It’s all about the story

By Alejandro Bruna, Universidad Católica de Chile/SND

Dressed in a black shirt, navy blue jeans and sandals, Karl Gude stood tall and ready to talk to an eager audience this Friday, September 25th. His conference, “Design and Visual Communication, Do’s & Don’ts” was right after Nigel Holmes’ opening session. Gude’s focus was on the story that is being told visually. “It’s all about the story,” he synthesized from the very beginning.

The man once dubbed “Master of the Macintosh” explained that the real challenge was finding out how to tell a story visually. In his opinion, the real task of a visual communicator is to discover ways to spot information and figure out how to design it.

“We’re not in the newspaper business, we’re in the information delivery business,” explained Gude. “That’s our biggest question: What’s the future? What is the f—- up? WTF?” he questioned jokingly to a bemused audience.

To Gude, the real future shouldn’t rely on technology. “You don’t need fancy 3-D graphics to do infographics that tell a story. All you need is good content and a great execution,” he reassured to his avid listeners. “It’s all in how you structure visually a story, the data. Information design combines art, design, content and critical thinking. The idea is to communicate in a simple and organized way, with a simple grid, all the information that’s relevant in a story. Technology can be replaced,” Gude explained.

The focus, then, should always be the information (a.k.a, the content). All the elements available should be used to give the readers some guidance the simplest possible way. If the content is bad (or wrong), there’s not much to do. And if the execution is confusing and chaotic, then the content won’t matter — it will be lost on the reader. Gude still has vivid nightmares with the image that illustrated “Anatomy of an autistic brain.” “Sometimes 3-D can be gross. It looked like the child blew up and had its brains yanked out,” he joked.

Not too far from the truth, Karl, not too far from the truth. Content and execution have to complement each other, emphasizing the information that has to be delivered to the readers. Until that is done, as Gude would say: WTF?