Dan Nolan

Child Marriage in America

Child Marriage in America: By the Numbers web page screen shot showing the cover image with a map of the United States and the total number of minors married between 2000 and 2015: 207,468.
A frame from the Child Marriage in America animated explainer video showing a background pattern of girl and boy icons and text that reads,

FRONTLINE reporter Anjali Tsui has been following child marriage in the U.S. over the last year: collecting data, uncovering personal stories and researching the legal landscape in each state. Anjali worked collaboratively with the FRONTLINE digital team to write stories and create experiences for our website. My work focused on a data-driven story with charts and graphics and on an animated explainer made for facebook.

Child Marriage in America: By the Numbers—our data story draws from 16 years of underage marriage data (2000–2015) and 41 states. We aimed to create a full picture of the problem of underage marriage in this country. We break down the national numbers by different categories like age and gender and we go into further detail, looking at the data and trends in each state.

The charts showing national numbers are based on simple percentages, but I wanted the data in these charts to feel more personal and impactful. I wanted to create more of a connection between abstract numbers and the children affected by this issue so I designed charts that use simplified icons of children to express percentages. I chose a palette that feels more feminine—hinting at the fact that this problem overwhelmingly affects underage girls.

A chart from Child Marriage in America: By the numbers showing the age breakdown of minors who married between 2000 and 2015.
A chart from the child marriage story listing data from the youngest children to marry from 2000–2015.

One of our main editorial challenges was to accurately depict the ages of minors who married. We needed to stress that most minors who married were 16 and 17 so we were careful about using the word “child” in many cases since that might imply younger children. However, we also wanted to show that some children under 15 did get married, and some even as young as 10 years old. Another point we needed to balance was that underage marriage is still happening but not nearly as much as it did 15 years ago. So we made sure to show the trend line of minors marrying per year early on in the piece.

A chart from the child marriage story showing the number of minors married per year between 2000 and 2010.
A map from the child marriage story showing how early you can get married in each state.

The story ends with a complete list of state cards that show the data from each state and the laws that affect a minor’s ability to marry.

A screenshot from the child marriage story showing a list of state cards, Each card shows the number of children married in that state and the child marriage rate in 2010.
A screenshot of the child marriage story showing detailed information from an example state: Idaho.

Animated Explainer

With direction from the FRONTLINE digital video team, I created an animated explainer based on the same data and editorial direction as our web article. This motion graphics piece was designed specifically for our facebook audience: it’s short and to the point, and it’s in a square aspect ratio. I redesigned the charts and graphics to work better in an animated environment. The charts were simplified into circular bar graphs that can be read and understood quickly.

A frame from the child marriage animated explainer video showing the percentage of minors married who were girls: 87%.
A frame from the child marriage animated explainer video showing that minors can marry with parental consent.

Our challenge was to communicate the data over a short two minute video while not overwhelming people with numbers. The choreography has a consistent motion language to communicate text and data but I introduce variation in the motion and graphics to emphasize important moments and keep the viewer engaged.