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Committed: Graphically Communicating the Election

If you live in America (or the world) perhaps you were as enthralled by the election as I was. It was fascinating to watch unfold online, as the results were reported, extrapolated, and opined upon. If you’re at all interested in visual communication and the use of imagery to convey information (as so many comic book readers are) then this was a banner year to find interesting and new ways to look at the election beyond giant maps plastered onto ice rinks and such gimmicky tricks.

On the sequential art front, the British newspaper The Guardian ran a smart, elegant comic (or graphic novel as they called it, which I found a little odd, but naming conventions of comic books are still up in the air I suppose.) A Dutch friend actually directed me to this, and upon further research I found that it was made by the in-house Guardian interactive team who are based in New York. So, we have a true US/UK collaboration being disseminated by a European all the way back to America. I like following the weird little breadcrumb path these things follow. Anyway, I’d love to give you a solid author name, but while The Guardian recognizes the value of sequential art, it is only in so far as to publish it, not to credit the specific creators. Anyway, even if the election is over, this is very nicely made and definitely worth a peek: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2012/nov/06/america-elect-graphic-novel

In terms of tracking the results, I was very impressed with this data visualization of The New York Times site, particularly the 512 paths to the White House in the “scenarios” section of their election website. As a way to simply watch the results come in and instantly see the implications of those results moving forward, it was a very clever, clean design. For someone with a visual bent, it allowed me to immediately understand what was happening (without having to listen to anyones interpretations of those results, so that was a huge bonus for me since I’m not very patient with TV news readers.) Created by Mike Bostock and Shan Carter, there is an interesting post about the process behind this impressive tool here, from paper sketches through to programming choices: http://source.mozillaopennews.org/en-US/articles/nyts-512-paths-white-house/

With the election results in, I found an informative map on Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium, where each state is proportionally distorted to show the share of the electoral votes. This is a way to create a map which gives a better understanding of the way the vote broke down. Distorting maps isn’t new, there are entire websites dedicated to them, (this is a nifty one: http://www.viewsoftheworld.net/ for example), but with maps of the election results so ubiquitous, I was surprised that only one person was using a proportional map. It is a basic technique for information visualization, but it is still useful to look at the results this way.

Naturally, XKCD boiled it all down to the essential elements – numbers – and managed to make it funny too.

At home, the Wonder Woman poster I have hanging in my bathroom (originally created by Mike and Laura Allred for the cover of the 40th anniversary issue of Ms. magazine) will be a reminder of this strange and intense day.

Now it’s late, and I have to go and do the design work that I didn’t get to today (while I agonized over the results and looked at strange information graphics about the election) so I’ll make this a short column today and be back next week with my usual, full-length column. In the meantime I hope you’ll all be well and happy.




XKCD had two other comics in the last few weeks that I think are worth mentioning:




I like the second one especially, since just a day before the elections, one of my facebook friends said that no president has won with unemployment at 7.9%. Guess that stat is obsolete now.

Four more years! Of Obama showing up in comic books. I meant that as a joke and if someone picks it up as a reason to start a big political thing, I apologize.

Thanks for posting this! For all of us “artsy” types who justify comics as a valid way of communicating ideas visually when words are not the ideal medium this really drives the point home. I agree, btw; with all the nonsense punditry of the last few weeks, the sleek New York times graphic told the story far better than the “talking heads.”

On a side note, this Constantine news seems pretty interesting in light of the grief you got over your column two weeks ago:


“one of my facebook friends said that no president has won with unemployment at 7.9%.”

Josh – the correct (until Tuesday, that is) version of that stat would include the phrase “since FDR” or “since The Great Depression” or somesuch.

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