W.W. Norton Education Tools
Back in 2009 we began what would become an almost decade-long relationship with the editorial teams at W.W. Norton with a very simple project – seven full-page information graphics for the 3rd edition of the Essentials of Sociology textbook. Graphics visualizing such topics as global incarceration rates, gender empowerment, and the social influences on sexual behaviors of Americans.
In the eight years that followed, we have not only designed hundreds of other information graphics for Norton’s college-level textbooks – ranging from subjects such as sociology and political science, to economics and astronomy – we have also had the privilege of overhauling the layouts of dozens of the textbooks themselves, along with countless covers, interactive features, educational animations, posters, swag, and an array of marketing collateral.
Kiss Me I’m Polish makes every project better than I could have imagined. Not only do they do great work, but they do it with intelligence, patience, and charm. I can’t praise Agnieszka and her team high enough. They’re amazing.
– Karl Bakeman, Editorial Director for Digital Media, W. W. Norton
Following our work on the information graphics for the third edition of Essentials of Sociology, we developed a series of data visualizations for an assortment of different textbooks. During a time when information graphics were becoming increasingly more popular (you can see some of our other infographic work here), the Norton editorial team’s hope was that incorporating compelling visual interpretations of densely-analytical information would not only allow students to grasp this content in a more intuitive way, but the graphics would offer a moment of focus in an otherwise text-heavy stream of pages, while also equipping professors with a toolbox of brand new visual aids for lectures and in-class presentations.
The game-changing “un-textbook”
One of the highlights of our work with W.W. Norton came with the overhaul of one of their most successful volumes, You May Ask Yourself – the groundbreaking college-level textbook written by sociologist and former dean of NYU's School of Social Sciences, Dalton Conley. Conley's non-traditional writing style and ability to explain complex sociological concepts by weaving narrative storytelling with personal anecdotes, offered an alternative to the typical textbook experience, garnering an unprecedented audience of professors and students and propelling the book to the #1 spot in its market. Our work on the third edition of You May Ask Yourself aimed to push the bar even higher not only by capturing Conley’s unique personality and teaching style in a visual layout unlike any other textbook out there, we also developed a series of 18 illustrated conceptual animations that explain the complex sociological paradoxes at the core of each of the book's chapters. Narrated by Conley himself these animations blur the boundaries between print and digital content, while offering students an unprecedented way to experience Dalton Conley's unique voice and perspective. Our goal was to prove that textbooks don't have to be boring or predictable. You May Ask Yourself is definitely neither.
The story behind the numbers
Following the success of You May Ask Yourself, we tackled another game-changing sociology textbook two years later – the very first edition of Philip Cohen’s The Family. Looking at contemporary American families through the context of diversity, inequality, and social change, Cohen brings a new approach to the sociological study of family life. In addition to a striking and bright layout, the design features a series of powerful information graphics that unpack statistics students may encounter in the media by walking them through the data behind the numbers. Focusing on topics such as marriage rates, intimate partner violence, or the relationship between family structure and poverty, each of these infographics was also developed into a one-minute animation that dives even deeper into each data set, helping students better understand the diverse social issues facing contemporary families.
We’ve had the opportunity to bring to life more textbooks than we can show on this page, but here are just a few more of our favorites. Above, the third edition of World Politics, organized around the puzzles that draw students and scholars to the study of international relations. Below, the first and second editions of the blockbuster hits Principles of Economics (and their Macro and Micro counterparts), in which Dirk Mateer and Lee Coppock make economics memorable and relevant through carefully crafted real-world examples, a problem-solving pedagogy that emphasizes economic decision-making, and a human voice that speaks directly to students.
In one of our most recent projects, the first edition of Essentials of Cultural Anthropology (above), Ken Guest shows students that now, more than ever, global forces affect local culture, and the tools of cultural anthropology are vital to participating in a global society.
As for that original infographic project we were commissioned to work on eight years ago, just this past year we completed the overhaul of the textbook in its entirety – a complete gut-renovation, inside and out (see below). The sixth edition of W.W. Norton’s Essentials of Sociology includes a brand-new modular layout, newly-designed features such as the end-of-chapter Big Picture analysis, and sixteen new full-page infographics – all wrapped in a beautiful new cover. Naturally, we were tickled pink to see this project come full circle.