Simple Visual Storytelling

You often hear people say, defensively, that they can’t draw a straight line, as an excuse for not drawing at all. I usually reply that I can’t either: that’s what rulers, or the sides of cereal boxes, are for. Drawing requires looking and thinking and experimenting. If you can do this then the physical process of representing an idea will become immeasurably easier, and you might discover that you don’t even need to draw a straight line. They’re overrated anyway.

The April issue of Print magazine has a graphic representation of the story of Jack and Jill (based on a classic assignment given by Richard Wilde, chair of the Advertising and Graphic Design department at SVA), done by New York-based designer Joe Marianek. The story is told with a single heart shape, using variation and repetition to communicate the essential characters, events, and even emotions of the story (even the “hill” is merely an upside-down heart, enlarged and cropped). It is simple and brilliant:

You’ll want to pick up the issue in order to see the other graphic assignments and solutions, in addition to Marianek’s comments about this particular one. I unwittingly did the same thing a few years ago with this cartoon (below). I arrived at it backwards because I was going for comic effect, but the principle is the same: taking a single symbol and manipulating it in a way that tells a clear story. It could have been accomplished with an even simpler drawing or with photographs. And if I can do it…


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