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Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

A Graphic Approach to Family History

Biff Barnes

Family historians often find themselves awash in a flood of factual data gathered from their genealogical research. How should you present the facts in a book? More importantly how can you make them lively and interesting when you do? Fast Company Magazine’s online site offers a feature called Infographic of the Day. Yesterday’s suggested an approach to presenting biographical and historical facts that might be useful to a family historian.

One page of Nicholas Felton's Timeline. Others focus on other stages of his father's life.

The feature spotlights a project by award-winning New York graphic designer Nicholas Felton. In 2005 Felton began creating a graphical Annual Report reports in which he displays data compiled from his everyday activities throughout the year using ingenious charts, diagrams and maps. Says Fast Company, “For 2010, he's created a masterpiece. Instead of looking at his own life, he's captured the entire life of his father, Gunter, who passed last September.”

“Gunter worked as an elevator engineer and settled in California, which in all honesty sounds pretty structured and even, perhaps, boring. In actuality, Gunter was a fascinating man who led an unbelievably textured and rich life: Here was a guy who was born into Nazi Germany, was bombed by Germans during World War II, traveled to 48 countries, met the Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, and in old age practiced Tai Chi and saw Willie Nelson play with the Yamato Drummers.”

Nicholas Felton

Felton’s tribute to his father is a long way from the rather mundane family group sheets, pedigree charts and timelines that appear in family histories. True, he does have a family tree graphic and several timeline pages documenting his father’s life. But vibrant color, dramatic typography, and photo inserts transform these often staid items. He uses atlases to show his fathers residences, socializing and travel. Felton even includes a bar graph of books his father read categorized by genre and an electrocardiogram. These facts jump off the page and Gunter Felton comes to life in his son’s tribute.

Take a look! While you might not have Felton’s graphic design skills – I certainly don’t – you may get some ideas of how you can enrich your family history book by finding unique ways to present your facts about your ancestors.

Click here to visit Fast Company’s Infographics of the Day: A Son Honors His Father’s Life with a Masterpiece