July 11, 2018
The world was watching with bated breath as the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were miraculously saved from desperation in a Thailand cave. The feat was an unprecedented logistical challenge, taking into account perilous conditions (which resulted in the death of one of the rescuers), young boys between 11-16 years old who could not swim and had not eaten or seen natural light in over two weeks, as well as the coming-together of an international team of Thai navy SEALs, professional divers and even an offer of groundbreaking technology from Elon Musk.
We watched this play out on national television, cable television, the Internet, and on social media. Of particular interest to our Digital & Creative Communications practice within FTI Strategic Communications was the series of infographics, animations and videos that were published and produced in tandem with the news reports from around the world.
Infographics and multimedia have long been part of the FTI Consulting offering, ranging from FTI Trial Services preparing informative graphics or tutorials for complex litigation and jury consulting, as well as the DCC team in Strategic Communications helping to explain crisis communications, corporate reputation and internal communications to a broad audience across myriad industry sectors.
What were some of the key infographics seen during the Thai cave rescue that captivated our team? What made them particularly effective?
In the instance of the Thai cave rescue graphics seen across media platforms, there was a broad use of the aforementioned points. There were basic ‘cave drawings’ intended to show the basic premise of what the rescuers would be facing, published online and in print. This example by Shayanne Gal of Business Insider was an effective “quick look” at the overarching challenge published prior to the more detailed analysis of how the rescuers intended to save the coach and team. Aesthetic complexity took a backseat to the most essential data points:
And then there were more detailed explanations of how the rescue would take place, like this one from Graphic News – this included a sense of journalistic drama and danger with the headline, as well as some key story points and a visualization of how the rescuers intended to teach the boys how to swim and dive in this challenging option. Again, clean and clear graphics supplemented by text and highlighted boxes visually guide the eye top to bottom:
Finally, one of the more complex and aesthetically fulfilling examples of an infographic intended to not only tell the dramatic rescue story, but also detailing the challenges the boys and the divers would face and the point-by-point claustrophobic and treacherous path of escape and rescue. It was broken down into the smaller version seen here, but also found online with a bigger and “biggest” version in the Thai newspaper The Nation, as drawn and depicted by talented artist and designer Pradit Phulsarikij. The level and degree of story, images, drama and technical detail aid the viewer into truly understanding all that went into this rescue operation.
Also fascinating, and perhaps coincidental, but one of the reasons we were struck by this particular infographic was that it harkened back to what is essentially viewed as one of the best and earliest infographics developed to tell a similarly dramatic and perilous story. Legendary educator and graphic/visualization expert Edward Tufte referred to Charles Joseph Minard’s 1869 “Napoleon’s 1812 March” infographic as one of the best statistical drawings ever created in his seminal text The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. It describes how – left to right – Napoleon marched his once 500,000 strong army towards Moscow, but faced troops starving to death along the way, stranding others at key points in the retreat, and losses that ultimately totaled more than 400,000.
The story that unfolded in the past few days in Thailand is mercifully better than the one Napoleon faced, but the visual similarities in the two infographics are a testament to both artists (hundreds of years apart) and their capacity for telling a powerful story using this linear and informative methodology.
At the end of the day, despite the tragic loss of Sgt. Major Saman Gunan’s life during the ordeal, the 12 boys and their coach were rescued by these incredible men and women who coordinated and performed under the most intense circumstances imaginable. And thanks to the many journalists, graphic designers and producers who developed and reported the responders’ brave feats across their news and social channels, we were all given a front row seat.
Digital Illustration by: Caitlin Yates