Ishita Jain x NYT Business
Client: NYT Business Budget: $500 Timeline : 6 days
Tuesday: Getting the article.
I got the draft of an article on unequal inheritances for the Retiring column of the NYT Business Section. I had previously sent an e-mail with some work samples to the art director, and I assume that is how they considered me for this job. I had a week for this. The article highlighted the considerations parents make when dividing up their assets for their children.
“For most older parents, it is simpler to leave each adult child the same inheritance. But is equal always equitable? “ - An excerpt from the article.
My process is to read the article and highlight areas of visual interest and then get into deeper research. I haven’t done a lot of editorial work and if time permits, I do my initial sketches in color on the iPad. When I work traditionally, this helps me get the color decisions sorted in advance for the AD to see.
Thursday: First round of sketches
For the first round, I presented 3 different conceptual ideas with more variations for the idea that I preferred and sent all my sketches in a PDF with a one-line explanation and references of my own work. I tend to work in a bunch of different visual styles – so I like to attach references of my own work to clarify to the AD how the final will be treated. There are things I like to draw, and things I don't. I am obsessed with drawing plants and trees, so I am always trying to shove them in wherever possible.
The AD picked the first concept and asked for some variations of the tree, with a third child. Between an apple, grape and banana tree, obviously the banana won. Great, because I love banana leaves. It’s approved.
Next Tuesday: I have the final ready and sent. They love it and whew it's a job well done …
Thursday 5pm: I get a terrifying email from the AD saying that they have a problem and that I need to speak with them!
At 5pm we got on the call and it so happened that somewhere in the reviewing process, one of the editors thought that this image could be perceived as racist. I was baffled. I thought I had been drawing people who look like me but it came across as black people, and along with the imagery of agriculture, especially bananas, it seems like it could be interpreted as racist. I didn’t really have time to process or get deep into it, especially as someone who is not familiar with the nuances of American history and racism but I guess these are the kind of things that can be interpreted many ways when you have hundreds of thousands of readers.
Thursday 7.27pm: I send over another PDF with loosest, panickiest sketches.
They picked the last one and I got cracking.
Friday 10am: The final was sent, received and published in a few hours.
I was paid a little extra, but not the full price of an illustration for working on this again. It was a bizarre situation but I actually ended up preferring the final solution way more than what I did earlier and was quite pleased with how it looked in print.