Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Should it stay or should it go: News outlets scramble to cover Britain’s decision to exit the European Union
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.
Should it stay or should it go: News outlets scramble to cover Britain’s decision to exit the European Union
Online, readers stayed up for the results: Peak traffic to BBC News, for instance, was around 4 a.m. GMT, and by 11 a.m. BBC.com had received 88 million page views.
Acast wants to get new audiences “in the podcast door” with more diverse shows and better data
With a new paid subscription option and its sights set on non English-speaking countries, the Swedish podcasting startup is looking for listeners (and shows) beyond the iTunes set.
“Medium’s team did everything”: How 5 publishers transitioned their sites to Medium
What happened when Pacific Standard, The Ringer, The Awl, The Bold Italic, and Femsplain moved their sites over to Medium.
What to read next
0Spain’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.”
0The Washington Post is testing out a few new hurdles for non-paying online readers
The Post is now asking readers to submit their email in order to read stories without paying.
0This new collaboration hopes to aid the endless debates about media with some actual hard data
“For a long time, I’ve wanted to try to put more data and quantitative analysis behind some of the claims and questions we ask around underrepresented and misrepresented stories in online spaces.”
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 ➚
Mashable
The Guardian
Frontline
The Daily Show
Salon
Examiner.com
Lens
The Daily Telegraph
Demand Media
Upworthy
Suck.com
The UpTake