So, what is visual storytelling? Although it appears to be the obvious answer, it seems that the best and most straightforward way to describe visual storytelling is that, it is literally the act of telling a story or narrative, visually! In more detail, visual storytelling is, conveying information with both clarity and creativity, while speaking with remarkable aesthetic expressiveness about the things that matter in the world today.
Today, after showing our own and looking at everyone’s work for the beautiful systems project, we were set a workshop on visual storytelling. In group’s of three, we were given a recent news article which we had to pull apart and tell through the use of our own visuals, rather than through just words and text – the brief was to develop a visual piece that tells the overarching narrative of our given article and highlights sections that you see as the most significant within the piece of writing.
Wanting to be ambitious again, rather than simply doing a 2D sketch or illustration, we wanted to make the piece 3D somehow. Obviously, we did not have a huge amount of time – only a couple of hours – so we set out to do as much as we could within our time constraints.
The article that we were given was about the wealth of the population on Earth – it focused on how a very small number of the richest people in the world (for example just 80 in 2014), have an equal amount of money to 50% of the poorest population. From the article, we highlighted and made note of the most important information from the text, which in this case were, we felt, four key statistics:
- “In 2010, the 388 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%.”
- “In 2014, the 80 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%.”
- “In 2015, the 62 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%.”
- “1% of people own more wealth than the other 99% combined.”
We also found a great metaphor embedded in the article which we felt would fit perfectly, so decided to base and create our visual story around it. It was:
- “We cannot afford to carry on giving the richest an even bigger slice of the cake.”
Our initial ideas was that we could create a tiered cake and show each piece of data on each tier, however we felt that it was too wedding-related – we wanted something that suggested more ‘greed‘. David mentioned that it reminded him of the phrase, ‘Who ate all the pies?‘ so we decided to take this and use it as inspiration for our visual. We decided to create a paper pop-up cake shop, as if the cakes were up on cake stands. We made half-eaten pies to show the 50% of the poorest population ‘slice‘ compared to the small number of richest people, shown by the other half of the pie which has been ‘eaten‘.
We used a thick card for the base of the piece because this allowed us to cut into it and fold up sections to act as the cake stands – this is what made our piece three-dimensional. We drew, coloured in and then cut out three ‘half-pies‘ which we then stuck onto round blue plates. As well as the pies, we did a cake as well to represent the fourth and slightly different statistic that we pulled from the article – the cake had a tiny slice removed from it which represented the 1% and the rest of the cake represented the 99%. We tried to consider even the smaller details in order to keep it in-theme of the cake shop. For example, we went to the effort of printing out our data onto little pink labels and drawing out percentages onto pink ‘price’ tags, just like ones you may find in a cake or patisserie shop on the high street. The only issue we had when making the piece was the plates were quite floppy on the stands, so we stuck some thick card across the bottom of each of the plates in a ‘x‘ pattern in order to add support – this worked and they were then sturdy.
Once finished, we presented our outcomes to the rest of the class – we were all very pleased with the outcome of our visual story. As a whole, the piece is a visual metaphor so works brilliantly – the cakes and pies represent perfectly the greed of the rich and how the poor are left with nothing compared to them. The only problem we found when presenting our piece was that the cake and pies were not stuck onto their stands so when it came to picking up and holding the piece up so our audience could see it, everything fell off. Perhaps if we were to do the project again, we could stick the cakes down, although this would ruin the potential of viewer and user interaction.