It may be a competitive time of year for the world’s best swimmers and kayakers, but 10 teams of data visualization experts are approaching the London 2012 Olympic Games as a golden opportunity for collaboration.
The “graphics consortium” is an informal agreement between 10 design teams from eight countries around the world, from Argentina to Oman*, to pool their Olympic graphics.
The brainchild of Matt Martel, Managing Editor, Presentation for Australia’s The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald, the idea is for each participating graphics team to both upload and download editable files via OneHub and DropBox, allowing individual teams to tailor one-another’s contributions to suit their needs, whether by changing the typography or the format, and then cross-publish the graphics in their respective publications, on as many platforms as they wish. The swap is free, honour-system-based, and stipulates only that accreditation be offered to the publication that provides the work.
A February 14 email from Martel to his international counterparts outlines the concept:
“Co-operative sharing of graphics for the Olympics (and maybe later on for major world events) seems to have a bit of momentum. From my understanding you are all up for sharing your Olympics work. That means you will upload some of what you do and take work from others. I believe all the publications involved so far are brilliant at information graphics. It's really exciting company to find myself in.”
“We are now in the age of sharing information,” said Adonis Durado, Design Director for Muscat Press in Oman (publisher of the Times of Oman and Al Shabiba) who will be showcasing the best of the Olympics at the upcoming World Editors Forum in Kiev.
“Building graphics is labour-intensive,” said Durado, whose team of three recently spent as many weeks researching and designing one graphic about Olympic medallions (pictured), and aims to finish another on Ramadan and the Olympics that took a full two weeks tomorrow.
Athletes are not alone in finding global sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup both endurance testing and exhilarating; “these kinds of events make the graphics department frenzied and more chaotic,” he said, adding that they represent a great opportunity for experimentation. “Newsrooms will give you space; you can do whatever you want. For me it’s exciting."
While certain publications, such as The New York Times, may be able to send their graphics departments to London, this is not an option for most designers, explained Durado. His team places an emphasis on pre-Olympic graphics – especially ones with unique, unexplored angles – and will follow the Games on television.
Durado’s team has already contributed five graphics to the mix, and while he said that only one other newspaper has shared its work thus far, he expressed confidence that the rest would come once the Games were under way.
Ultimately, however, Durado would not mind if his team ended up sending more graphics than it received. The idea of having his work published in other newspapers was compelling on its own.
And besides,“it’s nice to share,” he said.
*Participants in the informal consortium are as follows:
1. Sydney Morning Herald & The Sun-Herald (Australia)
2. The Age (Australia)
3. Centrimetri graphics agency (Italy)
4. La Nacion (Argentina)
5. El Universal (Mexico)
6. Fairfax (New Zealand)
7. Times of Oman & Al Shabiba (Oman)
8. Le Monde (France)
9. San Diego Union-Tribune (USA)
10. Boston Globe (USA)
Correction: July 30, 2012
An earlier version of this article misstated Matt Martel's title. He is Managing Editor, Presentation at The Sydney Morning Herald and the The Sun-Herald.