Writing samples

From original blog post
08.05.2010

FIVE TIPS FOR BETTER INFOGRAPHICS 

by Daniel Hood

This weekend I went to the theater to see the Christopher Nolan directed film, Inception. If you are a fan of the director and his movies, you will know that Mr. Nolan has a penchant for making intricately woven, deeply heady productions, and once again, he delivers. After reading a review online, I stumbled upon a story about a member of the website Deviantart.com who posted an infographic illustrating the intricate storyline of the movie. A lot of people seemed to like it and, for myself, it actually helped me grasp the plot of the film.

As the word implies, an infographic is a graphic visual representation of information, data or knowledge. It can be a simple pie chart or as overwhelmingly intricate as a map of the internet. Newspapers like the British Sunday Times and USA Today brought information graphics to the mainstream in the 70s and 80s and have become very useful tools in modern publishing. Reports, RFPs and many other publications can benefit from infographics as long as they are executed with planning and purpose.

If you are dealing with simple numbers or statistical data, a chart will probably suffice. Of course there are hundreds of different types of charts; pie chart, histogram, sparkline or scatterplot to name a few. Charts, in general is a topic of its own. But if your information is more complex, you may need to think a little more conceptually. Consider the Inception infographic I mentioned earlier – the designer uses silhouettes to represent the characters of the movie and other iconic graphics to represent sections of the plot line. It did a beautiful job of representing a deeply layered concept.

Here are some tips to help you design your effective infographics.

  1. Ask yourself the question, “What exactly am I trying to say?” Stay within the scope of work and resist the urge to tell more of the story. Your informational graphic needs to be concise, not convoluted. Identify precisely what the message is and then think of the best way to represent that information.
  2. Check your data. Double check your data. Your best design effort will be for naught (and rather embarrassing) if your data isn’t reliable or accurate. If applicable, cite your data sources.
  3. Icons or easily recognizable objects are essential when producing infographics. Think of your graphic as more of a comic and less like the Sistine Chapel. As humans, we are extremely capable of breaking down abstract ideas into easy-to-understand tidbits. Keep the subject matter relatively simple and straightforward.
  4. If at all possible, use color. Using color makes the job of identifying and differentiating informational elements much easier, not to mention, more visually appealing.
  5. An infographic can use text, but keep it to a minimum. Determine if the graphic may be interpreted without accompanying text and adjust your information accordingly. Rely on the graphic elements to convey the message. Use text as a headline or setup statement. Remember, this is visual storytelling.

Informational graphics can add a lot to a document and are very useful in conveying information in our fast paced, skim-the-page society. But if not executed correctly, they can actually detract from your message by making the idea harder to grasp. Use the tips above and you’ll be making infographics that people can really use.

From original blog post
06.18.2010

RAIDERS OF THE LOST FONTS

by Daniel Hood

I am a font geek. Fonts express emotion. They can change the look and feel of any design from classy to fun to disturbing. A well designed font can also make the difference in a document’s legibility. Last week, I watched a documentary entitled Helvetica. The film is, as you could guess, about the story of the ubiquitous, san serif typeface. It goes into detail about the font’s history and its adoption as the world standard for accessible, easy-to-read type.

Fascinating.

See, I told you I am a font geek.

Recently I picked up an old textbook from a local church rummage sale—Applied Drawing and Design, Mattingly & Scrogin, copyright 1942. It educates the reader on skills that were essential to designers and draftsmen of the mid-twentieth century. The book covers things like measuring and dimensions, proper technique when using a french curve, essentials of design and, my favorite, lettering (known now as typography).

The lettering section of the book presents examples of typefaces and their applications. Modern Gothic, Old English and Roman are the common styles covered, but a couple of fonts caught my eye. The authors identified the first font as Futurity Gothic, a somewhat space age typeface. The second type style, Aerline, is a more formal, art deco type. They are handsome and well-designed fonts, but the real reason I was intrigued by them was that I had never seen them before. And I’ve perused my share of typefaces. I felt like Indiana Jones uncovering a forgotten relic inside the Temple of Doom.

With the hundreds of thousands of fonts available for use, I was skeptical these were in fact, rediscovered typefaces, and conducted numerous searches to uncover them in one of the many online databases. I even submitted them to WhatTheFont.com and came up empty. By the way, WhatTheFont (www.whatthefont.com) is a great tool to help identify type styles that you just can’t seem to put your finger on. I highly recommend it.

So, with all the research behind me, I am excited to announce to fontographers everywhere that Futurity Gothic and Aerline will be coming to a graphic design application near you.

From original blog post
04.28.2010

OLD OR NEW, WORD-OF-MOUTH STILL RULES

By Daniel Hood

“I love referrals.” Those three words are printed on my wife’s business cards and they have a very good reason to be there. My wife is a real estate agent and a large portion of her clientele is through referrals. Using referrals, or word-of-mouth, as a way to gain business opportunities isn’t a new concept but as important today as it was centuries ago.

In the case of my wife’s business, most of her referrals happen between friends and family at the supermarket or the backyard barbecue but with the advent of the social Web, word-of-mouth is widening its definition. Facebook, Twitter and consumer blogs, along with newcomers like Yelp!, let you share your reviews of goods and services not just with your friends and family but with the entire Web. Now a consumer’s opinion has a much greater reach than in the past, thus having a greater effect, be it positive or negative.

A great example of word-of-mouth promotion occurred a few days ago when a friend posted via Facebook that she has co-founded a volunteer organization, Bi-State Pet Food Pantry. The organization helps keep pets with their owners during financially difficult times by providing emergency assistance with pet food. I am a big advocate for animals and it sounded like a great cause, so I shared the post with my Facebook friends and they shared it with their friends and so forth. The message was shared exponentially with the simple click of a button. Raising awareness in the past would have taken months but now has taken minutes.

At the end of a successful closing, my wife always asks clients to refer her to friends and family. She understands that people place high value on a review when it comes from someone they know and trust. For every organization or business, there are a multitude of avenues for getting your name out there, but there will always be value in a good old-fashioned (or newfangled) referral.

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