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Stories we’re talking about this week: April 4

Every two weeks, the Storytelling Studio hosts an open meeting where we share story inspiration. We read or watch published stories (by Vox Media or elsewhere), and spend an hour with teammates and other colleagues discussing each. Spoiler alert: we don’t always agree!

This meeting is separate from our project-specific design reviews, and might cover everything from written content and visual design, to user experience and data analysis. Here’s a sampling of what we reviewed this week.


The United States of oil and gas, The Washington Post

In February, the Washington Post published this story looking at the state of the oil and gas industries in the United States. The story incorporates maps, graphics, and other interactives to tell the story. Here’s what we thought:

  • It’s an extremely comprehensive story told visually.
  • Most of the graphics don’t require the user to click — this brings all of the information to the forefront and doesn’t assume users know how to interact with custom-made graphics. The story is scannable and easily digestible.
  • We had a great conversation about when to show diptychs versus showing an interactive image slider, like showed in this piece. Studio engineer Yuri Victor mentioned he prefers diptychs unless there is an element of surprise or delight for a reader.

Color Palettes of The New Yorker, by Nicholas Rougeux

Studio engineer Casey Miller shared this piece that extracts a color palette from every cover of The New Yorker. Here’s what we talked about:

  • If you scroll quickly down the page, you can tell how the palettes have changed over the years. It’s interesting to look at something with as much history as The New Yorker and examine patterns over time.
  • We wished there was a more in-depth analysis of color changes over time.

Fleeing Boko Haram, Thousands Cling to a Road to Nowhere, The New York Times

Kainaz Amaria shared this piece in our meeting to talk about the intro as well as the interactive photo included in the story. She was interested in how the story starts with a subhed and visual, and then shows the title of the piece with the byline. Here’s what we thought:

  • The subhed draws readers in, and is an interesting way to start a story when so many readers are used to a traditional page order of headline, subhed, and introduction.
  • The photo interactive is a great way to highlight a still image. It takes a sharp and detailed image and pushes the still imagery in a way that many publications aren’t doing on the web. This serves to highlights the photography.
  • We also looked at this story in print, and discussed how nice it is that you can scan the large photo with all of the information at once. On the web there is limited real estate, so it’s not as feasible to get that kind of scannability. We discussed what it could mean to bring that high-level view that print allows to the web.

How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons, The New York Times

After hearing many people discuss this story around the office yesterday, we decided to spend some time talking about it. Here’s what we thought:

  • Yuri mentioned that the interaction in this story was delightful — the animation was intriguing, and then it was a fun surprise to learn it was interactive.
  • Pairing the intimate portraits of drivers felt like a different tone from the interactive games in the story.
  • Most of the interactives are contained within a good height so you get all of the information from each without scrolling, which helps allow users to easily see everything at once or screenshot their results.

What stories are you talking about this week? Tweet us @voxstorytelling to let us know.