American Elephants

A Powerful Image. by The Elephant's Child

I am very interested in the relationship between good visuals and ideas. Is an idea well-stated easier to understand, or is it the visual, or is it only in the correct melding of the two? Political cartoonists labor in that realm.  This elegant rendering of the problem of our debt, by Michael Ramirez of Investors, is a heck-of-a-lot more impressive than mere numbers. And the mere numbers have to offer an explanation of how to visualize a trillion — usually with another visual.

So when do we learn? Does a visual like this sink in better than a graph? We didn’t really realize it, but when “talking pictures” arrived, they changed our minds in some way. At least all those people who quote movie dialogue think differently.

And photography changed the way we think. Before photography many people never knew what the President of the United States looked like. Before microphones and recordings (and teleprompters) Presidents didn’t often make public speeches. George Washington’s Farewell Address was never spoken, it was only printed. And public speeches depended on the volume that the speaker could generate.   Now that we are surrounded with pictures, do we absorb words less? Do we avoid reading? I have no answers, only questions.


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