On the day all Dutch newspapers reported extensively about the crisis in their national football team – after loosing to Iceland in the Euro 2016 qualification – info graphics editor Thijs Balder (38) designed a powerful graphic for the sports section of De Volkskrant, one the three best read newspapers of Holland. “A good design is a simple design.”
Hi Thijs, you designed a great visual for an article about the problems at the Dutch Football Federation. What do we see?
“It’s the logo of the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) as if it is spray painted on a wall, with the underlying paint peeling of.”
What was the assignment, by who?
“Quite simple actually: the chief of the sportsdesk (Marije Randewijk, OSA.) gave me the synopsis of what they intended to write and asked me to think about an illustration. Something which would summarize in one picture the – assumed – crisis within the Dutch team. Another request was that we would refrain from pinpointing it on a person.”
How did you come up with this idea?
“The choice for the logo of the Dutch Football Association came pretty quickly, it among others being a way to avoid tacky photo-montages with the Dutch coach Hiddink or cliché images of footballs and other accessories. My idea then was to add something which would imply deterioration, past glory. This led to the image of paint peeling of. Plus I wanted something that kind of summarized all the parts: analyses and opinions.”
What were the choices you had to make… along the way?
“Not many really. Once I had the image I wanted to make, I figured it was a matter of getting the right background. I tried out a few different materials, such as a concrete wall and a more plaster like material. But this one stood out.”
How did the other newspapers handle the issue, visually?
“The other Dutch newspapers – all of which handled this issue – mostly placed photo’s, though one had an infographic with the results of a survey on whether the coach should stay. I thought it all a bit, well, unsurprising.”
What do you think is the power of a good illustration?
“A simple concept.”
Sports journalists who write match reports often work with very tight deadlines… what about you? How long did it take you to make this graphic?
“I start with three or four different documents opened alongside and copy and paste the basic materials in there. This way you can quickly eliminate (eliminating in my opinion being a large part of designing) the ones which are not suitable. After this it’s a matter of masking, adding some decay and placing the main component in it’s background. This cost me about 45 minutes in total, after thinking of the idea, with some additional sliding to make it properly fit on the page.”
Do you like making illustrations for the sports pages? How often does this happen?
“I do like it, but it is more of side activity for me really, since my main job is infographics. It occurs once every two, three weeks.”
Any more fine examples from the past, which you like showing?
“Of course! In short we use these illustrations as a way of seperating the more background, analytic articles from the sports news. An article about an athlete’s career may be better of with a somewhat more abstract image than a match moment. This then leads to a photo montage with graphic elements. Sometimes I integrate some infographic material with an illustration, as can be seen in the comparison between Usain Bolt and Michel Mulder, to make it a bit less clean, more organic.”