Social Story Telling with The Guardian

Mariana Santos and Mark McCormick shared the stage to talk about how the Guardian is using the readers to enforce their publication. Mariana is doing interactive design and Mark is specialised in infographics. They toss subjects beween their disciplines to make the most of it.

Mariana Santos and Mark McCormick, photo © Jason Wen

The first example they presented was the Guardian’s take on government spending. The Initially this information is ‘hidden’ in several pdf’s with long columns of digits. The Guardian dug into that and made an interactive graph showing intuitively where the money goes. Readers were then invited to propose the budget cuts they thought the government should make. This was inmediately turned into a graph they could share, attracting more interest and discussion.

Mariana lives in Hackney, where the London riots took place, and in those days was relieved to get home safely. She barred her door, but took photos through her window and sent them on, like many other people did. Back at the Guardian office the tweets were collected and curated, and mapped what was happening where, real time. After three days this map was translated into print. And a book was made in cooperation with the London School of Economics and the Open Society Foundations. They had interviews with 600 people, among which 270 rioters and 130 police officers. An enormous heap of 2.6 million tweets was analyzed. Online, along a timeline the amount of tweets and retweets and their character was shown in families of circles in red yellow and green, growing and moving like a natural organism.

The Guardian uses local blogs for travel information of a foreign city, but also asks around in tweets. In print this turns out in a map with some highlights where to go, where to eat, where to stay, etc. Online the map shows the spots and by mouseover you get more info with photos or even movies, making it a lively city guide.

A special example of the difference between online and print was the use of an infographic of the Syrian armed forces. First it was embedded in a large article in print. But only when it was shown online as a stand alone it was really noticed and quickly retweeted 700 times.


Mariana Santos & Mark McCormick (The Guardian)

Mariana Santos was born in Algarve, Portugal, studied communication design at the University of Fine Arts of Lisboa and felt in love with technology in Stockholm where she did a master in Digital Media. Her role at The Guardian: to combine art with technology, to bring information and data into a more human context. Working as interactive and motion designer she tries to reach readers true storytelling and common sense, not taking herself to serious. Mark McCormick was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Mark studied information and graphic design at the School of Art and Design in Newcastle and graduated in 2004. He won a scholarship from the Sunday Times which gave him the opportunity to move to London. Since then he has worked for some of the leading newspapers in the UK including The Telegraph and The Observer, aswell as various magazines and design practices. In 2005 Mark was employed at the Guardian to work on the Berliner redesign of the infographics with Michael Robinson, Head of Graphics at the Guardian. Mark continues to work for the Guardian.context.
Then it’s our turn. On entering, everyone in the audience was handed a card. The majority got a blank card, some a card with a number on it. Attendees were asked to write a word or two on the numbered cards, or draw something on the blank cards. The people with the numbered cards stood in line and read their text out loud, together making a (cryptic) story. And now wait what our ‘Guardians’ will make of the combination of our drawings and text…

By Titia Schoenaker