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Innovative ways to track the history

Interactive graphics brings more interactivity and fun to data reporting, which often is seen as boring and hard to understand. I am really impressed by some of the work done by New York Times, as they can always think about new and innovative ways to illustrate data and ideas. As an example, this piece published in July, 2011, Inaugural Words: 1789 to the Present, used a unique way to show the evolution and shifts of American politics.

Word cloud always comes in handy when dealing with speeches and large sum of words. So NY Times did a word cloud for every US president in the history. We can see that when George Washington claimed his position as the first president of United States, obviously he cared more about liberty and forming a government by the people. We can see the top three keywords in his inaugurated speech are government, public and country. On the left side of the graphics, the readers can find a link to the full text of the address, and a brief summary of his speech in 1789. And a little portrait is also there. The highlighted words are used more than the average, and if you click on the words, there will be a small window telling you the context of the words.

Going all the way to 2009 when President Barack Obama became the president, now through his keywords, we see a more connected world and the peace American people need during the economic crisis. It just amazes me how this simple timeline can tell the ling history through some simple words. And I think since it is a comparatively serious topic, the designer uses mainly black and white in the entire graphics. I think on one hand, if you are really interested in politics, you are already drawn into it regardless of the somehow boring use of color and layout; on the other hand, using too many colors would be unsuitable for such topic as well.

I almost can’t find any thing to improve for the graphics. I think if it is more in style, then the graphics can definitely attract more viewers, even those who do not care that much about the politics. But I like the simple style, where with basic skills in flash or Illustrator, we can still present the facts very clearly to the targeted audience. With a creative mind, we can all illustrate data in fun and innovative ways.

BY Qing Tian

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About qing_tian

Journalism student at Missouri school of journalism. Passionate about international reporting and producing!

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