The truly one-of-a-kind Amanda Cox, Graphics Editor at New York Times, has just been invited to speak at a Danish conference called New Media Days. I thought about signing up for the two-day conference, even if Amanda was really the only one, I wanted to see. Ultimately I decided the 830 euro would be better spent buying a plane ticket and visit New York some day, and I passed on the conference.
Luckily – a lot of conferences these days are intent on sharing by videotaping the speeches and put them online for everyone to watch and learn from. I guess TED started the trend, but it is picking up all over the place.
So, if you want to see a presentation by one of the best practitioners (and thinkers) in the data-visualization field, then make yourself a cup of coffee and find an oldfashioned notebook to write in while you watch. There will no doubt be some points you’ll want to remember and explore after watching the nearly hour-long presentation. The introduction is a bit off-topic, as the host starts to tell about color-printing and photos, but don’t let that scare you off – Amanda gets the word 01:39.
What is in many ways refreshing about Amanda Cox is her very modest attitude. She is not a rockstar-designer turning to infographics to ride the current fashion. Yes, she is slightly nervous – yes, she loses her breath from the long sentences she uses – but the content in her speaking is second-to-none.
I like her passion about infographics too – how she adheres to the NYT-demand of clarity, but want to multiply that with awe in her own work.
Still looking to get the balance right
Looking though the speech, I am happy to hear that she acknowledges the unfinished task of getting the balance right between presenting a huge dataset and helping the readers find the nuggets. One example will be the time-study interactive, which is rather funny to see presented by her, but in my opinion quickly got a bit boring to play with.
Also take note in the Q&A at the end. Amanda says that they use fewer templates at NYT, than you might think. She knows few templates is a luxury that comes with being a large department. But I like to hear it anyway, as I think widespread template-work has a lot to do with the decline in innovation in the general newspaper-graphics scene. The few templates could be one of the keys in understanding the succes for NYT perhaps?
Facts from the presentation: The New York Times are 25 people in the graphics department. 6 are skilled coders, 6 are skilled journalists and 4 are primarily map-makers, but they all know enough about the various fields, that they can pull off a graphic themselves if need be. Their preferred workmethod are to work in teams, however. Noone in the graphics department has a background in art …