This month's article for WWII magazine is all about German anti aircraft defences and the effect they had on US forces.
The data comes from this fantastic source - US Medical Corps.(some images there are a little tough so be careful if you are young or of a squeamish disposition - they are fairly well labeled and hidden behind links)
US data on WWII is quite easy to find. British data is harder to come by - seems more secretive. Russian stuff is obviously in a state of post-soviet de-classification and most of the German records were destroyed.
Here are some comments about this month's graphic. I'm really happy with it as it brings together some material I have been seeking to wrangle for a while and it achieves it's ends in a way that has been a learning process.
I have been poring over these data tables for a while, trying to work out what was the best way of telling these stories - and trying to work out what the story was.
For instance, I have long been experimenting with showing the shrapnel blast to human scale.
(I traced each fragment and then rearranged them in a circle - not too much order to the pieces - mainly the larger bits on the outside to give the shape some definition.)
The blasted fragments are interesting in themselves but need a person there to make them relevant.
By putting them in a circular pattern I maybe is represented their real shape when exploding - this is a trade off. Their actual shape was more like a cross section of a red blood cell - but this would have been too much information.
This work is an alignment of a selection of discretely relevant and interoperable parts that, together make a coherent whole.
The relationship between the primary element - the gun and the crew and the flak stats is a sound one.
The gun is the first thing you see and is also on the 'floor'of the graphic. The stats are in the 'air of the graphic. I did wonder if one would read the stats first but i think most would see and inquire after the gun and crew first. The gun is setting up the rest of the graphic without being too obtrusive.
I drew the gun in some detail - with sharp, straight, geometric lines. I wanted the crew to be different.
Their colorings give first a sense of their function and place, but maybe together, these different colours indicate their difference and humanity. They also remind us that this is a representation of a crew - this 'means' a crew - it is not *actually* a crew and therefore does nt need to look exactly like one. (if this is getting a bit close to bluffers semiotics, I'll stop as most of that is pretty pointless - more on that another day)
So if the crew didn't need to be exactly realistic, what should they look like?
I thought the machine gun crew were too sketchy perhaps. I thought the glider crewwere about right for their size - but if these folks were going to have a decent space on the page, they would need a degree of detail because things at distance have a constant level of detail and if we are close up and are beige given a lack of detail, there will be a reason.
It was one thing to draw the filled outlines - a staple of comic art. But then I went a bit further and added some very rough lighter and darker shades to them. I wanted a quality of the vague/precise that Javier Zarracina's news graphics have.
You can recognize what is being shown.
You can reflect in the natural and human qualities of the subject material.
Most importantly - there is still room for the imagination to fill in some of the gaps and not too much render so that you ask unnecessary questions.
So - this graphic marks a satisfying place in my journey of hopeful improvement - its just after two years of doing these.
Improvements made so far:
- signposting and data balance
- inclusion and representation of people
- more disciplined use of colour
Still to improve:
- typography systems
- conceptual innovation in layout/ data vis
The above sounds a little clinical - like a Terminator dispassionately repairing it's own arm - but there is really no point doing anything if you don't want to improve.
It answers the main question of the story - How did the fire spread?
It uses a photo of the actual flats - no isometric, 'diagrammatic' style vector illustrations - just the actual, truthful, visceral image of what actually happened with some minimal information overlaid.
It would be great to see more of these - where the storytellers eschew using 3d/ complex illustrations and cut straight to the chase.
Breaking news graphics are the staple of news design teams and should be celebrated more than the more whimsical features that tend to get the praise.