By Chris Adams

Many reporters skilled at the written word leave the images that go with their stories in the hands of others.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

In a session with Paul Miller fellows, Christina Animashaun, a news graphics designer for Vox, laid out the theory of what makes a good graphic and shared details on how to execute them.

For journalists working in large news organization staffed with designers and illustrators, learning to make graphics might not be necessary. But what if they move to a smaller organization? Or just want to liven up otherwise gray blocks of text?

Beyond that, a good graphic is often the most-efficient way to convey information to readers.

“You really just wear the same journalism hat you do as a reporter,” said Animashaun (bio, Twitter). “It’s just the tool is different.”

Some important tips:

  • Find a good, reputable source for information – just as you would as a reporter – and make sure it is up to date. According to an equation Animashaun showed: “Bad data + good visualization = bad chart.”
  • Respect the reader. Keep things simple, and don’t expect them to read information in dense PDFs or on odd slants.
  • Explain, explain, explain. “Explain it so the simplest person can understand it,” she said.
  • Decide which type of chart is most helpful. Bar charts (whether vertical or horizontal) are good for some visualizations; line charts are good for others; and pie charts are good for still others.

Animashaun pointed fellows to three platforms that offer graphics-building tools even the most design-challenged reporter can understand: Infogram, Flourish, Raw Graphs.