If I think back to the first object that I consciously thought of as a piece of (information) design, two things come to mind: the narrative illustrations created by my father and the maps found in cartography books. There’s one specific book that I’ve kept around ever since. It’s the Schweizer Weltatlas, my geography book from 6th grade with an extensive appendix full of mesmerizing thematic maps that visualize ecological, political, and social data.
There are a few things evolving side by side that will influence how visualizations will look a few years from now. First, although visualization has been a research topic for quite some time now, I still see new approaches being developed not only in academia but also by practitioners working in the industry. Second, the constantly improving computing power and the adoption of new technology allow for more complex, engaging, and connected visualizations to spread quickly over the web. Third, the vast amount of data being produced every day demands increasingly sophisticated tools for exploration, evaluation, and communication. To come by the increasing load of data, visualizations will need to scale in terms of performance, density, and interactivity.
FJP: Explore their work here. We’re long time fans.
The backwardness of political cartoons is especially evident when you compare them to the bounty of new forms of graphical political commentary on the Web. My Facebook and Twitter feeds brim with a wide variety of political art — biting infographics, hilarious image macros, irresistible Tumblrs (e.g., Kim Jong-il Looking at Things), clever Web comics, and even poignant listicles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a traditional political cartoon appear on my various social-media channels…
…This isn’t surprising. Editorial cartoons were born in the era of newspapers, and while they now regularly appear on the Web—including in Slate—they remain stuck in the static, space-constrained, caricaturist mind-set of newsprint. The Pulitzers began awarding a prize for cartoons in 1922, and other than a few notable exceptions — Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury in 1975, Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County in 1987, and Mark Fiore’s animated cartoons in 2010 — the overwhelming majority of its awards have gone to traditional, single-panel cartoonists. It’s time for the Pulitzers to look past this old-fashioned medium and include graphics that are better attuned to this century.
My first suggestion would be for the committee to recognize infographics and interactive visualizations. Like most political cartoons, infographics are rarely funny. Unlike most political cartoons, the best infographics tend to pack a wallop.
Farhad Manjoo, Slate. Editorial Cartoons Are Stale, Simplistic, and Just Not Funny: The Pulitzer committee should honor slide shows, infographics, and listicles instead.
I don’t think the Pulitzer’s should abandon the editorial cartoon but absolutely agree there should be a new category for graphical stories. — Michael