Perspectives

National Geographic Uses Maps and Graphics to Makes Stories Come-to-Life


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The job of the editorial teams at National Geographic is to make a “round world” come to life on a “flat plane” of a magazine, a web-screen, a phone or other mobile device. That, often, is a big challenge.
Kaitlin Yarnall is Deputy Director for the Centers of Excellence in Journalism, Mapping and Photography at the National Geographic Society.
She also has been the lead editorial manager for National Geographic’s 2014 multi-year, multimedia food initiative – to examine all aspect of food in our lives. It has been the most commercially successful editorial initiative in the history of National Geographic.
Yarnall’s designs for Geographic have won numerous awards.
She claims that even in the 21st century that maps have relevance. In fact, she claims that maps are making resurgence in our lives. Despite electronic GPS and other tracking methods, ordinary maps give individuals context and perspective that other electronic tracking devices do not, says Yarnall.
Along with graphics, photos, and other interactive features, maps and graphic depictions also make stories come to life. They broaden a reader’s perspective beyond the mere print and text of a story.
Editorial teams at National Geographic spend a great amount of time on the marriage between text, photos, graphics and maps. All are powerful storytelling elements when combined.
Yarnall also says that background data and data presentation can be critical to a story. Data must be presented a multiple levels, according to Yarnall.
Some basic data should be presented for someone who wants just some cursory background but other times, big data must be presented for those who want to dig deep on a particular subject.
Yarnall also notes that graphic designers for news and features must examine video gaming presentations and theories on how to engage people with the topic at a high interest level.
She claims that storytellers can take a great deal of information and tips on making stories more engaging from game developers.