Interview by Sara Joosten
With the SND Amsterdam coming closer, we wanted you to get to know some of the speakers a little better. We asked them about their career and how they got to the point where they are now without giving too much away about their SND talk. In this interview we speak with Graham Roberts.
Graham Roberts is an award winning journalist at The New York Times, focusing on innovation in visual journalism. As Director of Immersive Platforms Storytelling, he leads a team that explores new approaches in video, motion graphics, and virtual/augmented reality.
How important is the pre-planning/the sketch you make when starting a new project?
I’d say it varies. Sometimes having a very clear idea of where you are going is necessary, especially if there are many contingencies surrounding the project. But being too pre-planned and sketched-out can also limit spontaneous creativity in my experience. It is sometimes good to just start moving, start creating, and to allow that process to naturally take you where it wants.
“It is sometimes good to just start moving, start creating, and to allow that process to naturally take you where it wants.”
Does your first sketch/idea often differ from the final result? Why is that, you think?
Often. Sometimes you stumble upon great ideas mid-process, and this is something the sketch can’t capture. I think it’s very limiting to get too attached to your first idea. You want to have some idea as a launching point, but allow that to evolve and mature as you learn more and as you form a more coherent concept.
What is, in your opinion the biggest difference between a good and a bad visual?
Clarity. Whether in the form of clear communication or a clear perspective. I think a lot of visualizations fail because they are shoe-gazey. They are made for the makers. Overly complex as if to flex the muscles, and show how hard something is to make rather than make som ething that is inspiring and well designed. It’s the equivalent of virtuosity in music. Something can demonstrate virtuosity, but still be bad art or a poor communication vehicle.
What kind of project do you prefer working on most?
The kind I’ve never done before.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I mostly like to look outside of the news industry. Films, museums, even culinary arts. I like to see inspired design that makes a statement or takes a particular approach and imagine how I could apply that to what I do. I’m inspired by what could be.
What’s your good advice for aspiring designers out there?
Remember who your audience is. Don’t worry about failure. Try everything.
About Graham Roberts
Graham Roberts is an award-winning journalist at The New York Times, focusing on innovation in visual journalism. As Director of Immersive Platforms Storytelling, he leads a team that explores new approaches in video, motion graphics, and virtual/augmented reality. This also includes co-direction of editorial for NYT VR, the Times’ dedicated virtual reality platform.