The Farm Belt’s Miserable Year

Category: Best visualization (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: United States

Organisation: The Wall Street Journal

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 25/09/2019

Credit: Yaryna Serkez

Project description:

This engaging mobile-first interactive outlines how the trade war and bad weather are conspiring to create enormous challenges for U.S. farmers.

Impact reached:

This project is one of the first comprehensive analyses of current challenges for U.S. agricultural industry. This visual story outlines how commodity prices dropped, exports to China slowed, stockpiles rose, funding for farmers dropped and support for President Trump remained high. The package explains clearly and visually the economic factors at play.

Techniques/technologies used:

This project was mostly built with D3.js and canvas technologies. The Journal also used a mobile-first tapping approach which makes it easier to navigate information-dense interactives based on numerous charts.

What was the hardest part of this project?

Turning more than a dozen relatively simple charts into an engaging experience was the biggest challenge of this project. The team aimed to maintain readers’ attention without introducing additional visual noise or flashy animation effects at the expense of visual clarity. To achieve this, the Journal introduced visual metaphors, for example a conventional stacked bar chart into animated rainfall. Smooth animation and a consistent set of visual cues were used throughout to lead readers through this complex story.

What can others learn from this project?

Using a mobile-friendly format, in which readers tap through a series of slides, provides a better experience for readers. This format made editing extremely important. Telling a complex story in a limited number of visual frames concentrates the value and clarity of the story. It is important to reach readers where they are, on their phones, and to be respectful of their time. This visual story does both. It is a well-reported and important premise that is elevated with innovative visualization forms. The thought-provoking visual explorations help communicate abstract data in a clear and engaging way.

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