Design With A Capital D

One of the most important things to remember is that not every story or piece of information deserves multimedia treatment. In fact, many stories only require a simple, short, one-form presentation. It is also important to acknowledge that, depending on the circumstances surrounding the story–i.e., available staff, deadlines, resources, etc.–it may not always be possible to create multimedia content.

The first step to spotting multimedia potential in a story is determining whether there is enough depth to warrant a layered approach that contains several discreet pieces. In other words, is there an aspect of the story that would make for great video? Is there information i.e. maps, charts, or diagrams? If so, how might you approach interactivity? Is there potential for a photo gallery or slide show? Will a written story appear in print and/or online? And if the written story will appear in both places, should each take a different approach to structure and organization? These basic questions are often the foundation for a good brainstorming session. And this process can quickly help a multimedia story take shape.

Knowing when and how to use different story forms is key to developing a strong multimedia story. Photos capture moments. Videos capture sequences of events and allow subjects to tell their own stories. Interactive graphics provide rich simulations of real world phenomena and simplify complex data. Text allows you to describe and define parts of the story that don’t lend themselves to visual presentations. And hopefully, these elements together are capable of drilling into the complexities of a story in ways a single medium cannot.

Topics Covered

Information Layering
Information layering is a concept used by many different types of news organizations as a method for providing multiple points of entry into a story package. Print media, for example, present story packages that include written pieces, photographs, and information graphics. Information layering also occurs online. Short, digestible “chunks” of information combined with hyperlinks often provide audiences with interactive, immersive experiences.

Seven questions to assess multimedia potential
1. Does the story describe a process?
2. Is the story laden with figures or statistical information?
3. Is there an emotional narrative to be told?
4. Are there dramatic visual moments that can be captured in photographs?
5. Does the story contain strong historical references?
6. Is there potential for animation?
7. Could a game advance storytelling by engaging users in a simulation or educational experience?

Developing storyboards
Multimedia journalists should create storyboards to better organize content and establish the pace for larger, more detailed presentations. A storyboard is a great way for members of a collaborative team to identify resources, facilitate brainstorming, and get on the same page.