Graphic Storytelling, Finger Paint-Style

Illustrator Christoph Niemann has a new entry in his graphic blog, “Abstract City” on the New York Times’s online Opinion section today.

In the latest installment, titled “Good Night and Tough Luck,” a nod to newsman Edward R. Murrow, he uses childlike, finger painting-style pictures to create pie charts and bar graphs categorizing his dreams and tracking factors like mosquitoes, midnight visits from children and clanking heaters in interrupting his ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Niemann is obviously an artist, not a journalist, but his unique platform is an argument for quality over quantity when it comes to online graphic storytelling. Unlike most bloggers racing to feed the every-hungry maw of the 24/7 Internet news cycle, Niemann is not exactly prolific. In previous entries he has used woven construction paper, hand-sewn burlap voodoo dolls, spliced cable wires and Legos as his medium. His elaborate, handcrafted, time-intensive artwork appears only every few months — his last entry appeared in July. But it’s worth waiting for, for the very reason that it is something rare and meticulously crafted.

It’s a charmingly lo-fi and lighthearted approach to info-graphics that serves as a sort of antidote to the gorgeous and equally as impressive, but sleeker and chillier interactive graphics that the Times specializes in (here, here and here). And despite the fact that Niemann does not represent many hard news statistics in his work, his charts and graphs are far more valuable than cable television’s knee-jerk polls that purportedly measure serious opinion, but in the end, as Greg and Liz have noted here before, measure nothing and add nothing to the conversation.

Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.