Finding our story for Food for Free

To create our data mural about Food For Free, we stayed close to the principle of starting with data and finishing with a story. We began by gathering information from Executive Director Sasha Purpura, who spoke about the organization’s history and goals. We then looked at data about Food For Free’s reach, as well as statistics about food security in the United States. Guided by Rahul’s taxonomy of data stories, we came up with multiple stories and chose the one best suited to conveying Food For Free’s mission/impact.

I think this was an effective way to find the story, especially because many of us were unfamiliar with the organization – thus, starting with the data was essential.

From the story, we made rough sketches of potential murals. We identified the common visual themes and incorporated them into the final mural, which allowed many of our ideas to be included. When deciding whether or not to include certain elements, we used the criterion of the story we agreed upon before-hand. I think this gave our discussion a good amount of structure and the process went smoothly.

As for the mural we came up with, its dominant visual structure is the tree. The upward sweep of the roots into the trunk and ultimately the branches is the main storyline through which we communicate Food For Free’s mission, impact and plan for the future. We start at the root, where we immediately see Food For Free trucks beginning to transport food from donor organizations to the rest of the ecosystem/community.Our eyes are then drawn up to the branches, where we see the result of the organization’s work, represented by thriving children and adults in a tree house. Finally, we can examine the messaging interspersed in the mural as fruits and flowers.

In this way, the mural is author driven, which makes sense as our goal is to tell a strong story about Food For Free. This is consistent with Segel and Herr’s suggestion that such approaches are best when the goal is storytelling or efficient communication. There is no interactivity and while there are no linear “scenes” in this single frame, there is a strong linear progression suggested by the tree metaphor, in which you start at the root and make your way up.

The messaging, in addition to being matching the visual metaphor of the tree, is communicated through memorable factoids. This is preferable to overwhelming the audience with large quantities of information – as would likely be the case if we tried to put the raw data and tables we started with onto the mural — and is in line¬†with Segel and Heer’s recommendation that such factoids are often better for a general audience.

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