NYT and The Economist: The Power of Visualization and Information Design

03 Apr 2007|Terri Ducay

Like most people, I never seem to have enough time to read. But when I received renewal subscriptions to the New York Times and The Economist, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. While the integrity of the information and the quality of the writing and reporting is at the core of what interests me, what is valuable is the manner in which the information is designed and visualized, enabling me to easily absorb and understand it.

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I especially find that design and visualization does not just make things easier to access – it actually heightens my level of understanding. News, information and ideas become visceral and thus more powerful. So what I am buying is not only the information but the experience of that information as well.

Here is what I love:

Storytelling – There are many videos listed on the NYT website that tell emotional and rich stories. These stories come to life using moving images, narration and background noises. The stories bring people to life; you are there with them; the sense of who they are is colorful and immediate, bringing personal dimension to the story.

Imagery – The NYT printed edition stories have photos that accompany them, but the online edition contains a link to a photography portfolio that is a visual story in itself. Like the multi-media, the images dimentionlize the story and bring understanding to complex issues via a multi-sensory experience.

Charts (you gotta love ’em) – The Economist’s Chart Gallery. Charts are staples in the world of research and financial reporting, but the integrity and elegance of these diagrams makes the information easy to digest. They do not use extraneous graphics or gimmicks, rather the graphics make the data legible and dynamic.

LayersThe World This Week Summary in The Economist consists of two or four-page spreads. A visualization enables you to quickly scan over many articles while grasping essential information. It makes it easy to dive deeper into the articles for more detailed information.

Simplicity and at-a-glance access – The Economist’s Emerging Market Indicator brings immediate understanding to a complex situation from just one data set. As a whole, the publication uses information and visualization to give “at-a-glance” access to economic, financial and emerging market indicators.

Keys to visualization and good information design

Visualization and good information design isn’t about adding a video to a PowerPoint deck or drawing nice boxes and arrows. Good visualization and information design adds an additional level of understanding to an issue. It’s sensitive to the needs of its audience. It is great storytelling that engages the reader, teaching and making the story memorable.

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There are too many sources of quality reporting and writing to keep up with. I decide on what to read by how quickly and effectively I’m able to gain insight into complex issues. Visualization of information and information design works to make that happen. I’m fortunate to be part of a company that produces excellent examples of visualization on a daily basis.

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