Alumnus shares graphic design techniques

Haley Church • Oct. 2, 2015
Alumnus Larry Buchanan showed ONA students how to use create graphics using data. (Tiantian Zhang | The Media School)
Alumnus Larry Buchanan showed ONA students how to create graphics using data. He creates interactive graphics for The New York Times. (Tiantian Zhang | The Media School)

New York Times graphics editor Larry Buchanan, BAJ’11, shared his expertise with students during a week on campus.

Buchanan, who also is an adjunct lecturer teaching a Web development class online, met with his own students and led a workshop Tuesday evening for student members of the IU’s chapter of the Online News Association.

“I’m trying to expose stuff to students that maybe they haven’t seen before and start to introduce them to different tools used to create graphics,” he said before the workshop, which focused on using online data to create maps.

During the workshop, Buchanan showed students projects he has worked on at The New York Times, including maps of “How ISIS Expands” and the interactive “101 Places to Find Great Coffee in New York.”

“It is one thing to list the countries with ISIS groups, but seeing it on a globe does something different and more powerful,” he said of the graphic.

He also demonstrated how to use NASA satellite imagery to create visually stimulating weather graphics, such as snowfalls or typhoons.

Larry Buchanan at The Media School
After showing his own work, Buchanan walked the ONA group through the steps of making their own maps using free geographical information system data accessible online. Experimentation, troubleshooting and patience are key theme in learning mapping software, he said. (Tiantian Zhang | The Media School)

After showing his own work, Buchanan walked the ONA group through the steps of making their own maps using free geographical information system (GIS) data accessible online. Experimentation, troubleshooting and patience are key theme in learning mapping software, he said.

“The uglier the website, the better the data,” he said of some of the online resources crammed with datasets.

Buchanan emphasized the importance of organization and neatness in regards to archiving data to use later.

“I thought it was pretty awesome how accessible the information was and how easy it was to get it,” said freshman Maddie Chassey.

Buchanan learned his craft through a combination of formal training and experimentation. After moving to New York, he took the nine-week code class, a boot-camp style program through General Assembly, and since has taught several classes there himself. Between working full time in New York and teaching, Buchanan said he relies on “very little sleep and a lot of Red Bull.”

He freelanced for McSweeney’s, Grantland and others before moving to New York, where his wife was attending graduate school. The graphics editor position came about through his work as a freelancer. He landed a part-time position with The New Yorker, where he made interactive graphics for them for a few months before The New York Times saw his work and called him with an offer.

“I kind of got a little lonely,” said Buchanan about his time freelancing. “I was anxious to get back into a newsroom.”

While attending IU, Buchanan received several awards, including 2009 Sportsdesigner.com College Sports Designer of the Year, 2010 Student Society of News Design Designer of the Year and the 2011 Brook Baker Indiana Collegiate Journalist of the Year. (Tiantian Zhang | The Media School)
While attending IU, Buchanan received several awards, including 2009 Sportsdesigner.com College Sports Designer of the Year, 2010 Student Society of News Design Designer of the Year and the 2011 Brook Baker Indiana Collegiate Journalist of the Year. (Tiantian Zhang | The Media School)

While attending IU, Buchanan received several awards, including 2009 Sportsdesigner.com College Sports Designer of the Year, 2010 Student Society of News Design Designer of the Year and the 2011 Brook Baker Indiana Collegiate Journalist of the Year.

In addition to conducting workshops and meeting with this students, Buchanan met with several classes, including Words and Pictures.

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