Critiquing a Multimedia Package by The Washington Post in 2015

The target package was chosen completely randomly, but ended up an enriched exploration.

I scrolled down the webpage of The Washington Post with my eyes closed. What I found after opening my eyes was an article titled Nine years and three billion miles to Pluto.

This article tells that a US spacecraft New Horizons passed by Pluto 9 years after its launch in 2006. The writer utilizes text, illustrations, and an animation to describe structure of New Horizons and the route it took from the Earth to Pluto.

As soon as I started reading, a flashing animation cought my eyes. The final five hours of New Horisons’ approach to Pluto was shown with colored descriptions of shooting equipments on the spacecraft. The speed of the animation was so fast that I could not catch up at first, but soon I found a sign wrote, “Click image to advance.” I could then understand where did the spacecraft take pictures one by one. The snazzy animation is a good sense of this article, and if the sign of “picture card mode” was a little more noticeable, it could make people understood more easily.

A screenshot of the animation section

The next part tells New Horisons’ mission and discovery in its journey. The spacecraft reached Pluto and Kuiper Belt, the area near the end of solar system, and took a number of pictures of Pluto and its moons. I realized the section and below are narrower in its width, so I opened the page on my smartphone in comparison. Since the article completely fit the screen of my smartphone, and illustrations looked clearer in a small screen, I suppose it aims at smartphone users. When the multimedia package is opened on computers by its original size, some of its illustrations will coalesce and make the article confusing. However, the four-color-description part on the top was more fit to my PC sctreen, shown as above picture.

If I were the creator of the package, I would add some actual photos taken by New Horizons and the photo of the spacecraft itself to give audience realistic images of what was going on, instead of just putting an illustration of the spacecraft. Also, though the black background gives audience an ambience of space, as it is difficult to read in backlight, I will change it to a lighter color such as blue or navy.

Parts, size, and weight of New Horizon is explained in following sections, with pictures of the craft from upper, lower, front, and rear sides. The writer especially succeeds in giving audience concrete images about the spacecraft’s size and weight by comparing them to snowmobiles and a grand piano, relativelly familiar things for audience. Actually I was surprised how much lighter and smaller New Horizons were than I had supposed.

After going through the whole thing of this mutimedia package, I think it is a good use of mutimedia. The article was not very long, and the types of multimedia were neither too many nor too few for storytelling. Although I found some drawbacks as I wrote, I found more things which I want to adopt in my works from now on.