The Unexpected Illustrator

The Unexpected Illustrator

The Unexpected Illustrator

Who has been in the situation, because of work demands, of having to scribble a diagram on the board, in front of a roomful of watching eyes? Among the various professions, teachers probably hold the record for board time, but CEO’s, VP’s and product managers are also out there, holding those erasable markers. Sometimes we forget that government ministers are also super-managers, and those among them with a visual sense have quickly discovered the persuasive power of illustrations. 

One of them is Binyamin Netanyahu, who in the past was a student of architecture, and who – every few months – amuses Israelis (and sometimes the whole world) with some drawing: on one occasion it was the “giving tree” producing the fruits of economic security, another time it was the Iranian bomb, with its red line, and sometimes it is a simple doodle for children, when visiting a school. 

But recently I discovered another minister who not only draws (here are some examples), but also regularly produces animated movies. Okay, he’s actually a former government official, and he wasn’t a minister in an Israeli government, but his productions are impressive. The gentleman in question is Robert Reich, lecturer in economics, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, a Carter appointee to the Federal Trade Commission, and before that – so he likes to say – he served as a special advisor to Abraham Lincoln. Short in stature but with a sense of humor (“Someone who thinks about the little guy,” he says of himself), for some years he has produced 3-minute video clips, in which he draws on an office whiteboard while giving a brief economics lecture. Here, for example, he speaks about “Myths associated with immigrants,” a known problem in both Israel and the United States:

Following the warm reception received by his film clips, the former minister expanded them into a full-length movie, which hit the screens in the United States at the end of September. Is this an attempt to get into the public eye in the lead up to the coming elections, just as An Inconvenient Truth brought Al Gore into the presidential race? 

Reich’s movie is called Inequality for All. As its name implies, it is a bitter protest against the cracks in the American dream. But, unlike other political movies, it makes extensive use of illustrative infographics (from the studio of Brian Oakes).

the trailer: 


A few weeks ago, Reich spoke about the movie that he produced, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The very brief clip from the movie that was shown also stands out for the quality of its animated infographics

Could one of the next candidates for president of the United States also be an illustrator? That’s a thought that also arouses my own political ambitions – for about three minutes.