“Oh great, here comes Old Man Cone again, rambling about visual essays.”
I know, I know, but I really do believe that when motion design is paired with intelligent writing, you get a brilliant form of persuasive reasoning that sticks in the mind of many contemporary viewers. Case in point: This ambitious and informative animation from Jonathan Jarvis (whose web server is apparently being pounded into oblivion at the moment).
Like most Americans, I became interested in the credit crisis when I heard the wailing cries from Wall St. back in early 2008. I knew they were harbingers of dark days, but I had no idea what the hell had happened or why.
My best introduction came in the form of a This American Life podcast, which does a great job explaining some of the trickier concepts at play. But this new animation is much more my cup of tea. I’m a visual guy. I need you to draw me a picture. Mr. Jarvis has done exactly that, helping my withered noggin create more lasting neural pathways to understanding and retention.
This is a good time to make a distinction regarding visual essay strategies: Jonathan’s animation uses a mostly iconographic approach, which is appropriate given the complexity of this subject matter. He essentially sets up a visual language, which he then layers and remixes to help us comprehend a wide range of related ideas. It works beautifully.
When your subject matter is slightly less technical and the main idea is more about persuasion, metaphoric imagery is usually the preferred tactic. For examples, see pretty much anything Simon Robson has done. Simon agonizes over which metaphor will extend his message, rather than simply illustrate it. He’s as interested in aesthetic and emotional impact as he is clarity.
Jonathan’s animation was completed as part of his thesis for the Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design.