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Stories we’re talking about this week: May 30

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.


Looming Floods, Threatened Cities, The New York Times

The New York Times recently published a 3-part series about Antarctica and how the changes it’s going through will affect the world. The Times used data from NASA and NOAA but also sent reporters and researchers to round out their reporting. Here’s what we thought:

  • We talked about the fact that each part of the series had its own interactive structure; each piece felt tailored to the narrative and data presented. The experience on wide breakpoints was immersive, and the beautiful imagery made it more compelling for a user to scroll.
  • This piece ties action to user scrolling but feels more elegant than other experiences we’ve seen in the past.
  • We checked out the performance of one section and found that size was upwards of 10MB, which makes for a heavy page. Designing and building highly immersive experiences often comes at the cost of a highly performant page. Because of the heavy page load, this piece is best received on a quick internet connection but is still a worthwhile storytelling experience.

We said, They said, Trump Said, Politico

Recently, the American news cycle has been in a bit of a tailspin with statements from the White House saying one thing, journalists responding (or refuting), and late night tweets from the Commander-in-Chief speaking over both. Politico tries to make sense of this, showcasing all views next to each other. Here’s what we said:

  • Studio Senior Designer Tyson Whiting thought the design of the story was an interesting way to show three divergent viewpoints at once, which is a story in-and-of itself.
  • This feature is more of a summarization than a deep dive on each scandal. The information breakdown is clear, and the headlines of each are easily scannable so users can pick up on the broad strokes.
  • We loved the use of using President Trump’s tweet bemoaning accuracy as the set-up for the rest of the piece.
  • Unfortunately, the experience doesn’t translate to mobile as well — we thought the side-by-side design was more successful than cards stacking on top of each other.

Climate Change May Force Millions of Americans to Move Inland, Huffpost

Our second climate change story of the week focuses on the effect of rising sea levels in America. Here’s what we thought:

  • We discussed how effective a bubble map was for this type of story — it was clearer than a shaded choropleth map because it indicated the scale of people better than simply shading counties.
  • However, because they are separate, static maps, it was hard to see the difference between the two. We talked about the possibility of an animation to show the difference between the two instead of static images.
  • The rising sea-level mockups from Climate Central were helpful in visualizing extreme scenarios, but we didn’t think Mar-a-Lago interactive image slider added much value and could have been visualized with a static image.

Are Pop Lyrics Getting More Repetitive?, The Pudding

Here’s what we said:

  • There was a lot of research and analysis put into this piece and we thought the first section was an interesting way to walk a reader through the difficulty of a compression algorithm. However, we ended up asking whether the article was meant to be about the compression or the lyrics.
  • Because there are so many artists to parse through, we liked that the team featured the most interesting data sets in the form of sentences, with the artist name as a clickable button that would change the responsive graph (e.g. Rappers like J. Cole and Eminem tend to be consistently non-repetitive). This gives the user two avenues for their experience; one for quick hits, the other for a deeper dive.

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