards “ghost” or “proxy” blogging, i.e. writing a blog under someone else’s name. This is often seen as deception and goes against the transparent ethic of blogging. However it seems to be big business with more companies realizing they need to be online but don’t have the skills or the time to do it.
What about corporate blogging on behalf of a company? Is this equally deceptive?
There is another issue: editorial integrity.
If you are being paid to blog you are simply a copywriter, right? You are not being paid to criticise the company or the brand – you must toe the line.
Are any companies embracing transparency to the point where they are happy to see their own company blog attack them?
Photographers are not a happy bunch. If they’re not having their pictures used online without getting credit or being replaced in the festival photo pit by young bloggers waving iPhones, they’re being persecuted by the police and accused of being terrorists.
Authority 2.0 (Birmingham City University, 28 April, 2010) was a fascinating event, organised by the MA Social Media students to investigate how the UK’s police forces should be using social media, AND to discuss some of the very real problems today’s photographers face at the hands of officers in this age of terrorist suspicion.
For me the panel discussion, 2 photographers (@KarenStrunks and Christian Payne (aka @Documentally) and 2 representatives from West Midlands Police (CI Mark Payne Force CID and Inspector Ian Grundy, Counter Terrorism Unit), was the highlight of the day by sparking a series of interesting debates about freedom of access, how the police handle the public and training of their officers.
The discussion started with a, quite frankly, horrifying video recorded by an anonymous photographer as he was subject to some very unecessary harrassment, first by a Community Support Officer, and then by a police officer, as he tried to take pictures in the street. Accused of being “suspicious” and being ordered to give his details, there was mention of “terrorism” and an eventual arrest, which ended in release 8 hours later.
If this is as commonplace as it seems, then I am right behind photographers in their fight for acceptance among the police force – and, give them their due, the officers present at the event were just as keen to see a closer relationship. Unfortunately though, these senior members of the force are as likely to have to deal with a suspicous photographer on the beat, as they are parking in Livery Stret Car Park in Birmingham and NOT getting a ticket (in joke, sorry).
Instead, the message that people with cameras in the street are NOT necessarily scoping out a terrorist target, needs to be filtered down to the officers on the street, the Community Support teams and the private security firms – all of whom have been accused of bothering snappers in the past.
Karen Strunks also highlighted that current poster campaigns asking the public to be vigilant and report anything suspicious has turned everyone into a wannabe Jack Bauer eager to challenge even the most innocent of activities.
But surely terrorists ARE walking the streets armed with SLR’s sussing out the best angle for attack? In reality, probably not.
West Midlands Police admit they now use Google Earth and Street View to check out a property before a raid, instead of sending officers or the helicopter – it’s easier, and a hell of a lot cheaper. So why would your common-or-garden terrorist be any different?
It seem, however, that officers on the streets are sadly behind the times, and sometimes out of touch with modern developments. And is it any wonder? Many forces refuse to allow even their communications department onto Twitter, and bobbies on the beat do not have access to the internet whilst they are out and about (although West Midlands Police are looking into Android phones to solve this problem). Particular mention, however, to CI Mark Payne who DOES have an official Twitter account, which he uses for both professional, and personal tweets.
The discussion also revealed some more interesting developments being investigated by the force, including a website where the public can upload pictures to help them solve crimes.
However, it seems we’re still a way off yet from the “police online” levels reached by the force in Beijing who, as we heard during an earlier presentation. They have designed a cartoon officer who moves across your computer screen with a friendly warning should you venture into forbidden web territory – and judging by China’s current attitude towards content – the poor guy must be exhausted.
We’ve all heard the phrase – it’s not what you know, but who you know.
But: if your job involves promotion/marketing – where do you draw the line between your friends, and your contacts?
In this social-networking world we find we have more contacts than ever before. Many are perhaps real-life friends from school or university, but others may be people you met briefly at a party back in 2007 or, perhaps, you’ve never met them.
For PR professionals, a wide circle of influence is vital: being able to pull celebrities to an event, get column-inches in the right magazines and make sure the song is played on every radio station. Social networks increase that circle even further, but unless you run a strict friends/work division online, your friends soon become your professional audience.
I am seeing more and more examples of people being expected to use using their personal social network accounts to promote the product. Are companies employing people because of the size of their friends list? And more’s the point – SHOULD we be expected to use our friends, for our employer?
I admit I am guilty of using my personal social networks to promote my DJing work, but I feel this is acceptable to a point as it is “ME” doing it .. but recently I was asked to promote an 3rd party event through my own accounts. I balked slightly, reluctant to thrust this event onto my friends, relatives and acquaintances.
By the very nature that some people will use their friends as social (and business) currency, does it prove the point that contacts ain’t what they used to be?
Journalism – (noun) The occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business
This traditional definition of journalism (Dictionary.com http://bit.ly/dCdXBa) despite massive leaps forward in technology and attitude, still sums up exactly what the profession is about today: in short, getting the news out there.
Unfortunately, some are reluctant to accept these changes to the industry: old school hacks refusing to interact with readers online, newspapers not utilising video, radio stations limiting themselves to audio broadcast, whilst, behind them, there is an army of citizen reporters armed with iPhones, Youtube, Flickr, Audioboo and Bambuser ready to step in and take over the gatekeeping of the worlds news.
These are exciting times, and at the start of this educational trip into multimedia journalism, I expected to focus on video, with a brief (and required) nod towards to audio and Flash.
Little did I know.
The toughest challenge from the outset was finding inspiration for projects. As a working multimedia journalist, that decision would be handled by the News Editor, who would give you a brief and a deadline.
So, I decided to play the role of a working multimedia journalist. Switching on Sky News, I took the first story that interested me, and ran with it.
Jonny Dorey is a British student, currently missing whilst studying in the USA. At this point the story lacked data (i.e. dates and times) so a simple roll-over flash animation showing the various elements of the story seemed the best option as a starting point with this media.
Ideally, with more knowledge and artistic skill, the story would have benefited from something a little more intricate (along the lines of the BBC visualization of the Jean-Charles de Menezes shooting in London). This visualization is outstanding, with the image zooming in at each stage, and moving markers to show the relevant parties. However, the level of detail here was high due to the evidence revealed in court. At the time the information regarding Jonny Dorey was scant – although since then there have been suspected sightings of him – which would have worked well on a map based animation, as well as his possible route taken. Youtube appeals, photographs and other multimedia content could then be embedded into this map. A multimedia tool like this may have been useful in spreading the word about Jonny’s disappearance, and getting people involved in the search.
The Jonny Dorey project broke down the story and made it easier to digest, but Flash is also a useful tool for solving problems and aiding decision making.
Over the last few years the UK has become the centre of music festivals, with hundreds happening every summer. There are also dozens of websites that claim to centralise all this information (lineups, festival dates etc.), but none of them have managed it in a clear and visual way.
A Venn diagram would have worked well in showing the overlap between different bands playing the larger festivals, but, as yet, I am unable to find such a visualization tool that will achieve this. In retrospect, a clickable map showing which bands are playing where and when, was a lot more effective.