Visual Illustrations

In a prompt for a revision exercise, our class was encouraged to do the following:

Read through your work and identify places where you are either already using an illustration, have the impulse to use an illustration, or where you’d like to challenge yourself to use an illustration. For each, ask yourself: “Why do I need [this/an] image? How [does it/could it] aid the reader’s understanding? [Does it/would it] supplement rather than duplicate what is already in the text?” Write a brief reflection in which you discuss what images you’ve decided to use (or not) and why.

Despite the fact that this prompt is geared towards projects involving the written word, I found this exercise useful for my video project. Every page of script is meant to become an illustration, so instead I worked with single shots, specific scenes, and asked how they helped the narrative function of my work. I also paid attention to how the sequences were addressing my investigation into the the marketing of secondary education, the function of a liberal arts education, and what it means to be one of the “Leaders and Best” at the University of Michigan within those framings.

For example, my video includes a parody of the typical college recruitment video. I use the same powerful, beautiful images that are meant to evoke an emotional response from prospective students and their influential parents:


Instead of the usual “Top Ten Law School”, my video will feature an over the top exaggeration about Michigan: “The most Frisbee Friendly Campus in the United States.” This is based on the Kuleshov effect, but instead of a preceding image changing the meaning of the following image, it will be a preceding narration.

Another image from the script I really like is my news anchor sitting in a library study space. He starts by acting as if he is doing some real nose to the ground, investigative work: “as you can see, there are a sea of students behind me” before giving up the charade: “No, actually, we thought we were getting a studio, but with so many students doing projects last minute, we couldn’t book it.” This gives context to the image and comments on the project as a whole. Plus, there is something funny about my news anchor trying to look professional in what is clearly a college setting.


After talking through the script with various people, several commented that the script was slow to start. Since I featured one news anchor introducing my subject and then throwing it to another reporter for the specifics, it felt like I was wasting illustration space on these static subjects when I could make it just one reporter doing the whole report. This, after all, reflects my experience trying to create this. The two news anchor were fused into one, with new space for illustrations.

I think this activity really helped to refocus my project, as a way to look at how individual components affect a synthesis.

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