Sunday, May 10, 2009

telling stories with pictures

In this time between jobs (a nicer way of saying I was part of another layoff), I have been re-connecting with peers.

I was lucky enough to get coffee with Lynne Perri, who was more than a peer at USA Today, and in ways, a mentor. As Deputy Managing Editor in Graphics and Photography, she taught me some interesting negotiating skills. She's still teaching, as Journalist-in-Residence at American University.

Lynne has been in two projects that I think broaden the definition of communications. With her energy and insight, I'm still learning from her:

  • Roger Black, Lucie Lacava food pyramidLynne was part of an experiment at USA Today: Ask top designers and students to redefine the Food Pyramid. See all the designs.

    Roger Black inverted the pyramid, using text and color to represent proportion. Lucie Lacava used a circle and a bull's eye.

    I was fascinated with the work of a North Carolina State student, Adrienne Yancey, who broke the mold of the pyramid. Trading lines and angles for curves and bowls, Adrienne used memorable and connectable icons — food bowls. Like the Three Bears, the bowls are proportionate and identifiable: a thimble for oils and a big bowl for grains.

    Adrienne-Yancey-food-pyramidAdrienne also added a qualitative element, a great, heaping bowl for exercise. Kids (and overweight adults, like me) can easily recognize the priorities and proportions of healthy, daily eating.


  • Lynne was part of an instructional team to teach backpack journalism during the New Hampshire primary in the 2008 presidential election. Packing faculty and students into several vans, they spent five days all over the state covering the primary, in print, video, photography, graphics and online. Working out of backpacks, so to speak, student were expected to shoot video, photograph and write on what they saw and heard.

    The primary was a walking, talking test, with no correct answers. The students met met professional journalists and interviewed professional politicians. Opportunity rubbed against talent. You find out quickly who the good students are, and they learn fast if this is a career they crave. See their work.


Marrying images with narratives is a natural; you engage the reader and diminish most language barriers. Even slightly interested readers and viewers will glance at USDA graphics and briefly written posts on a primary.

Can you contribute a visual narrative or package that stays with you to this day?

2 comments:

Realty Secret Agent said...

I LOVE your comment regarding the students of backpack journalism.

"THERE ARE NO CORRECT ANSWERS"

This is so true when dealing with the non-traditional media. The answer is correct if it prompts a response from the reader.

It is all about interaction, isn't it?

Dwight said...

Pretty good blog. It needs more graphics though - if you're talking about telling stories with pictures, then give more than one.

It could use a little more structure in the text also - needed a clearer indication that there were a couple of examples coming, and then a summary that provided some sort of conclusion, and stated what was a similar lesson - or what was a contrast - between what you learned from each.