Feb 11, 2010
A humble business card, an integrated brand strategy, a title sequence, a blaring broadside–each graphic design, each telling a story. And storytelling is storytelling no matter the medium. Either you engage your audience or you don’t. Either you communicate your story well or you don’t. Graphic designers tell stories. Therefore good graphic designers are good storytellers. My whole reason for giving up a lucrative career, uprooting my wife and three kids to pursue a masters degree was to be a better graphic designer, hence my efforts to become a better storyteller.
The story I have chosen to tell is that of S/Sgt. Harry Clawson. Harry was an American paratrooper who went missing in action during WWII. Twenty-seven years after his disappearance, a Dutch tree farmer from Opheusden, The Netherlands, found his remains in a shallow grave in his tree nursery. Harry’s story is one of personal sacrifice, love of freedom, and the enduring cost of war.
The first step to telling a good story is really knowing the story. I had to research Harry’s story and this being grad school and all, I decided to try something different with my research approach. Using method acting as an inspiration, I developed a process I’m calling “method research”. I immersed myself into Harry’s life by going where he would have gone, seeing what he would have seen, and doing what he would have done. I traveled to Arizona, England, France and The Netherlands. I stood where he stood, where he lived and died. I spoke with those that knew him: his brothers in arms, his sisters, sons, and daughter. I have done some of the things he did: intense physical training, camped in the mountains, jumped from an airplane. Using method research has deepen my understanding of Harry’s story and drawn me closer to its realities, enabling me to tell his story with more sensitivity and authority.
To tell Harry’s story I explore design disciplines that are new to me such as motion graphics, exhibit design, and (gasp) even some writing. At the same time I am further developing current skills like branding and information design. My thesis exhibition is my stage and serves as a place for my actors to hone their craft. I tell Harry’s story utilizing multiple graphic formats combined into exhibition design. I use information graphics in the form of a contextualized timeline combined with geographic mapping. I use the simple and powerful presentation of plain text. I have motion graphics in a triple projector ultra wide film presentation. I also employ semiotic artifact imagery to convey elements of Harry’s character and life. These linear and non-linear, quick and involved formats of Harry’s story combine to give the audience a multi-faceted view of Harry’s life.