There are some things that print will always do better than the web. And near the very top of that “better in print” list is the flowchart. Let’s take a look:
This flowchart speaks the truth.
Okay, the flowchart above this line works on any device. But let’s dig in further.
When Wired magazine retired its popular “Artifacts from the Future” back page, it replaced it with “Ask a Flowchart.” While you can find lots of Wired stories online, this particular feature is not one of them.
Why is that?
Because it is ridiculously hard to try to follow a flowchart on your laptop—let alone your smartphone.
Here, you don’t have to trust me on that:
It’s possible that this single flowchart will cause you to lose your mind.
In summary: flowcharts are a disaster in pixels, but in print, they’re pretty fun.
Flowcharts are a great way to show processes, create visual quizzes, and illustrate connections between seemingly disconnected things. They can be used to show an order of operations through time.
For years, I’ve been collecting flowchart-type work in magazines. Today, I’m excited to share some of my favorites with you, and I hope you’ll use this as a resource as you plan future feature packages.
To be clear: some of the flowcharts I’m linking to below would make the engineers and programmers cringe. They don’t all follow the strict rules of flowchart design.
But the larger point is that you can pull a lot of different things together in a small space, or tell a funny story in a succinct way with flowcharts. Here are a few of my favorite examples.
The single-answer flowchart. Does your source have a pithy quote or idea that can be conveyed with a simple flowchart? Here’s how to highlight it.
The “start here” flowchart. For this story I did for Kent State University’s alumni magazine, I used a flowchart-type approach to show the escalating steps people can take to incorporate mindfulness in their everyday lives. Scroll down to “A user’s guide to a more mindful life” to check it out.
Who knows whom? Your school probably has a lot of super-connected people, from luminaries in its history to faculty members who are collaborating on projects. Here’s one way to show those relationships.
The visual flowchart. Help people plan their reunion experience or pick their ideal dining hall meal.
The how it’s made flowchart. Every school has an alum craft brewer or maker that they want to profile. Show the process of their work in cool and visual way.
The service flowchart. If you’ve got a story that includes a “news you can use” component—solving a problem, addressing an important issue—you may be able to use a flowchart to simplify the explanation.
The quiz flowchart. Which historical university president would be your BFF? Quizzes like these can be your unique spin on the endless “Which character are you?” Facebook quizzes that clutter up your feed.
Flowcharts can help break up long narratives or be a compelling element in a larger feature package. They can work both as standalone pieces (like Wired’s back page) or a recurring element in your front of the book pieces.
Finally, if you’d like to see past pieces I’ve done on different storytelling elements, check these out: