After touring the Beringer Winery in Napa Valley in April '08, I used a NYTimes Sunday business page article as a backdrop for a photo of my favorite wine from the Napa tours, below right. The art for the article, Almost as if the Sky Were Falling, illustrated something I thought might be coming -- a crash in the bubbles that I felt were out there. It was a great illustration. The artist uses conceptual twists that make business stories pop.
The art stuck with me, as good art will, so I want to highlight the exceptional business illustration talent of Tim Robinson. Yet another of his excellent market visuals appeared this week that caused me to research his work.
As I've watched the economic crisis unfold, the art of it all is very boring for the most part. How do you make an economic story interesting? How do you tell the story of financial facts in visuals? When I saw the illustration, at left, accompanying a January 10, 2009 NYTimes story, Off The Charts, In the Wrong Direction, I recognized that this was the same artist I'd seen do several illustrations on economic stories for the NYTimes.
Robinson is a free-lance illustrator living in New York state with a BFA from Syracuse University. He worked under Milton Glaser, one of the most talented graphic artists of our times. His market graphics are one of the few colorful appealing illustrations that contain a narrative with a whimsical twist. It is no wonder he is becoming hot with his financial graphics.
When a story is grim, who wants to read it? His art pairs well with these times. Like most journalists, artists are not trained in business fields. He has an impressive list of clients, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Harvard Business Review, just to name a few of the heavyweights.
July 13, 2008, he had an illustration, at left, of our sick economy accompanying an article in the NYTimes of our ill economy is one of my favorites for illustrating what few others in media were capturing. You can see professionals (in this case, suits, not doctor's whites) getting perplexed over the living sickness and the dry statistics connected to the bed, charting the sinking data. The professionals are active, grappling with something they don't seem to understand.
To go further into deconstructing the graphics -- Robinson's illustration that appeared this week (top left) shows the confusion people have in trying to understand this crashing market: the surprise of it, the lack of understanding, the chaos of it and the way it has shattered our concepts. One older guy, dressed in an academic's khaki pants and blue oxford uniform, glasses on nose, is reaching for broken pieces on the ground, stopped mid-way as if he were not sure where to even start to pick up the pieces. Another guy, in jeans, young and hip in dress, seems perplexed, already holding a bright yellow piece of the broken chart, tilted in a hopeful positive direction, as if willing the market to turn upwards. Another, in red (jail-like ) stripes, is running away holding a piece of the action, as if stealing something he shouldn't have. The chart has broken at the bottom, but there is not an end in site. Where does the chart go from here? Is our sense of charting even relevant anymore? Has our sense of measurement been superseded by global technology? How do we interpret where we are?
Our times are serious, our economy is ill and Tim Robinson is graphically telling it in a stylish way that makes sinking market charts have a human narrative.