Thoughts from first class: visual journalism

Design is visual journalism. It’s something that has been drilled into my brain before and was reiterated in our first class. It’s a statement I hold to be true, but it’s also a position I’ve had to defend, so I appreciated hearing it so strongly affirmed here.

I once worked with a reporter (who was admittedly a bit narrow-minded on multiple counts) who gave me a hard time when I mentioned belonging to a professional journalism association because according to him, designers did not count as journalists. We didn’t do any reporting; we just waited for stories to come in so we could stick them on the page. While a fellow designer and I were quick to defend ourselves, I wish that in the moment I had been better able to articulate my position.

Design really isn’t just “prettying up” a page. Design decisions are also storytelling decisions: What is the most appropriate way to visually guide the reader through a page? What is important to emphasize? Even though we don’t always consciously acknowledge it, design is still a big part of the way we read a story. Each element is intentionally chosen to guide the reader’s eye and inform how they digest the story.

Another thing that struck me: Even though I get defensive about design as a legitimate part of journalism, I hadn’t given much thought to the use of the term “art” in reference to photos, infographics and other visuals. I’ve become used to it as a catch-all term for visuals, but I suppose it’s not fair to say that visual journalism is not for art’s sake, and then continue to refer to visuals as art. I’ll have to work on keeping that in mind!

~ Nicole Vas

Nicole Vas