I want to show you the process of editing with an example I recently went through in getting an IG created. When the whole thing is posted, I will see about putting a link in here. But it doesn’t much matter. What does matter is that one small part of this very large infographic was about Mansa Musa, the great 14th century ruler of Mali. On his pilgrimage of Mecca, he spent so much gold that he caused its value to plummet and set off a years long depression in the Middle East. I often use this as an example to explain to gold bugs that inflation greatly effects gold based economies.
The artists that I work with appear to be from Asia: Russia, India, wherever. I don’t actually know because I don’t work with them directly. But they are brilliant. I am constantly amazed at their work, as you can see in the following infographic that I edited, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Chatbot. And they came up with the graphic you see above to illustrate the issue of gold deflation: beggars could be covered in it but still need to beg.
I responded to the image, “This is clever, but will be seen as racist in America. And the sign doesn’t make much sense. How about a larger sign that reads, ‘Will work for food — but not gold!'” The artist responded to my editing suggestion with the graphic on the left.
This is the kind of change you get when you are working with a professional. I wasn’t clear about what my problem was. But I asked for one specific thing and they gave it to me. And I like it. Of course I do! It was my idea! But I also think they rendered it perfectly. But I think it is clear to an American eye what’s wrong with this. It just will be seen differently here than it will be in most other areas of the globe.
So I responded, “This still bothers me. Either: no smiling (he’s a beggar after all) or a full set of shiny gold teeth.” Again, this is my mistake. I’m working with really professional, talented artists. And I’m a solid professional writer, but in the art of editing, I’m still learning. What I should have asked for was simply a lighter skin tone. I think that would have fixed it.
What I got back was just what I asked for. And I’m afraid that it made it worse. I really hate this situation, because I’ve found myself on the other side of it many times. People ask for changes but they are unclear or don’t even know what they want.
So I wrote back, “I understand he is supposed to be some guy from the Middle East. But he comes off as the ‘happy negro’ stereotype. I think it will be fine to make him not smile and not show any teeth. I don’t want to beat this one to death, but I think it’s important.” I think that was the breaking point with the artist. I still think that so much pain could have been avoided if I had just written, “Please make the beggar a lighter color.” But like I said, I’m still learning.
So the artist, realizing that they were working with an idiot client just changed graphic as you can see on the right. The inforgraphic lost what I thought was a nice joke. But this entirely new graphic is actually a better representation of what we are talking about. And it is beautifully rendered.
Clearly, I do a much better job when I’m editing writers. (I also edited the writing of this infographic — that’s where most of the time is taken.) But it shows just how hard the process is. It also speaks rather well for the company that I work for that it is willing to pay the artist and me to work out issues like this. A lot of companies just don’t care.