A data visualization and an article, an article based on data, visual storytelling integrated into a traditional article. During a moment when working from home was still new, the article arose from a white paper that was one of a series of tomes looking at workers in the US during the pandemic. While readers have become accustomed to graphics, this piece used innovative charting approaches to capture. Jon Schwabish, an economist at the Urban Institute and a data visualization expert, asked for the name of one of the charts, as he had never seen the form.
Published early on in the pandemic as we were all initially getting our footing, it was one of the earliest visual stories that quantitatively answered the question of who exactly was working home. The project was widely shared on social media and made the front page of Digg. On Twitter it was shared as a ‘A distinguished example of visual storytelling / scrollytelling.” According to the economists whose research it was based on, it was also widely distributed among academics and economists in the community.
Excel, paper and pencil to sketch, Datawrapper, Illustrator, AI2HTML, traditional reporting. Iterating. What you see for the final product is nothing like how it started out.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Finding a way to tell the story visually that connected back to the people who were excluded from remote work in addition to those who had the privilege of connectivity. And finding visual hooks to make this piece interesting and not get lost in the noise of data that was circulating during the early stages of the pandemic.
What can others learn from this project?
Data can drive storytelling. The shape of data can inform the shape of a narrative. It’s also possible to find ways to stop a reader by making something that looks unusual, and still make it clear and inviting. As a visual journalist, using your own voice in an honest way can be an uncomfortable process. But showing your own interpretation can yield arresting results, and that in turn can connect you back to your readers.