Featured Project

Illustrated Journalism Studio

Today, visual language is used over many different mediums, and thoughtful images can enhance editorial text and propel a story forward while offering a distinct point of view.

With this comes a shift in the role of the illustrator from one who is merely reactive to the needs of the art director or editor, to that of a versatile artist/author who can articulate a particular point of view through visuals and text, creating the voice of the entire project. More than just entertainment, the visual language created by illustrated journalists today are transformative catalysts for change as they present the complexities of a social issue, raise awareness and inspire action or thought.

This Designmatters studio presented students with the skill sets to reimagine how illustration is used on all of today’s fast-paced media platforms. Building on contemporary topics of social concern, as well as personal revelations, students became informational storytellers as they explored text/visual pieces, traditional print outlets, and the ever-changing landscape of multimedia digital formats.

Students in this class learned how to translate dense information, dramatic events, politics, fashion trends, statistics, facts and how-to’s, as well as personal reflections and journalistic queries into a visually compelling story. The goal was to be able to craft illustrated journalistic pieces that instantly offer readers the intention and idea of what is being presented. The work of illustration artist, journalist and ArtCenter alum, Wendy MacNaughton, provided a case study for students to learn powerful and bold illustrative techniques and presentation. MacNaughton herself provided a compelling talk as a guest speaker early on in the studio.

Approaching projects with the eye of an art director, students constantly asked themselves about selections of typeface, color, font, layout, “noise” level and hierarchy of information, overall tone and more. Information could be presented in numerous ways and the pacing of their pieces became like orchestrating a musical score, matching words with illustrations to create big moments and quiet ones, to create final products that were both effective and visually well-balanced.

In addition to MacNaughton’s talk and weekly classroom critiques, the students’ work was also examined by many renowned guest speakers throughout the course of the studio: Sam Potts (graphic designer and instructor), Alexandra Zsigmond (Associate Art Director, Op-Ed, The New York Times) and Leonardo Bravo (Director of School Programs, L.A. Music Center and founder of Big City Forums). Guest speakers also shared their personal journeys to their current positions and discussed the realities of the job and, for some, qualities they look for when they hire an illustrator.

For their final projects, students flexed their newly learned skills to create an engaging art/text piece that could be a catalyst for change. Students researched and examined a social or community concern specific to Los Angeles and, through text and images, told that story with a distinctive voice and viewpoint.

With this class, it’s about the journey, and developing illustration students who have strong writing and who will have longer artistic careers as illustrators because they can tell a story in a smarter, unique and individualistic way.

Brian ReaIllustration faculty member and former New York Times Op-Ed Art Director