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Succes and frustration in the graphics department

jeffgoertzenMalofiej 2002: An honest presentation by Jeff Goertzen about his life as a newspaper-consultant. Jeff soon admitted ‘You go to a paper and you wanna make things better and sometimes it doesn’t work’.
The first case-story was about El Mundo, where Jeff worked in 1990 – ‘the big boom of graphics, right there in the Gulf War’. There were a lot of problems at that time, but at least they had no bad habits as the paper had been started only a year before in 1989.

Funnily enough he had an early Mario Tascon graphic to show. Definitely before Mario turned into the graphics genius he is now. Jeff used the graphic to emphasize the fact, that we all go through a learning process, and he wished he had some of his own crap-graphics to show. (But he hadn’t.)
The time spent at El Mundo was focussed (re)defining good graphics work and getting used to leave the office to work as visual journalists.

Jeff also wanted to mention how important it is to have the support of the editor-in-chief if you want to make a good graphics department. He was almost ready to credit Pedro J. Ramirez 100% for the success at El Mundo, – that’s how important the support is.

Next was the project with El Periodico and Jaime Serra. Here the planning was an integral part of the success they achieved with the Olympics Package (collectively with El Pais, El Mundo and AP). These graphics were worked on 3-4 months in advance. Most papers work from day to day, but will never reach a high level of work, if they don’t start to plan ahead.

At the french paper, Le Monde he wasn’t too impressed with their circulation of 350.000, when Paris has an ‘absurd amount of people’. Jeff took a wild guess at 650 millions parisians, although 10 millions are probably correct. (- The overestimation might stem from the way an american feel when surrounded by frenchmen?)

At another paper, GöteborgsPosten they had no teamwork at all, and the graphics reflected that. Never before had Jeff seen an art department, where everybody had their own glass cubicle Рeven with locks on the doors.

Working in Australia Jeff experienced editors, who treated artists as their personal puppies. Nothing good about that experience.

In Djakarta, Indonesia, they had been doing the graphics like Nigel Holmes did in the 80′s: The Bee-Gees-graphics. In the same city, at a different and very new paper, they wanted to attract the readers attention, and did so with bloody crime-graphics at the frontpage.

(A lot of laugh about the example, but in my opinion the room totally forgot the important lesson: The readers liked the graphics – no, they loved them – except when the graphics department drew a wrong type of van in a fatal bus-accident. See? Readers want correct information and do not care about blood as long as it is drawn correctly …

Anyway, with Jeff’s help this Indonesian paper learned to produce clean graphics as they do in the U.S. How about some space for different cultures? The same goes for the Brazilian O Globo, where Jeff was very impressed with the artwork produced, but couldn’t stand the ‘storyboard-graphics’ the Brazilians made, when they tried to explain events from which no photos were available.

(This article was published in 2002 in the former version of VisualJournalism.com)