The Visual Vocabulary
Overview of this campaign
We wanted to create a resource that anchored our innovation efforts around visual and data-driven journalism. That resource was the Visual Vocabulary poster.
The Vocabulary is a beautiful poster, specifically designed for newsroom walls. It features a large selection of different chart types, each organised by the category of data to which each design is suited. Accompanied by examples of story types, and with concise usage tips for each chart type, the poster is designed to be a conversation starter for breaking newspaper charts out of the world of countless boring pie charts – and into something that communicates on a whole different level.
The Vocabulary allowed us to transform our graphics department away from a ‘kiosk mentality’ where they simply executed on very specific requests from the news desks, into a visual journalism team that thinks entrepreneurially about how to come up with new ways to tell digital, data-driven stories. It has enabled us to identify areas where skills training is needed.
Results for this campaign
The most tangible results of the change enabled by the Visual Vocabulary is the work on display at ft.com/visual-journalism. In the past year there has been a proliferation in the FT of more complex chart types, charts that tell a story and responsive charts that work well on both mobile and desktop screens.
This has led to a bevy of awards for the graphics team, at the Society of News Design awards; at the Malofiej Infographic World Summit, and European Newspaper Design awards.
It has also enabled new editorial products and initiatives: a new monthly FT Chart Doctor column and a sold-out Chart Doctor Live workshop on how to create compelling data visualisations.
We decided to unlock the benefits of the Visual Vocabulary for all. Since being made freely available as a high resolution printable pdf file on the content sharing site GitHub, the Visual Vocabulary has been downloaded thousands of times and is now used in many newsrooms across the world as a valuable source of guidance on one of the fastest growing content trends in journalism. It has also been surprisingly popular in academia and business, with Alan Smith now using it as the core of a new training course for the Royal Statistical Society.
Data visualisation is emerging as a new language for international journalism – and the Visual Vocabulary reflects that. The Visual Vocabulary has already been translated into Japanese, with a Spanish edition in the pipeline.