Informational graphics don’t have to use pictures or symbols. They can be done with simply some creative use of text.
Text-based graphics are those in which text, or type, is the major graphic element. Sometimes it is the only graphic element. These graphics use type to draw attention to themselves in addition to providing informational content. The following are some common types of text-based graphics.
Lists. Some of the best graphics are nothing more than lists, and lists are readable and popular with readers. They are clean and easy to produce, and they give readers interesting information quickly. A list might be a simple listing of items, such as a movie reviewer’s five favorite movies of the year, or it may contain some additional information about the items.
Tables. A table is a list with additional information attached to each item on the list. A table is set up with columns (information that runs vertically) and rows (information that runs horizontally. A table usually presents textual and numeric information, and its main purpose is the comparison of information in the table. Tables are also designed so that some set of information is presented in a logical order. A table should contain enough heading and explanation to make it easily understandable for the reader.
Pull quotes. A pull quote is part of an article that is set off in larger type. It generally serves two purposes: it is a good way of breaking up large amounts of body copy type; it also gives the reader some interesting point or flavor of a story.
Summaries. One of the best graphic devices for getting information quickly to the reader is the summary box. A summary box can be used on almost any story. It is best used when a story has several parts or important points. For instance, a city council might take a number of actions in one meeting. A summary box can list these actions so that the reader can quickly know what they are.
Chronologies (or timelines). Events rarely occur without some significant historical context. That context may be very recent, but it also may be important in explaining to the reader what has happened and why. Chronologies take a good deal of time and care to produce, but they can help heighten reader interest in a story.
Organizational charts. These charts (also called tree charts) demonstrate relationships within an organization. The most common are those that show the relative positions of jobs within a corporation. A standard way of presenting this kind of chart is to have the names of positions within boxes with lines connecting the boxes that represent reporting channels and responsibilities.
Another type of organizational chart is most often found on the sports page. This chart will show the match-up of teams or individuals that are playing in a tournament and how they will proceed to a championship. Still another type of organizational chart is the genealogical chart that traces a family’s history through several generations (thus the term “family tree”). All of these charts make it easy for the reader to see some relationship of a part of the chart to a larger entity such as an organization or a family.
The purpose of a graphic is to provide information for the reader and to make it easy to see. The types of text-based graphics described in this module do just this and are well within the grasp of any journalist.
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