Innovation @ BBG » illustration http://www.innovation-series.com Fri, 20 Nov 2015 18:47:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 The new digital storytelling: BBG’ e-books on immigration, human Rights, freedom, and love http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/11/25/the-new-digital-storytelling-bbg-e-books-on-immigration-human-rights-freedom-and-love/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-new-digital-storytelling-bbg-e-books-on-immigration-human-rights-freedom-and-love http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/11/25/the-new-digital-storytelling-bbg-e-books-on-immigration-human-rights-freedom-and-love/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 20:35:59 +0000 Xi Rotmil http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6383 E-books offer new channels to engage with an audience and tell great stories, whether it is with a serialized collection of text-based stories for small e-readers or an interactive audio/video/photo magazine for tablet devices.

With access to RFA and VOA’s websites restricted in mainland China and some other Asian countries, short-wave broadcasts jammed and other filters hampering access to the broadcaster’s output, e-books also has the potential to circumvent the firewall – once it has been downloaded on to a tablet device, it can be shared easily among friends, relations and colleagues.

To test the feasibility of using e-books for BBG, the Office of Digital Design and Innovation collaborated with RFA and VOA on the creation of four e-books using different tools.

The four ebooks in the pilot project featured topics ranging from immigration, Asian women fighting for human rights, China’s pro-democracy movement that ended in tragedy, to a  jailed Uyghur writer’s tale of longing for lost freedom.

Remembering Tiananmen

“Remembering Tiananmen” represents the first foray for BBG into the iBook world of interactive storytelling. The Chinese edition is

aimed at an audience that was not even born when these events happened, and because of censorship, may not have any idea that the turmoil of 1989 ever took place.

The publication leverages previously published audio eyewitness accounts, historic “RFA exclusive” photography and video, archive photos, along with newly created custom maps and diagrams. The heart of the book is an interactive timeline that allows the reader to navigate events chronologically, in addition to traditional chapter-based browsing. Through the multimedia interface the viewer not only reads the narrative facts of events, but also experiences the sights and sounds of Beijing in the spring of 1989.

View RemberingTiananmen in the iTunes Store

 

Caged, The Illustrated Writings of Nurmuhemmet Yasin

In 2013, Radio Free Asia released Caged: The writings of Nurmuhemmet Yasin in the iBook store. The project represents another successful collaboration between RFA and ODDI, following on the success of Remembering Tiananmen.

This e-book features the now banned tale and an essay about love. Nurmuhemmet Yasin was a successful Uyghur author living in western China when he published “Wild Pigeon”. The short fable tells the story of a wild pigeon prince who is captured and caged by men. He ultimately decides that suicide is preferable to a life spent in captivity. After it was published, the Chinese government recognized that the story was an allegory for the Uyghur people living under Chinese rule. The court sentenced Yasin to 10 years in prison for inciting Uyghur separatism.

View Caged in the iTunes store

Unsettled: A Story of U.S. Immigration

Unsettled, a story of U.S. Immigration, produced in partnership with VOA, gives insight into the economic forces, social pressures, and policies that have shaped American immigration and explores where the nation may go in the future.

“Unsettled” presents the triumph, tragedy and contradictions of the immigrant experience through a multimedia exploration of history and economics. It includes interactive charts, maps, info graphics, audio clips, archival films, audio, stills, a U.S. naturalization quiz, and over a dozen video clips totaling more than 20 minutes.

View Unsettled in the iTunes Store

 

“It’s not OK.” Women struggling for human rights

“It’s not Ok” is a collection of portraits of Asian women caught in the struggle for human rights in their communities, some willingly, others forced by circumstances.

This e-book is based on reporting and interviews conducted by the RFA language services in Burmese, Lao, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Vietnamese.

Each story is a testimony to the courage and determination of these women. The title, “it’s not OK,” comes from the public cry by one of them, in court, as she heard that her husband’s sentence had been extended by eight years.

These women urge us to look closer and peer into the reflection of their world. Only when we open our eyes to their struggle can we realize it is a shared, universal struggle for justice, fairness, and compassion. Their lives are made even more beautiful by the weight of their tireless convictions. When the light of the world’s attention shines on them, these women like hidden gems brighten, dazzle, and amaze,” president of RFAS Libby Liu wrote in the foreword.

View “It’s not OK” in the iTunes Store

One e-book in the pilot program, Tiananmen Square Remembered, won the International Media Excellence Award, held by the Association of International Broadcasters last year.

In addition, VOA News mobile application “Unsettled” has been selected as a winner for the 2014 W3 “Silver Award.”

 

 

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Illustrating “Wild Pigeon,” an allegory of government repression http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/08/18/illustrating-wild-pigeon-an-allegory-of-government-repression/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=illustrating-wild-pigeon-an-allegory-of-government-repression http://www.innovation-series.com/2014/08/18/illustrating-wild-pigeon-an-allegory-of-government-repression/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:00:20 +0000 Brian Williamson http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6222 In 2004, Nurmuhemmet Yasin was a successful Uyghur author living in western China when he published “Wild Pigeon”. The short fable tells the story of a wild pigeon prince who is captured and caged by men. He ultimately decides that suicide is preferable to a life spent in captivity. After it was published, the Chinese government recognized that the story was an allegory for the Uyghur people living under Chinese rule. The court sentenced Yasin to 10 years in prison for inciting Uyghur separatism.

This week Radio Free Asia released Caged: The writings of Nurmuhemmet Yasin in the iBooks store. The project represents another successful collaboration between RFA and ODDI, following on the success of Remembering Tiananmen.

For Caged, RFA wanted to compile their translations of Yasin’s short stories, essays and poems, as well as audio performances of his works.

After he was imprisoned, RFA received a copy of Yasin’s writings and permission from his family to publish and broadcast his works. The Uyghur service recorded an audio performance of “Wild Pigeon” complete with musical score. RFA Uyghur service director Dolkun Kamberi translated the text into English.

In 2013, RFA editors Catherine Antoine and Enver K. Uyghur decided to repackage the audio performance translation into an eBook for the approaching anniversary of Yasin’s conviction. They wanted to publish versions of the book in English and the different scripts of Uyghur: Cyrillic, Arabic and Latin. They approached ODDI looking for creative ways to quickly illustrate the stories, essays and poems.

Three thumbnail sketches for the "Wild Pigeon" illustrations by Brian Williamson.

Creating the illustrations

Before starting the illustrations, I met with Catherine and Enver to discuss possible styles for the illustrations and to define what specifically needed to be illustrated. I created four quick moodboards to provide a starting point for the conversation.

Enver loaned me a book of Uyghur textile patterns and folk art. We decided to try incorporate these patterns into the illustrations.

In addition to the “Wild Pigeon” illustrations, we also wanted small spot illustrations to help break up the poetry, and an author portrait of Yasin.

Initially I assumed that I’d create two or three illustrations for “Wild Pigeon”. But when I laid out the text to create a dummy book, I realized that the story was longer than I’d thought. We needed illustrations throughout the story to help break up the text. To accomplish this, I abandoned the idea of creating hand-drawn illustrations and instead adopted a simpler vector style.

Illustrated portrait of Nurmuhemmet Yasin and Uyghur musician by Brian Williamson for Radio Free Asia's eBook "Caged".

From virtual eBook to tangible print-on-demand hardcover

In addition to releasing Caged in a variety of eBook formats — ePub, iBook, PDF — we also experimented with releasing it as an actual physical book.

Once the illustrations were drawn and the ebook was designed, it was a relatively simple task to repurpose the book for print. We uploaded the book to a print-on-demand service where it can be purchased in softcover and hardback.

By relying on print-on-demand, we’re able to avoid any up front printing charges and the risk of printing too many copies that are left boxed in a closet. Instead, each copy of the book is printed as it is ordered. The service can also handle the distribution of the book and allows the creator to set the profit earned for each book (because of the nature of this project, we didn’t add any additional ‘profit’/expense to the printing cost).

The primary drawback to using print on demand is that individual copies of the book are more expensive. But in this case, it allowed us to experiment and repurpose an existing project at little expense or additional time.

eBooks and USIM

uyghur_book_coverAs Yasin’s 10-year sentence is nearing its end, RFA has received conflicting reports on his health. He is scheduled to be released this November, but RFA has been unable to confirm if he is still alive.

“Caged: The Writings of Nurmuhemmet Yasin” is available in multiple formats and languages from RFA’s bookstore. The ePub and iBook versions of the book also include the audio performance recorded by RFA’s Uyghur service.

ODDI encourages and supports USIM journalists interested in using eBook formats as an alternative distribution method to help circumvent government censorship efforts.

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Illustrating stories from Syria http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/06/26/illustrating-stories-from-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=illustrating-stories-from-syria http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/06/26/illustrating-stories-from-syria/#comments Wed, 26 Jun 2013 10:00:43 +0000 Brian Williamson http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=3437 The news reports from Syria are dominated by casualty counts: 80 thousand… 90 thousand… 100 thousand people killed in the conflict. Syria Stories is a new online documentary project from the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) that aims to tell the stories of the ongoing Syrian civil war on a very personal, human scale.

Earlier this year, MBN contacted the Office of Digital and Design Innovation inviting us to help brainstorm, design and develop the Syria Stories site. The result is a collaborative project focused on sharing the stories lost in the daily reports of military strikes and casualty counts.

Six Syrians from across the country were selected to share their stories: Four men, two women from different ethnic, religious and family backgrounds from across the country.

But sharing these ongoing personal stories creates an unusual challenge: We can’t use the participants’ names or photos as long as the situation on the ground remains uncertain and potentially very dangerous. Doing so would put the participants and their extended families at risk.

The design challenge

It’s easier to relate to a story if you have a face to connect with the storyteller. How do you help readers form emotional connections with the participants while protecting their identities?

Because we were thinking about the dispatches as diary entries, we decided to try using hand drawn sketches to illustrate the posts. There’s a tradition of using artists to illustrate the news that stretches from the 19th century reportage artists through Robert Weaver and Alan Cober to the comics journalism of Joe Sacco. We were also inspired by George Butler’s reportage drawings from Syria.

syriaStories_styles

In order to help readers connect with the participants, we wanted to create a unique portrait for each author. As we experimented with a range of styles and possible portraits, we talked about cartoonist Scott McCloud’s spectrum of representation from photorealism to abstraction and the way that effects how readers relate to the character.

We wanted to strike a balance with the portraits — making them specific enough that they reflected the individual stories, but not so precise that they implied that they were literal representations of the authors. The final drawings are based on the general biographic information we were provided for each participant.

Illustrating the stories

The Syria Stories project is being maintained by a very small editorial team. In order to illustrate the posts we needed to devise a system that would allow editors to easily repurpose drawings for new posts. We decided to create an evolving library of sketches for each participant with different expressions and poses that can be layered over blurred out documentary photographs from the time and region described in the posts.

Syria Stories: collage example 2

Syria Stories: collage example 1

Syria Stories: Walid

The drawings are saved as layered Photoshop files, separated into ink and paint layers that can be turned off or on depending on the background. In this way, we’re hoping to maximize the different illustrations that can be remixed from the library of drawings and photographs. As the participants continue to share their stories in the coming months, ODDI will provide ongoing design, illustration and development support to help visually tell their stories.


Read three sample posts from the Syria Stories project translated into English.

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