Saturday, December 2, 2006


The illustrator Fred Ludekens said "drawing is thinking." Here are some wonderful examples of what makes visual thinking better than verbal thinking:

copyright The New Yorker

Images can convey complex thoughts with more immediacy, universality and ambiguity than words can offer.

For example, William Steig's drawing above of the blissful young lovers in the cottage makes a wicked statement about the darker, proprietary side of bliss by chaining the flower in the front yard:

As another example, the Foote Cone & Belding drawing below shows that creativity and logic are two sides of the same phenomenon by placing them on opposite sides of a moebius strip-- which only has one side.

copyright Foote, Cone & Belding

Next, the symbols chosen by the brilliant Saul Steinberg-- Uncle Sam facing off against a fatted Thanksgiving turkey in the bull ring, presided over by the statue of liberty and Santa Claus-- juxtapose categories rich with meaning in ways that words with definitions just can't.

copyright The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

How many sentences would it take to explain such thoughts in words? Good visual ideas dance where words cannot go. More importantly, how many related ideas would you miss along the way if you were led to a conclusion by linear sentences, rather than by rolling these images around in your mind?

Some sequential artists and graphic novelists seem to think that intelligent drawings are merely drawings accompanied by word balloons containing intelligent words. For me, this view surrenders the real strength and potency of the visual medium.