Category Archives: adventures

31 Dec

5 Big Things of 2015

It’s been quite a year! Here are a few of my highlights from 2015.

 

My Route

My Route touchtableWithout 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.

 

Tableau

Computer Arts top 30 studios Tableau dashboard

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

Training graphic

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

Music Journalism Book Caroline Beavon 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

BrightonAnyone 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.

26 Feb

Who is my data idol?

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

24 Feb

Adventures #1 – SoLoMoDEN

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

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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 Local Mobile … 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.

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020