I made this graphic so long ago, I’ve long since taken it out of my portfolio. But I’ll never forget what I learned from it.
See all that mountain of text? Would you read all that? I sure wouldn’t. In showing this piece a internship fairs, one professional leaned over and gave me some great advice. He could, but did not, say “This is an encyclopedia, not a graphic.” Instead he said “The best part is that section with the little soldiers.”
The soldier silhouettes did more to explain how the armies operated than any other part of the graphic.
The lesson? Show, don’t tell. Put things in perspective. If there is an oil spill, tell me how many cups of coffee I’d have to drink to match the daily spill rate. Give me a reference point to help make this crazy world make sense.
Credit for this page (at top) goes to the amazing Paul Nelson, my boss at The Virginian-Pilot who pretended not to notice how inept I was as a page design intern. He leaned over my shoulder one day as I was resizing a photo and said “Go bigger!” When I added a couple pixels and looked at him hesitantly, he shook his head. “Full page!” he said, and grinned like we were in some sort of design conspiracy about to break every rule in the style guide.
But he was right. Sometimes you need to make something BIG to put it in perspective as much you might need to make it small. I had a short stack of library books on a B1 front one night when Paul worked his magic again. “Why don’t you make it go down the page?” he suggested. The page turned out awesome. Thanks for being braver than me, Paul.