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‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’: The Book That Inspired New York Times‘ Snow Fall Project

A group of 100 journalists, academics, software developers, business leaders, designers, non-profits and government representatives are gathered at a hotel in Tennessee this morning to talk about weaving stories and data in the first-ever Tapestry Conference.

NASHVILLE — ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ is a children’s book by Brian Selznick that combines black and white charcoal photos and text to tell a story. And he doesn’t use your normal set of accompanying images like you’d see in most children’s books. Selznick’s images tell much of the story without words. The experience of reading it is integrated and undisrupted.

Hannah Fairfield, who does graphics at The Times, said this was part of the inspiration in creating Snow Fall, a narrative multimedia project that recently won two gold medals in the Society of News Design’s digital competition.

Many of the graphics in Snow Fall animate as a user scrolls down the page, meaning they only change the pace the reader chooses. The graphics don’t get in the way, they don’t distract, they’re not only supplemental to the story — they’re part of the story. They tell the story in a way that text alone couldn’t tell the story.  They’re “immersers” rather than interrupters.

The immersive spirit of Snow Fall resonates with the way Selznick described his children’s book in a letter on Amazon:

My new book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is a 550 page novel in words and pictures. But unlike most novels, the images in my new book don’t just illustrate the story; they help tell it. I’ve used the lessons I learned from Remy Charlip and other masters of the picture book to create something that is not a exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things.

And, Fairfield said, this is likely the next format for graphics and journalism.

Here are more tweets from her talk:

You can follow Hannah Fairfield on Twitter and see parts of Hugo Cabret on Google Books.

We also covered New York Times science graphic editor Jonathan Corum’s keynote at the same event.

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