What Makes the Design for Snowfall So Good

I saw the Snowfall article at the beginning of September when it was released and gawked at the design and integration of multimedia with the rest of the journalism world.

The beautiful moving gifs instead of photos, unique way of scrolling, use of origional typography, and integration of artistic multimedia clips changed the way we see design in journalism.

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 12.01.53 AM

Screen shot taken from http://www.nytimes.com

The first thing that catches my eye when I see this article is the blowing snow across the mountain. The title is not overwhelming, balancing out the movement with a slim and swift typeface that reads “snowfall.” The serifs look modern and easy, lending to the nature of snow and the modern feel of the design of the article.

My favorite thing that happens when you scroll is that the text comes into the screen and the title stays in the same place. This same things happens with every title. Every title has it’s own lead image, a characteristic of feature stories in Magazines but never before in a newspaper let alone online newspaper stories. This reminds me of a new way of designing that was brought to my attention for iPad publications. Because interactive and new layouts for magazines is easy to make on the iPad, not requiring HTML or coding this design is more common. On the web this sort of object states is very difficult to achieve. The first time I saw this cohesive magazine design with moving text and images was in OPB’s iPad magazine, designed by UO Alumni Jason Bernert.

Next we get a glimpse into what it felt like for Elyse Saugstad to be in the avalanche. The writer could have included a quote from her account in the story but to watch her visually tell it is more impactful. The shortness of the clip allows for readers not to lose attention.

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 12.05.16 AM

Screen shot taken from http://www.nytimes.com

The three dimensional ariel pan is beautiful. It is a rendering animation and you feel like you are in a helicopter looking down finding Tunnel Creek. This element lends to a beautiful sense of place. I like how it takes up the whole screen and overwhelms the viewer with the motion.

The next interesting thing is a series of interviews and a multimedia piece of extreme skiers attesting to the allure of the backcountry. This is my favorite mutimedia piece as it strays from strict journalism the jumps, eurethral music, and powerful words describing enjoyment makes me want to do this. It adds a real answer for the readers who may be asking “why would anyone do anything that dangerous?”

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 12.09.18 AM

Screen shot taken from http://www.nytimes.com

The design of the piece gets pushed a step farther in the section called “the Descent Begins.” When the story dives into how the extreme skiers went down the mountain before the avalance the text is in a thin side bar. The image behind doen’t move, just the text scrolls. As you read the story each character’s path is slowly revealed on the right side. This is a genious way to reveal and tell a story. Instead of a stationary graphic the reader sees the information slowly as the written story is told. This adds much higher comprhension and engagement.

My other favorite part of the design of this article is the sound bites hidden of police calls. One may always assume that a reporter listens to the police calls and may quote them but to hear the actual calls gives the story much more importance. It makes the reader care becasue the subject sounds like he is in danger. We want to read on to see if they make it.

It would take me a great amount of time to even define my opinion on the entire snowfall piece, as it is very in depth. I guide you to some other web sites that have great analysis on the piece.

Source did a Q & A with the team of snowfall. You can read that here. The Bureau gives an excellent analysis of the story here.

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