Investigative Journalism Iconathon at The New York Times


A couple weeks ago we ventured to New York City for an Iconathon at The New York Times building – a suitable venue for creating symbols around the theme of Investigative Journalism.  Our goal for this Iconathon was to make symbols that will help visualize information and data in the news, as well as create symbols that can be used by reporters to discuss current events. A mix of journalists, editors, graphic designers, web developers and civic-minded participants volunteered their Saturday to help accomplish this goal.

Chrys Wu (Hacks/Hackers NYC), Scott Klein (Editor of News Applications at ProPublica), and Matt Ericson (Deputy Graphics Editor at The New York Times) started off the day with insightful presentations on how symbols help to share information with the public through new age journalism. In today’s digital era, symbols are frequently used on mobile news apps and interactive websites to effectively communicate information about current events in politics, government, environment, technology, etc.  Given the abundance and depth of information for a lot of these topics, visual graphics help tell these stories in a way that is easy for anyone to understand.


(Presentation by Matt Ericson from The New York Times)

After the presentations we split into teams and generated ideas for concepts like Gerrymandering, Wire Tap, Fracking, Dark Money, Abuse of Power, and Drone.

We ended the day with a group critique to discuss which ideas were the most successful at illustrating each concept. The open discussion allowed everyone to compare sketches and work in a collaborative effort to choose the most comprehensive symbols. The best ideas from each topic will soon be transformed from rough sketches into graphic icons that will be free to download as public domain.


A huge thanks to all of the volunteers who participated, The New York Times for sharing their phenomenal space with us, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews for sponsoring, and ProPublica and Hacks/Hackers NYC for helping to organize the event!

More photos from the Iconathon are on Flickr.


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