Murder by Numbers is an attempt of creating an editorial piece that drives you through some different information categories involving serial murders, in a way to organize this data. It is a mapping project about Serial killers.
Many interesting ideas were discarded, before investing in this topic. Ideas that tend to be seen as positive ones, are personally preferable. Not just that sending a positive message seems to be the right thing. It also represents to me a bigger challenge in developing them in interesting and unexpected ways, knowing that there is always the risk of the “preaching”, being tacky, repetitive or uninteresting.
What we could call a “negative idea” already has an inner force for pulling attention and interest. Most of the times this topics are interesting by themselves, what may seem easier to work and create with. But of course, are not less interesting.
Serial Killers, although involving at first a negative approach, appeared to be a topic that would call enough attention for its content and carried potential creative possibilities.
For this kind of project it also has to be taken in consideration the amount of information that you can find in relation to an specific theme, in order to choose it as a potential subject. It can’t be a few data, and if it’s too big, you’re supposed to choose part of it to work with. A list of horror film antagonists was a direction discarded. A list of Serial Killers by country was found, but it seemed too big. Focusing on the country with more numbers (USA) would be one possibility. But it was decided then to focus on a list of serial killers by number of victims, as it seemed more interesting in terms of meaning and impression.
Within this direction, still a number of sublists or categories were found and it was again necessary to narrow down to one focus. Serial killers with fewer than 15 proven victims, appeared to be the list with a good amount of data to work with.
Working with infographics and big data normally carries a cold and clean aesthetic. The goal is to be straight to the point and as clear as possible, taking into account the amount of information. Here the topic of murderers, and because of it’s nature, turned into a possibility of creating a different aesthetic for this type of project.
The desire was to create an atmosphere (a narrative?) for the reader based on the subject, as he is introduced and led by the developing topic, anticipating what might come next. In this way increasing the potential interest and giving emphasis to the the mystery of the content. An editorial project seemed an interesting solution in this context.
The attempt was to create with found images almost what would be an introduction to a film. As you flip the pages, the images approach the crime scene, introducing the environment, going from top to a closer view.
The first graph that is showed, as part of this introduction, already envolves the main focus chosen to work with the data that was found. Using the bars as well as the numbers came as a way of giving visual emphasis for exaggerated differences in the number of killings. There was not much preoccupation on a perfect readability here, rather than to show a general view of this specific topic and one or other singularity.
Some interesting and contextual data was found along the research and even not dealing with the main objective given to the project it appeared to be a good strategy to use them as a way of introducing and creating attention to the topic. In fact, they are not completely accurate, their statistical significance and data relevance are questionable, and later on, observations were made in terms of clarifying their veracity. This characteristic appeared to contribute to a desired mystery and puts in question also the other data (that at first is believed to be more truthfull), what gives a curious point of view to the project.
Another decision was not to use violent or victim pictures. Focusing on the crime scenes seemed to be more clever, adding to the meaning of search, analises and discovery. As the images were found on the internet, I had to come with a solution for resizing, in a way to use them in the print project. Photocopying in a large resolution, also gave them an arquive or file quality, besides the normal register nature that a picture has. The rough quality also added to the approach and in this way the strength of the image is a bit lost as being a loyal portrait of reality.
The editorial was structured in a way that the images have relations between themselves, introducing visually, what will come next. Either in a sutil way, like the repetition of a form, or by having objects in a close position in the page, as well as by working with a close meaning, but in a different way.
Here, the fingerprint graph page follows the image of the police man analysing evidence from a crime scene, possibly searching for human traces. Playing with the fingerprint form as what would be a graph for the list of Serial killers by Name (with between 14 and 5 proven victims) seemed to fit right here, as the data is organized through the identity of the killers. Slightly opacity changes were made to differentiate the diference in the number of victims.
The page also introduces the readers to what will be the main sections of the project, following similar graphic visual solutions. The main list (Serial killers with fewer than 15 proven victims) is organised during the project following different categories: name, country, years active, proven and possible victims. The graphs were created mixing the data of two categories in each time.
The images in this project were used as a way to contextualise the data information, as they all portray, (as some form of example) the kind of murder in question. The fingerprint section is here followed by the proven murders (Number of proven victims of serial killers with between 14 and 10 proven victims, by country) and the image is from a crime scene where the murder was identified.
In this section a time line is drawn and the bars are used in a different way. There was an attempt of using mainly bars and lines for the graphs as a visual relation to the “uncrossing police line” used in the crime scenes and in our imaginary. The black tapes also refer to the lines, but also deals with the roughness of the subject, and the file and registre nature, desired in the images.
The bar used in vertical and in repetition also relates to the figure of bodies. In here, the next section is predicted as it also deals with unproven victims, but then organised by name. To play with the target form seemed appropriate as dealing with an attemptive of having a bit more of certainty in the information showed.
Maybe another image could be chosen for here, as the one in question shows a crime scene (and it’s good in that sense) but not exactly for a serial killer…
The next page repeats the use of centred images, as in the main graph sections through the project, but anticipates a conclusion, making a reference to the introduction, using an image from the same group. Notes are made here, reconsidering the introduction data, that is not completely accurate, but still plays an interesting role.
And to conclude, a final picture of Albert Fish’s crime scene. All the images used in the introduction and in this final part are from this same situation. It seems like a good image to conclude, resuming the energy and mystery of these sites in question. It can be also a good metaphor for the project itself, the construction of meaning that we play in these situations, that can be seen in some weird way as cold and even objective situations.
As an attempt, this final object didn’t reach my expectations, but for further possibilities of corrections and tests it seems valuable. It may have achieved some good points in some parts and as a hole editorial project there might have been interesting developments in narrative.
Some graphs still had to be further developed to cover the hole list of serial killers chosen. Using hand made marks, notes, maybe for the bar graphs (lines crossed) seems like a nice addition, possibly making it more readable and adding meaning. A question that emerged envolves the choice made for the list to be worked on. Even if it was a smaller list, a different focus (such as Serial killers with the highest known victim count) could be more impactful, as mixing and developing graphics from different subcategories (like it was done here) could generate a sufficient amount of data and visual information.
Anyway, it is curious to notice how you can easily manipulate the data, in order to prove or give enphaisis to a point (maybe showing just part of it), even if that is not completely truth, nor the “most truthful” data or approach, leading to possible wrong conclusions.