New Bitesize Infographics: Illustrating the Knowledge & Learning product

Friday 7 June 2013, 08:00

Rebekka Campbell Rebekka Campbell Editor

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I’m Rebekka Campbell and I’m an editor in BBC Learning. I lead teams who make content for schools, teachers and students and one of my projects involves commissioning new infographics (information graphics) for BBC Bitesize.

Bitesize is the BBC’s online study support resource which is used by millions of students every year for help with coursework, classwork and exams. Later this year Bitesize is due to become part of the new Knowledge and Learning (K&L) website. Find out more about the new product from executive editor Chris Sizemore.

kl_beta_1024.jpg The Knowledge & Learning Beta


This is a great opportunity for us to update and improve the content we provide for our audiences. Bitesize already contains a rich mixture of online text and audio study guides, quirky video and interactives, quizzes and games. Powerful infographics will help to bind this wide range of content together visually making it feel like a diverse but cohesive whole.

The importance of infographics in creating a sense of unity applies not just to Bitesize but to the whole of K&L’s content. For young people and adults alike, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. As you’ll see from the examples below, complex topics can come to life when illustrated with rich and dynamic images.

business_1024.jpg Higher Business Management: The value of information (Sun and Moon Studios)


Creating these new infographics was a hugely exciting and challenging project.

We started by auditing the 15,000 pages of Bitesize content made in several different languages – English, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic as well as French, German and Spanish.

Then we had to define a new visual style and apply this to the 6,000+ new images.

Throw in the requirement to make them display responsively on screens of different shapes and sizes, including phones and tablets, all in the midst of radical curriculum overhaul across the UK, and you begin to get an idea of the scale of the project.

It’s a huge job but we’re making great progress as you’ll see from the examples in this post.

The new Bitesize infographics range from the data-rich and informational to the highly illustrative, such as this one which summarises part of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

bottom_1024.jpg Key Stage 3 English: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (D8)


And this based on a key theme of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde:

jekyll_1024.jpg GCSE English: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – themes (Destrukt)


As well as this hard hitting one which represents the Prague Spring of 1968:

prague_1024.jpg GCSE History: The Prague Spring (Kanoti)


And this which brings playful humour to the subject of levers:

mole_1024.jpg GCSE Design and Technology: Class 2 lever (Jaywing)


We have hundreds of colourful diagrams representing topics as diverse as Business Management and Physical Geography:

water_1024.jpg GCSE Geography: Features of landscapes shaped by rivers (magneticNorth)



We’ve also used data visualisation, a classic form of infographic which is widely used in BBC News coverage too:

war_1024.jpg GCSE Religious Studies: War fatalities (Mr B & Friends)


And we have commissioned hundreds of scientific and mathematical diagrams, graphs and shapes:

tube_1024.jpg Key Stage 3 Science (JayWing)

  line_1024.jpg TGAU Maths: Number line (Infuze)

shape_1024.jpg Key Stage 3 Maths: 3D diagrams (Infuze)

 

To achieve a sense of cohesion it was essential that we defined a consistent style for our images. Working with other teams, including BBC News, the K&L User Experience and Design team (UX&D) have created a new infographics styleguide.

Initially developed for curriculum content, it is now being adapted and used to enable other teams to create images for the wider K&L audience. These will appear in topical articles, features and a wide range of factual content. This example was created for BBC Food and demonstrates the price difference between champagne and other sparkling wine: champagne_1024.jpg BBC Food: Champagne or sparkling wine? A battle of the bubbles (Positive Studios)

The new styleguide will help to tie K&L’s content visually to the rest of the BBC as well as giving K&L a distinctive look and feel all of its own. The styleguide has also enabled us to work effectively with a wide range of independent production companies and illustrators outside the BBC.

The guide defines everything from colour palette, to the font size and style for labels, to the illustration style, to use of texture.

The team are also developing an assets library of reusable parts and this helps us to work in a much more efficient way. It means you only need draw a dog once for example, and then next time you need a similar dog (or a test tube, a house or the axes for a line graph…) you can take it out of the library and reuse or adapt it.

dog_1024.jpg An extract from the K&L Infographics Styleguide


Next steps include the development of graphics designed to be viewed on a mobile and exploration of the challenges that smaller screen sizes pose, as well as interactive infographics and interaction patterns. We are also looking at the development of more complex, composition-led infographics that combine typography, data visualisation and illustration.

At each stage of development we’ve tested our approach with audiences and incorporated their feedback.

The project is a brilliant example of the power of collaboration both within the BBC and with external partners. We’ve brought together Editorial and UX&D teams working across four nations on pan-UK content. These teams have worked with a wide range of teachers, students, educational consultants and independent design agencies around the UK.

We’ve created a new visual style which will help to unite a range of diverse and complex content. The next step is to get all this great new content live and out to the audience. Watch this space!

Rebekka Campbell is an editor in BBC Learning.

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