Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Spain’s Eldiario.es has 18,000 paying members, and its eye on the next several million
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 20, 2012, 1:53 p.m.
propublica-stateface-font

Typographic capitals: ProPublica shares a tool for easy state maps

The typeface-as-atlas webfont is the latest open-source release from the nonprofit news outlet, which has been building out key parts of the journalist-coder’s toolkit.

I’m pretty sure there isn’t a category for Best Use of Webfont Formats, so ProPublica will probably have to remain happy with the two Pulitzer Prizes it’s already won. But a tiny little project out of the nonprofit news giant is worth an attaboy.

ProPublica just released StateFace, a webfont that, in place of standard letters, contains maps of the 50 states. (Plus the District of Columbia. Sorry, Guam.) Dingbat fonts are nothing new, and Unicode has helped bring font-characters-as-tiny-graphics closer to the mainstream.

But StateFace is purpose-driven, marrying typographic technology with editorial needs. ProPublica’s using it as an easy way to get state maps onto its Super PAC tracking page. You embed the font files as you would any other webfont, with a simple CSS call from your server.

Here’s the Gulf Coast, for instance. (Warning: This won’t look right in an RSS feed or some other non-web environment, I’d wager.)

qRYBJI

On the back end, those states are really just the random-looking string “qRYBJI”; R equals Louisiana, J equals Georgia, and so on. You can select them with your mouse and copy them into a text file if you want.

And the glyphs are detailed enough that they can be scaled up quite large. Here’s Louisiana at 300-point, and just for fun, crawfish red:

R

(We Louisianans wish our southeastern coastline was still that lush and full, but that’s another story.)

The vagaries of web typography also mean you can do things like italicize a state — imagine a strong breeze was coming in from north Texas:

R

ProPublica’s Scott Klein is proud of the little details:

From what I can tell from the github repo, Jeff Larson and Klein were the main drivers behind the project. (An exercise left to the reader: Be the first person to make a complete map of the United States using this webfont and CSS absolute positioning.)

Now, I imagine that “making fonts with tiny maps in them” probably didn’t rank high on the Sandlers’ wish list when they gave the initial gift to fund ProPublica. But nonetheless, once the developers went through the trouble of solving their own problem, they took the extra step of releasing their work for others to use.

It remains one of my favorite things about ProPublica that it is so committed to sharing both its work and the tools it builds to create that work. Read its Nerd Blog and you’ll find tools like Simple Tiles (a map imaging tool), a small stepper graphic library, TimelineSetter (for, duh, timelines), a guide for scraping data from the web, a tool for connection graphics, and more.

Those are all valuable additions to the journalist-coder toolkit. So even though I don’t imagine I’ll ever have a use for an inline map of New Mexico, I raise a toast to the open-source sensibilities of ProPublica’s nerds.

POSTED     March 20, 2012, 1:53 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Spain’s Eldiario.es has 18,000 paying members, and its eye on the next several million
“We have a potential of six million readers. You may not convince all six million people to be your socios, but if you learn more about their interests, you can get closer.”
Chasing subscriptions over scale, The Athletic wants to turn local sports fandom into a sustainable business — starting in Chicago
“It’s very easy today to be click-driven and produce articles that don’t have a lot of substance or depth and don’t cost that much to produce, but that dynamic is disappointing for fans who want higher-quality content.”
Hot Pod: We now have new, free rankings to show how podcasts stack up against each other
Plus: Parsing the RadioPublic announcement; premium podcast subscriptions; Bill Simmons oversimplifies things.
What to read next
0
tweets
The American Bystander is trying to revive the humor magazine with a reader-supported business model
“Our idea was that we were going to create one of these things in a classic format and see if there was enough interest to sustain it.”
0Algorithms, clickworkers, and the befuddled fury around Facebook Trends
“Trends are not the same as news, but Facebook kinda wants them to be.”
0With new columns and newsletters, ProPublica is trying to attract new readers and have more fun
“There’s a huge benefit to coming up with features that are more fun and more interesting. It appeals to a different audience and can create closer connections with readers — they can see a different side of us.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
ABC News
Kickstarter
Plaza Pública
St. Louis Beacon
Tribune Publishing
Conde Nast
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
PolitiFact
Bloomberg
Frontline
Neighborlogs
Creative Commons