Tribune DIY charticle: informative, engaging

Reading the Chicago Tribune semi-regularly, I am reminded of the nice photo/graphic/design work done by its staff. Even in tight times, good work jumps out, as it did this week in the paper’s “Sunday” supplement. (The new incarnation of the paper’s magazine, it’s often filled with lots of consumer-friendly info). When I turned to Page 3 and saw Jen Mystkowski’s full-page charticle (or infographic if you prefer) on “do it yourself” projects, I admit I first thought: “Oh no! this will require actual brainpower to read! Turn the page!” Then I thought, OK, a couple of seconds won’t hurt … and quickly got sucked in.

Jen uses a matrix sort of design popularized by New York and other publications, which serves a dual purpose I haven’t quite seen before: it’s a table of contents of sorts, with half of the items teasing to articles later in on the section; the other half are URLs (tinyURL’s, to be exact) sending the reader off to websites that have the best how-to advice. The matrix classifies tasks ranging from “You can do it” to “Pay someone to do it,” and from easy to hard. Readers always seek the “what’s in it for me” angle, and I quickly found what I needed: “Fix a running toilet.” (Three days later I still haven’t done it, but I now know where to look.)

Says Jen: “I’ve been asked to introduce more alts (alternative story forms) to our features coverage. The staff is more than willing to tell their stories in a more visual fashion. This grid was my way of covering a ton of topics in a small space. It took a second to research the appropriate web content (i.e. watching 8 videos on how to sew a button before picking the link that was best and turning it into a tinyurl). But it was totally worth it. In addition, we zone the Sunday tab 10 ways, so I had to go in and recode the refer content for each story and its location in each zone. It was fun, and more are planned!” (Disclosure: I previously became acquainted with Jen’s good work while doing ongoing consultation at Crain’s Chicago Business, where she was a graphic artist.)

[Click on the image above to access a larger version, and feel free to share in your newsroom for inspiration. All info is © Chicago Tribune, and thanks to Jen for sharing.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *