Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cartoon Controversy

As I was listening this morning to an analysis of the controversy surrounding the recent New Yorker magazine cover illustration about Barack Obama, I was reminded of the power of "editorial" or "political" cartoons. Ironically, in an era where we have easy access to almost any medium (video, audio, prose, photos, etc.), it turns out that cartoons -- one of the oldest of these options -- have been among the most catalyzing in recent years. The New Yorker cover has spurred many conversations and controversies; and within the last few years, it was a Danish political cartoon that served as one of the most incendiary communications in the Islamic world. And many of us were taught from an early age that political cartoons were among the most powerful forms of communications in the American Revolutionary War; and beyond this, we can each think of more examples. (For a history of editorial or political cartoons see: .)

At Roeder-Johnson, we believe that sometimes the most powerful way to make a point clearly and succinctly is through an editorial cartoon. Not only is a "picture worth 1000 words", but, all in one glance, a political cartoon can capture vision, frustration, solution, and explanation at the same time. This contrasts with video or prose, each of which usually take more time to build a case and then for the audience to take it in. And photograph can be very powerful, but it's very difficult to capture a multiple, nuanced points in one photo.

Most of the issues facing technology start ups are not nearly as lofty as presidential elections, the future of religion, or revolutionary wars, so you might wonder how an editorial cartoon can be used to good effect for a technology company. Here are a few examples:

• For one client in the enterprise software business, we captured in a cartoon the challenges and frustration faced by companies trying to keep track of and manage all of their resources;
• For a client in the alternative energy business, we underscored the need to get on the "boat" of a coming technology before it was too late;
• For a client in mobile business intelligence, we showed many possibilities that would result from trully having access to real-time enterprise intelligence on a mobile device.
• And many more ...

Each of these, in its own way, has catalyzed a movement that was important to the company it was serving.

This is all just a good reminder that sometimes the best communication is the simplest and most accessble.

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