Karl Gude is pro at visual storytelling. He was Director of Information Graphics at various large news organizations, including the Associated Press and Newsweek. Currently, Karl teaches courses in information graphics and visual communication in the Journalism school at Michigan State University.
Did you always know what you wanted to do in life, with regards to graphic design and journalism?
No, I never knew what I wanted to do! In retrospect, my job philosophy has always been, and continues to be, ‘It sounded like a good idea at the time.” I graduated from high school and never attended college. I bounced from blue collar job to blue collar job (farmer, factory foreman, carpenter…) until I decided to move to New York City at 23 to try and work as an artist. I had always loved to draw, and I drew a LOT (which can tend to make you pretty good) but had never taken an art class or worked as an artist. I stumbled into journalism in my first job in New York (Art Director at United Press International), a job that I didn’t screw up, although I made a lot of mistakes. This eventually led to Newsweek and MSU.
Technology has changed how readers consume content. Do you think that it has effected infographics’ place in media, or are they equally viewed in print and digital?
I don’t have any data on that. What I do think is that they can do a wonderful job of clarifying complex information in either place. They are under-utilized, though, because people don’t really understand how to conceive them and get them made. Also, there aren’t a lot of people who know how to make them. Bad infographics can actually harm your mission to inform. Badly designed infographics, for instance, can confuse people and also harm an organization’s image.
How do infographics play a part in government communications?
Just about every topic that falls under the umbrella of government could be communicated better if there were infographics to explain it, but again, they are seldom made for the reasons I explained in the last question. Imagine an engaging and clear infographic explaining health care, the plight of education and the like!
What is the best way to pick relevant information that can be used in an infographic and shown effectively?
Big question! This entirely depends on the audience you’re trying to reach and what you want the graphic to do. For instance, an infographic about a chronic disease like cancer would change depending on who it was intended for. It may be trying to explain to policy makers why they should increase research funding, or it could be trying to encourage woman with little education and almost no access to technology to do breast self exams.
We can’t wait for Karl’s interactive session during the afternoon of the conference. In the meantime, follow him @karlgude.