Recently I was contacted by the good folks at BV to illustrate a piece dealing with the (lack) of effectiveness of the death penalty in deterring homicides, and how both sides of the argument have based their cases far more on conjecture, faith and skewed figures rather than hard data. It's a great piece of social commentary and analysis and I was eager to respond with what I hoped would be an equally compelling visual.
The problem inherent in many of these types of assignments, however, is (for lack of a better way to put it) "getting away with murder." Dealing with such weighty content, it's a slippery slope navigating between pandering via gratuitous overbearing illustrated violence (I'm rarely a fan) and something that comes off as too much of soft second serve, treating the subject too delicately or not seriously enough. Having been burnt a few times in the recent past on a few pieces related to congressional bickering (look out!), I initially opted to tread lightly, before being asked not to ignore the darker elements of the piece. That direction produced the following sketches:
I thought the deflating black balloon or death about to flicked off page by the giant hand of either bureaucracy or crime were shoo-ins, but somehow the skull profile/question mark ended up being the winner.
This was exciting because A: it was far and away the easiest to execute effectively under the time constraints, and B: because there were a few hours to kill before the deadline it meant I could experiment with approach a little bit. After messing around with some ink and graphite washes with predictable and corn-ball results, i found that a clogged spray paint cap and documentation via a 2 generations old, grossly inadequate when it was new iPhone 3G camera did the trick beautifully. Some mild photo shopping later and I had 2 finals that I was more than excited about, as it's rare that I'm ever so totally, overwhelmingly pleased with something conceptually and as a drawing on its own:
Ultimately the inverted version won out. You can see it in context and read the story (and typically entertaining comments section) here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-11/the-death-penalty-debate-represents-a-market-failure.html
Thanks for reading!