Monday, February 4, 2008

Is there a designer in the house?

The New York Times could not have come up with a less interesting way of presenting the photos they're pulling in from their citizen journalism experiment, the Polling Place Photo Project? It's possibly the least inspired design I've seen on the Internet since the end of GeoCities:

What's the incentive to click on any given image? What's the logic in the order? Or the overarching narrative in the design (seemingly the only place to find a narrative in the project)? The AIGA, the leading design trade group country, was involved in this project--were they brought in to cater?

Compare this with a truly dynamic photo project, The Whale Hunt, which dealt with a similarly formalist challenge of presenting a huge number of photos in a compelling way, but broke out of the table structure the Times chose:

Sure, photos of polling places are kind of boring, but there are hundreds of photos in the Whale Hunt that are just as boring as many of the polling place photos are--if not more so. But the way Jonathan Harris chose to present them simply demands a user click on them, ponder them, and think about the story they tell, both individually and collectively.

With the Polling Place Photo Project, the Times had a chance to tell a new kind of story about an overlooked institution. But in choosing the least creative way possible to display the images, they end up telling no story at all. It's worse than a missed opportunity--it's a blown one.