The Art of the Story: Creating Visual Narratives | Debbie Millman | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

The Art of the Story: Creating Visual Narratives

teacher avatar Debbie Millman, Writer, educator, artist, brand consultant

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Your Assignment


    • 3.

      Historical Objects


    • 4.

      Contemporary Objects


    • 5.

      Finding Your Story


    • 6.

      Editing Your Story


    • 7.



    • 8.



    • 9.



    • 10.



  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Join one of design’s most beloved advocates for a class exploring visual stories. Debbie Millman is world-renowned as the host of Design Matters, co-founder of SVA’s Masters in Branding program, and an award-winning author and artist.

Learn how to craft a narrative, edit your writing, find inspiration in history, and experiment with materials. Plus, this class features an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Debbie’s personal collection of favorite visual stories, books, art objects, and more.

This class is ideal for designers, writers, and everyone with a story to tell. All you need to get started is a love of language, a passion for art, and a desire to bring them together.

This class is presented in partnership with AIGA, the professional association for design, alongside Steven Heller’s Skillshare class, The Designer’s Guide to Writing and Research.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Debbie Millman

Writer, educator, artist, brand consultant


For the past twenty years, Debbie has been President of Sterling Brands, where she has worked on the redesign of over 200 global brands, including projects with P&G, Colgate, Nestle, Kraft and Pepsi. In 2014, she was named President, Chief Marketing Officer of the firm. In 2013, Debbie was named one of the most influential designers working today by GDUSA. Debbie is the founder and host of Design Matters, the world's first podcast about design, which has garnered over one million downloads and a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award. In the nine years since its inception, Millman has interviewed more than 250 design luminaries and cultural commentators, including Massimo Vignelli, Milton Glaser, Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, Barbara Kruger, Seth Godin and more.

Debbie is the author o... See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: Hello, everyone. I'm Debbie Millman and I am the Chair of the Masters in Branding Department at the School of Visual Arts. I'm the President and Chief Marketing Officer at Sterling Brands. I'm the host of the podcast, Design Matters, and I am also an author and an illustrator. Today, I'm teaching a class on visual storytelling, which is the art of creating a piece of work using both artistic elements and language. How do you create those two together to create one offering? So the piece that I'm about to show you actually had no strategic direction associated with it nor did it have any type of narrative. A piece that I call Fare Thee Well. I was doing a visual storytelling workshop and I had some time to be able to do something of my own. There was felt, there was twine. I figured why not play and experiment with no intention of ever necessarily using it in the future. Look at your journals, look at your scraps of paper and see what you can discover or rediscover about yourself. Ultimately, you won't think about the fact that it's two art forms, the language and the visual, but one medium, one message. I think I joined AIG in around 1998. I was looking for a tribe of like minded souls. We're the first in the mentoring program, I was a mentor for many years. Then I was on the New York Board, the chapter in New York City, was nominated for the National Board and was on the National Board for three years, and then I followed Shawn Adams as President of AIG from 2009 until 2011. Now, I'm on the Women's Leadership Initiative, which I'm really, really excited about and started doing that about a year ago. This class is for everyone. This class could be for people in kindergarten and this class could be for people that are going for a PhD in Physics. All you need for this class is a love of art and a love of language and a desire to put the two of them together in a really fun, meaningful way. As a species, we have been recording our experiences and our ideas and our thoughts for 32,000 years. We are a species that are happier when our brains are resonating with each other, and the best way for our brains to resonate with each other is to share our experiences and to be able to understand, intrinsically understand, what it is that makes us human. There's no better way to do that than through a visual story. 2. Your Assignment: So, today, we are going to create our very own visual stories. What you will need for this class is a piece of writing, preferably something that you've written yourself but it's not a requirement. So, it could be something from a journal, it could be a short story, it could be a poem, it could be a quote, it could be a sentence. If you don't have something that you've written yourself, you can pick anything that you like and we can make it visual. And then, what you'll need is any number of supplies that you'd like to use to create that visual story. I'm interested in seeing anything that you've created to ultimately finalize your piece. So, I'd love to see your sketches. I'd love to see the things that you've tried, your experiments, your failures, your successes. I think that we learn as much from our failures in creating things as we do from our successes. Failures teach us an awful lot about what to do next and how to do it better. You might not feel that you're a writer. You might not feel that you've written anything that is worthy of creating a monument around. Get over that. Anything that you've written can be visualized. It could be an email, it could be a text, it could be a birthday card, it could be, as I said, a journal entry or something that you wrote in your sixth grade diary. It could be anything that you've written that you feel in the right context could make people feel something. The more sincere, the more authentic, the more raw, the better. Don't over edit, don't over analyze. It's really important to create something that people will be able to read, and understand in some way but also feel deeply. So, the more honest the communication, the more likely you are to engage people in reading your entire piece. What I'd love for you to upload to Skillshare is the steps along the journey of your process. Your sketches, some of your experiments and then of course the final piece. 3. Historical Objects: So, before we get started making our project today. I wanted to inspire you with some other examples of great visual storytelling. I first fell in love with visual storytelling when I read this book when I was a little girl. It's a book called Words but the words are all illustrated. So, I want to show you some of the beautiful pages. This is a Little golden book. Sure of that, many of us have our own fond memories of reading these. This is a wonderfully descriptive visual journey through everyday life. He, she, they, flower, strawberry, bush. My very favorite page. This is, I think, one of my favorite pages of any book I've ever read and this is the color wheel. I've spent a lifetime since collecting color wheels. So, this was my very first inspiration of visual storytelling. I think, that visual storytelling really began millions and millions of years ago. However, I think that the first example of really true visual storytelling show up in the caves of Lesko. After that we created ways in which we were able to communicate via signs and symbols, crests, flags. In the late 1700's, Laurence Sterne published a book called The Life and Times of Tristram Shandy Gentleman. This is a book that was published in the late 1700's, and I think it is the first modern book. There is no book since that hasn't in some way been influenced by Laurence Sterne's book. This is a copy, the copy you'd read in college. I have this particular paperback copy because Milton Glaser did the cover. In this book, you'll see why this is such a remarkable piece of literature. So, in the late 1700's, when it was I think a fairly conservative time in literature, Laurence Sterne broke every rule known to man in storytelling. He included other books in this book. He included a black page. He included nonsense. He included blank pages. He included chapters that had one sentence, two sentences or no sentences. He had a marble sized page right in the center of the book. This book was republished in 2010 by a publishing company called Visual Editions. They start the timeline of The Lives and Opinions of Tristram Shandy Gentleman in 1759, the first publication date. Then, have their own versions of some of the wonderful hieroglyphics they give it a lot more space here than the original. I am obsessed with this book. I've been obsessed with this book since college. I couldn't believe that this was the origination, the start point, ground zero for all of modern literature. I was at a Rare Book Fair about half a year ago and lo and behold, I found a first edition from the 1700's. So I'm going to show it to you. I really should be wearing my gloves for this. There's that blank page, I showed you in the original marbleized page. It's true, original, 300 plus year glory. Even before I was reading Tristram Shandy, I loved the visual storytelling of comics. Here are some of my original Archie's comics. My favorite character was Betty. I was always very upset that Betty got short shrift to Veronica. Roz Chast, was one of the graphic novelists cartoonists that I first fell in love with after college. She's a long term cartoonist at The New Yorker. My first year out of college I found Art Spiegelman. I found Art Spiegelman's mouse. This is falling apart. It's been read so much, detail, layers of life, of storytelling, of messaging. Art Spiegelman was a big influencer of Chris Ware. I think, Chris Ware is a genius. This is a limited edition book he did for McSweeneys. Chris Ware is able better than anyone alive today, maybe anyone ever have that has ever lived to convey humanity in a line drawn. Then, there's a whole slew of storytellers that tell long-form stories utilizing language and words and paintings and art. This is a book that Maya Angelou wrote. These are poems and Jean-Michel Basquiat the painter, the late great painter illustrated that. A little tiny book that sold millions and millions of copies, Tom Phillips, The Heart of Humument. This is tiny but precious and heartfelt and heartbreaking, poems, words, images, collage, lessons for living. Ed phela is somebody that I would put in the category of a visual storyteller because he's able with words and image and collage to be able to create really wonderful, sweet, beautiful stories. This is just one of his famous holiday cards which he writes and collages and then xeroxes. This particular year he added a line here, that this was going to be the last hard copy before he started sending them via e-mail to be more green. Arnie Carson did a book called Naks. This was a book that she published after her brother's death, Rodrigo Crowle the great. Rodrigo Crowle did the cover. Then, this book opens up and it tells the story in one long linear narrative, but is it really linear? Andrea Dezso just published this book. This is a new version of the Brothers Grimm. She did all of these magnificent illustrations with cut paper. You can't make a mistake when you're cutting paper. You'd have to start all over again. The craft embedded in these illustrations is just mind boggling. Marion Bantjes, this is a book that she did several years ago called, I Wonder. The entire book is created with visuals and language. She did pieces with macaroni. She did pieces made with flowers, with jewelry. She even did a piece entirely in code. Now, supposedly, rumor has it that it is a breakable code, but I don't know anybody to date that has broken it. This is a book by Jonathan Safran Foer, but it's really more of a sculptural object. He took an original novel written by Bruno Sholes, a book called The Street of Crocodiles, and he cut it up and made an entirely new book out of the remainder of the words. Then, of course, the great Maira Kalman, our national treasure who was able to create a combination of words and image unlike anybody else alive today. Quirky, funny, heartbreaking, beautiful, touching. There is everything about life embedded in Maira Kalman's work. So, I think, I've shown you a pretty good range of work that has been done in book form or comic form. But these are just two forms that can be used to create visual stories. There's any number of ways that you can use language and image together to create an object and a story. So, now, I want to show you some things that are outside the realm of the printed page to inspire you to think about what you could use around you to help showcase and highlight your language, your visual story. 4. Contemporary Objects: So, you're not limited to working on paper. There are all sorts of other platforms that you can use for your objects. Here's a great example of work that the artist, Lawrence Wiener, did. Lawrence Wiener is one of the forefathers of conceptual art with people like Douglas Huebler and Robert Barry and Lawrence Wiener really deconstructed language to give you a sense of not only what the meaning of the words he's using is, but also what the context is, what do we bring to language. So, here are two great examples of some little books that he made, but then he also extended his work to installations in rooms and all sorts of 3-dimensional objects. Here's an example of a bag that he did, a limited edition bag that he did for printed matter. One of the great word artists of all time is Ed Ruscha. Ed Ruscha is famous for his books, his art and also his objects and this is the only thing of his that I could afford a towel and then there's all sorts of household items that you could make with language. I love dish towels. Dish towels can tell a story because there's a lot of space on the surface to be able to express yourself. These are dish towels that I found that feature excerpts of great novels, but you don't necessarily have to be a novelist to make something like this. This is a dish towel from Monotype Gill Sans, so if you have a love of typography, you could do type specimen. After Lawrence Wiener and Douglas Huebler and Robert Barry came artists like Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger and I have some ephemera of theirs as well. Here are some pencils that Jenny Holzer made and they say, "The future is stupid." I don't agree with that, and what urge will save us now that sex won't. I stole her idea for pencils and did my own for a party as a giveaway and mind say, "Design matters and right now, get it right now," and then of course Barbara Kruger who started first as a graphic designer working at Mademoiselle Magazine and now one of the world's greatest conceptual artists and here's a pillow of hers using her signature type "Thinking of you." There's an organization called "The Thing Quarterly," which is known for putting out limited edition objects that all feature guess what, "type" and so I subscribe to that, every quarter I get something really interesting that features some type of story embedded in it, on it, through it, with it. So, I'm going to show you some of my favorite. This is a shower curtain. It's all wrapped up in its original packaging because I'm going to use it when I move and I want to keep it all pristine, but Dave Eggers writes, "I am your shower curtain and I like you." So, everything can tell a story. Everything can project a message that you want to convey. Here's another object from the Thing series. This is a cutting board made by Starlee Kine and this is a cutting board that talks about cutting onions of course. "Today, I am the crazier person because I bought an onion at the farmer's market. This onion made me cry and so naturally it reminded me of you," and it goes on. One of their invitations came on a balloon. So, you can put a message anywhere and everywhere. It could be hidden, it could be subliminal, it could be in your face, it could be profound, it could be trait, it could be meaningless, it could be meaningful, it's whatever you want it to be. I really do like to collect just about anything with art and type. Here are some dice and I have some dice that this one is in German and this is in English and it says things like aspirin and Prozac and aroma therapy I guess these are things that are supposed to make you feel better and then what better way to wake up in the morning and have your spoon say, "Wake up happy." Little innocuous messages everywhere you can find them. I love this. A comb not a hair out of place both on the comb itself and the holder and of course you can't show great typographic ephemera without including the work of Jessica Hische, "Type Nerd," Maira Kalman, a paperweight featuring her magnificent handwriting. Pillowcases by David Shrigley, "This is also me" and "This is me," and even my pencil holders and my little cases for supplies have stories embedded on them. This one, "Pen Orgy in here tonight. Pencils welcome too," and then my personal life motto "Be Nice or Leave," and finally even jewelry. This is a bracelet made by Jeanine Payer and she had inscripted in this, engraved in this, a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. So, anything and everything could have typography embedded in it. You can make your own art. This is a piece by Paul Sayer. One word is all you need to convey an entire idea or even fun things like coasters noted without comment. So, let your imagination fly. Let it take you wherever you want to go and let's make some visual stories. 5. Finding Your Story: So, the next step in the process of making your own visual story is actually committing to the story. What do you want to say? How do you want to say it? The really interesting conundrum when starting a visual narrative is actually the recognition that both need to be equally persuasive - the story as well as the way it's visualized. So, you'll have to work with both to perfect it to the level that you want. When starting with a story, you can use any of your own personal journals, diaries, text messages, emails, anything that you really want to use. I like to keep notes in my computer, in my phone, in sketch books, in journals. I keep notes everywhere, I'm always writing things down, I literally have little post-it pads everywhere so that I can constantly be writing down snippets of language that I might want to use in some way. The interesting thing about my visual poems is that most of the poems tend to come to me nearly fully formed. I'm going to re-engineer and show you how I made a visual story in a little bit. That particular piece, the poem that I wrote literally came to me nearly fully formed as I was about to fall asleep, and I remember thinking, "I'm nearly asleep, but this poem has hit me, it's come to me. I really need to write it down so that I don't forget it", and then the other part of me said, "But you're sleeping and you're comfortable, and the pillow is perfect, and the blankets are just right, and do you really want to have to get up now and start writing your poem down? " I kept going back and forth in my head with this little arguments with myself until I finally turn on the light, got the pad, wrote nearly the entire thing as it is down, and then went back to sleep. If you're struggling at all with the subject matter, think about your own life, what moments in your life have had meaning to you, and if you haven't written anything yet, think about those moments that have changed you, think about defining moments in your life. Go back in time. Remember what it felt like to do something for the first time. Remember your first heartbreak or your first love, or your first job, or your first yes. I might spent a lot of time, believe it or not, going through old diaries and old journals, remembering and re-experiencing feelings that I had, moments that I went through, epiphanies that I might have experienced at that time, that don't always feel like epiphanies in retrospect. But I have lots of diaries and journals. I've been writing and experiencing my life in language since I was in seventh grade. I found my first journals from seventh grade on yellow memo paper. Recently, we were going through some of my old grandmother's things, and my grandmother Lilian died in 1999, and we found her diary from 1929. I also have a picture of her from 1929. This is my grandmother Lilian, my mother's mother, and this was her journal from 1929. It started in 1929, it's a five-year journal where you're given just a a couple of lines per day, and she actually kept this on and off for five years, and it details the courtship that she had with my grandfather. They were ultimately married for 42 years. So, I think there's something really poignant and satisfying about recording our own narratives, and being able to share those with other people whether in real time or at some time in the future when maybe you're no longer here. So, look at your journals, look at your scraps of paper, look through your Facebook pages, and see what you can discover or rediscover about yourself. There are a number of different things you want to think about as you're writing and constructing the visual narrative. So, the first is, what is your narrative structure going to be? Do you want something to be legible? Do you want somebody to be able to actually read what you're writing? Do you want them to struggle to understand the story? It could be something very, very simple like Jenny Holzer, where it's just right there in your face, or it could be more like Marian Bantjes, where it's a bit of a secret that you have to uncode. Think about the sequence. Do you want it to be beginning, middle, end? Or think about the movie Pulp Fiction. Remember how that second chapter was really the third chapter, and then you went back in time and forward in time? How much energy do you want people to expend as they're reading what you've created? What is the sensibility? Is it funny? Is it sad? Is it heartbreaking? Is it touching? What do you want people to experience? The most important thing that you want to think about is what are you giving someone? What kind of experience do you want them to have? Ultimately, it should be so real, and so honest that they can relate to it. It could be a completely universal feeling, and even if you feel scared about revealing it, the more scared you are about revealing something, my guess is, the more relatable it's going to be. You're scared to express it because it's something that people feel so profoundly. Think also about redemption. What do you want to leave people with at the end of your piece? Do you want them to feel happy? Do you want them to feel hopeful? Do you want them to feel heartbroken? Do you want them to feel sad? Do you want them to feel inspired? All of these things are real human experiences, and people want to feel real human experiences when engaging with a visual narrative. But they have to be equally compelling. So, the art needs to support the writing, and the writing needs to support the art. I tend to write everything first. I'll edit in the process of actually creating the visual story, but I start first with the piece that I feel is nearly finished. So, that as I'm drawing it, or painting it, or crafting it, it all is right there in front of me, and I can create the pacing that I want. Really think about the relationship between the words and the images. Are they embedded in each other? Are they created as one piece? Or are they more like captions? A lot of the wonderful work of Maira Kalman is an image and type that separate, but a lot of the work of Christoph Niemann, the visual and the type are together. So, think about how do you want that to work. You might want to create your paintings or your images first and then add the text so you can see the progression of the story. These are all things that you can decide. These are all rules that you could make up as you're creating. Ultimately, you want to think about the fact that it's two art forms, the language and the visual, but one medium, one message. You want them to be seamless, you don't want one to be more obvious than the other. You want it to be a seamless single-minded message that you are sharing with the world. 6. Editing Your Story: As you're constructing your narrative, I want you to try to keep a couple of things in mind. The first thing is, usually, you should edit out your first paragraph. So, if you're writing some type of an essay, or a short story, or you're sharing a journal entry, most of these types of stories start out with this type of sentence: "My life changed when I was 12 years old," or "I remember the moment I fell in love with whoever." That's the story. That's the whole story you're about to tell us, why give it away in the first sentence? So, take out whatever it is you're preparing your reader that they are about to read, because you want them to be able to experience that as they read, what it is you've written, not know what it is you've already told us, and now are going to explain. So, edit out the first paragraph. Don't make excuses for yourself in your writing. You don't need to apologize for your bad behavior. You don't need to tell us how sorry you are about what you did, or how you wish you did it differently, or how sorry you are that this is the result that occurred. Let people come to their own conclusions. It's really, really, really important not to tell people things. Show people how you experienced it. Show people how you went through it. Let them create that picture in their own mind of themselves relating to it or doing it also. Tell the truth. Don't posture. You want people to be able to relate to something, not admire you, not think you're an amazing person, not feel envious of how great you had it. You want people to understand and feel that they can go through that lesson with you, or learn that experience through you, or be warned because of what you did. This is not the moment to feel like you have to position yourself as the world expert on something or to try to convince somebody what an amazing person you are. We already know that. So, write something from the heart and try to reveal as much as you're able, in an effort to allow people to be able to share that experience with you and relate to it all along the process of the narrative. Find humor in the absurd. Try to show how we're fallible. Try to show human behavior and all of its glory, and all of its honesty, and all of its absurdity and its eccentricity. Try to show all the quirks and the ways in which you might do things that is completely unique, yet completely relatable. Find humor in the absurd. And then don't be so hard on yourself. Try and be kind as you are expressing your story. Because chances are, if you've experienced it, lots, and lots, and lots of other people have too, and if you're hard on yourself you're going to be hard on the reader. Open your heart and let other people come to you with an open heart. Be as open-hearted as wholehearted as possible, as you are writing down your story for other people to share. So, the piece that I'm about to show you actually had no strategic direction associated with it, nor did it have any type of narrative. I was doing a visual storytelling workshop and had some time to be able to do something of my own. There was felt, there was twine. I figured why not play and experiment with no intention of ever necessarily using it in the future. One night, a couple of weeks later I was about to fall asleep, and boom! A poem hits me. And I remember laying in bed struggling with the decision about whether or not I should get up and write it, or if I would be able to remember it all after I woke up the next morning. Then there I said sort of weighing, "Should I get up? Should I get up? Should I stay in bed?" I ended up turning on the light writing down the poem, going right back to sleep. Then the next couple of days after that, realized that I had a poem without a visual and had a visual without a poem, and they very well may be a way that I could put the two together. 7. Materials: Now that you've chosen the writing you'd like to visualize, let's talk about some of the materials. This is the part that gets me very, very excited because you can use almost anything to make anything. So, these are some of my favorite materials and I'm going to take you through some of the things that I've been using recently to make some of my visual stories. So, the first thing I want to talk about are pencils. I love colored pencils. I think I love colored pencils almost more than any other tool. And these are just my greens. I have lots and lots and lots of colored pencils. One of my favorite brands of colored pencil is a brand called Felissimo. I subscribe to their monthly pencil set and every month I get a different series of colors. I have no idea what might be coming in so, it's a wonderful surprise to get them every month. I also love gray tone pencils and these are Rembrandt pencils and these are all gray and white tones. They're wonderful because they're really easy to blend and smudge. I use a lot of Papermate pencils. I like the points, I like being able to control how much point there is and it's a pretty consistent point. I also love pastels and oil pastels. I love pastels because they're so wonderful for blending. You have the most extraordinary color palette and you have the ability to combine things in endless, infinite ways. This is some of my oil pastels. These are pencil sticks. These are pastels. This is a recent find, they're pastel pencils. This gives you an extraordinary amount of control so you can actually get the feel of a pastel, but you get the control of a colored pencil. They're fabulous. I also love graphite and I have lots of different graphite type pencils. I have big fat pencils, big chunky pencils. Of course we have gorgeous fat pencils, midnight black thin pencils and I just love any type of texture size and feel of graphite. I also some of Sharpies. You get that great hand written feeling. I'm going to show you a range of Sharpie that I like. I like everything from super fine to the mega fat. Size does matter with sharpies. This is a little bit of a collection that I have of white and metallic pens. These are gel pens and they work really, really well on black paper. You can write anything. It won't fade, it won't bleed, it won't smudge, white, silver and gold pens that you can play with that look really really beautiful odd colored papers. I find that when working with paper, it's really good to have a really firm surface. I use these clips a lot to hold down rulers if I want a nice straight line. I often make my own rulers out of foam core so that I could write on that if I need to. I use old makeup brushes to wipe away the erasers. I spent a lot of time erasing and so I have some really good tools for erasing. This is the tough stuff eraser stick. You get incredible, incredible eraser ability and a lot of control, and you can really get into the fine edges of your letterforms and erasing whatever you don't want to use. This is just one of the sets of rubber stamps that I bought from Louise Fili. Louise Fili and Steve Heller had a book in ephemera sale recently and this was an incredible find. These are rubber stamps that she found in Italy and they're magnificent. I have been doing a lot of experimenting with these. These are just some basic rubber stamp pads that I got but really pretty colors that you can find now. I think that there's so much more to be able to choose from because of the growth of scrapbooking. I think scrapbooking is a visual storytelling device as well and there's so many different techniques that you can use from scrapbooking to visual storytelling. Also, a lever of string and twine. I feel like these beautiful tendrils just tell us so much about frailty, about strength and you can find them in all different sizes and colors, and can use them as lines, you can use them as devices. I recently found this, it's practically yarn, this gorgeous forest green color. I thought it might make sense to do something with this beautiful cherry pink color. But who knows. Yes, let's talk about felt letter. I love felt letter. I love writing with felt letter, I love making things with felt letter, I look for felt letter everywhere. I find them in crafts stores, of course you can find them on the internet. I spent a lot of time on eBay looking for adhesive type, type that you can just press on. This is type that I get from China. I mean, you can find them in all different colors, purple, pink and they're pretty inexpensive. I tend to get them in bulk because the shipping tends to be more expensive than the type I'm in. You can literally right anything and so I have collections of big type, collections of small type, different colors, numbers and I keep everything because anything can be used and reused and recycled if you don't use it the first time. So, I have my felt letter in a felt container. I also love press on type, the kind of type that you would put on mailboxes and I spent a lot of time looking at hardware stores for collections. You can find big lots. I recently did a big project using adhesive type like this and spent about four months pressing down and type on Lucite plastic. I went so often to Pearl Paint to buy every bit of adhesive type they had. I think I actually bought their entire supply. So don't go to Pearl Paint, you won't find any more adhesive type. You can find Helvetica, you can find Futura, you can find different colors, black, white, red, silver, blue, any number of colors and shapes and sizes so you can play and experiment to your heart's delight. This is a rather bulky book that I made. It's a visual expression of a commencement speech I made a few years ago and I'm showing it to you today to really give you a sense of how you could use some of these materials because it really is a bit of a hodge podge of all the materials here on the table. So, this first page here is utilizing colored paper and very small adhesive type, the mailbox type that I mentioned. Then this page here is pastel, it's graphite and then the press on type that I showed you, the great type from China. This is where the pastel pencils can come in really, really handy because it's very hard to get a straight edge with pastel. So, here's where the color pastel pencils really allow you to get some finer detail. This is an example of how I recycled some work that I did for another piece that I ended up rejecting. I had used a combination of metallic and black flat type on a Kraft paper and didn't really like the way it came out but didn't want to discard it because it literally took days to do, laying one piece of time down at a time, one letter at a time. So, I kept it and then when I realized that I wanted to use something for this spread that featured typography that didn't necessarily have anything to do with the overarching narrative, I decided to cut it up and use it and glue stuck it down on the page. Then here I used vellum. Vellum is really, really great when you want to use overlapping text. You can write down whatever you want to on a piece of paper, trace it onto the vellum, and then keep moving the vellum around and repeating the type as you see fit to give you lots of wonderful different altitudes of typography. Here you can see just a way of creating different pacing. Not every page has to have the same aount of type on it. Some pages can be blank, think back to Tristram Shandy. All the devices, they're in Tristram Shandy. You can have blank pages, you could have pages with doodles or graphic devices, you can have pause pages, you could have dramatic pages, you could have pages where you can't read something, you can have a marbleized page, you can do anything you want as long as it's with your whole heart. Here's the Kraft paper with the red type. So, you can create all sorts of moods just by the type of paper you're using, the type of color typography that you're using, or pens that you're using, everything that you use helps to create mood, helps to create a sense of what you're trying to express. Using felt typography has been one of my favorite techniques over the last couple of years and last year I was commissioned by Fast Company to create some pieces for their World Changing Ideas issue and spent quite a lot of time creating individual pieces of art that the art directors there could evaluate. The only thing that I can tell you about using felt type is that there are no shortcuts. Nothing is done in the computer. So, if somebody wants you to change one word, you have to redo the whole thing. But if you love doing it as much as I do, you put on a couple of episodes of Law and Order SVU and you work while you're watching. 8. Sketching: So, when working with felt, when you're sketching, you're actually sketching with felt and when I was commissioned to do the World Changing Ideas pieces for Fast Company, I had to show a number of different options before a specific direction was chosen. I was given a number of phrases that needed to be visualized, so I want to show you some of what was done. Probably, the most difficult to get right was the phrase Medical Science Meets Data Science, and so I was asked to create a number of different colorways that was red and white, white and black, then there was the idea perhaps doing the background, so that the letter forms were overlapping, and then I was asked to use pink and finding pink felt letters was really, really challenging. I also spent quite a lot of time working on Your Phone Will Listen To You, these are all trends that were being predictive. I tried one on blackboard with white felt type, then red on black, and we don't want to waste felt, so I did another one on the other side. Your Phone Will Listen To You in the gold metallic mailbox type. I ran out of red felt, all I had left was a piece that was actually sparkly red and ended up just being able to use the other side. Your Eye Will Unlock Everything is the only one that I got the first time around. I wasn't able to get it right the first time not because of the topography or necessarily the color of the felt, but it was really just a matter of what the art director was looking for, and wanted to see a lot of different versions before they settled on what they wanted, which is absolutely their prerogative. It just makes it a little bit harder when you can't just press a button to change the color. You actually have to reconstruct the entire thing. Last year, I did a piece for the New York Times about Sally Ride, and they gave me the copy which was supposedly final, final, and then after I constructed the entire thing, which literally took hours because it was three feet by three feet, they changed the type. I changed it all, we did it, and then they changed it again. At that point, I had to enlist a really, really good Photoshop artist to help me. So, the nice thing about making visual stories for yourself is that you don't have to worry about an editor changing the type at the last minute after you've created the entire piece. If you want to change something midway you can. If you want to play with what you thought you might have wanted, and then change it midway you can do that too. So, the wonderful thing about making your own visual stories with your own words is you can visualize them any which way you want to at any moment in time. 9. Crafting: So, now I'm going to show you how I created a piece that I call fare thee well. This is the piece that I started at the AIGA Austin Design Ranch, when I was bored, when everybody else was working. So, start with some felt. Make sure when you're using felt that it's ironed and flat, you don't want to start with something that's wrinkled because you'll never be able to get those wrinkles out. So make sure you have a wonderful flat surface. If you're afraid that the felt is going to slip or slide, then use one of those clips that I showed you to hold it on to either a book or your desk or some other hard surface. I also have some twine here, it isn't exactly the color twine that I wanted to use. But no fears, it's very easy to color twine. I will show you. So, you take your big fat sharpie and you take your twine and you just color it. Make sure it's colored on both sides. You can do this with any color on any kind of twine and then cut it to the size we want, lay it over what you'd like. I love when twine just falls in the natural shape that it's already in, cut it. Then I just use some emer's glue. Elmer's glue is great because it dries clear. So what I generally do is line up where I want to put a twine and then you don't need to use globs of glue but you do want to make sure you have enough of a surface so that it holds the twine in place and doesn't create any air pockets. Then you want to let that dry. Let me do the next one. This is sort of what it looks like when you do all of the lines. So you want to be careful that you have enough twine or rope or string, anything that you use when you glue it down, there is the capacity that it might buckle if you don't have the glue evenly spread. So you want to make sure if that does happen, you can always pick up the twine and re-glue it, you don't have to worry about there being any globulanation because the glue is clear. So, then you can cut it. Once it's exactly in the place that you want, to be nice and neat. You do want to use really nice sharp scissors not these terrible scissors because it'll make life a lot easier. So, here you can see I've laid out twine on a number of different colored pieces of felt. Now that I have a sort of idea about how many lines I want to have and how many different pieces I want to use, I want to think about the pacing, how many words do I want on each piece of felt, what do I want each piece of felt to say. One of the things that I love about doing pieces on multiple panels is that each piece is essentially its own piece of art that works collectively then to express a whole. So, I see each piece as an individual but also part of a larger narrative. So, I love to play with the start and stop of sentences, going from one piece to another to play with the language and to play with the pacing and sometimes even just surprise people with what's coming next. So, I think for the title which is fare thee well, I just want to have the type right in the center and just really simple. I think I'm going to start the piece with a white background or beige background and some basic black type upper lowercase and I have to sort of decide how much type I want on each. But again, I want to think about each individual piece having its own individual message all supporting the collective whole. So, I want to show you how I made my favorite panel in the piece fare thee well. It simply has the words it took a long time on the panel. It's my favorite panel because I feel that it works individually to be able to describe any number of things but yet it also is a line in the poem that supports the linear narrative of the poem itself. So, I'm going to start first with the uppercase, I in it, and these are wonderful scrap bookie, adhesive letters I use an exact double blade to get the letter off, it's much easier than using your nail and I just decide where I want to put the type. I think I'm going to put it right about here and then I press down super easy, it does take a lot of time. Now, if you end up doing this a lot, you're going to find that there will be times where you run out of letters. What do you do especially if it's three in the morning? It's very easy as I've discovered to make some letters out of others. For example, you can make an A which is a very frequently used letter out of an upside down V and an F. So, you can use other lesser used letters to make letters that you need. Ran out of an O, use an uppercase Q. You will be surprised. You'd be very surprised to know how many letters actually appear quite frequently and sort of fly under the radar of recognition. For example, the letter K is used really frequently. It's in a lot of words as is the letter H. The letter H is in the word the, probably the most used word in the English language. Yet, who really thinks very much about the Hs? It's always the Ts, it's always the Es. I'm deciding where the letters go based on just basic intuition and there are times when I'll do a page and I'll feel that the lettering and the spacing is all wrong and I'll have to redo it, which is really unfortunate, but I am really really picky about where things end up. So, I do like to have a sense of flow but a lot of that is going to be as you're doing it by eye. Again, since you're not doing it on the computer. There are times when I am using a lot of type where I will do a sketch in the computer first. Where I will actually type out what I'm about to write, use it in the same exact size and font that I'm using the adhesive type or the felt type, and then I'll be able to create a layout that then I can amend and augment because I don't want to do necessarily pages and pages and pages of experiments if I know exactly what I want to say and I have a limited amount of space, then I'll spend a lot of time actually thinking about the spacing in a computer and then bring it back into the real world with the materials. One of the things that I like most about drawing letter forms by hand is how expressive a specific letter can be. You can actually create a plaintive E. You can actually create a really emotive lowercase A, just by wherever you put the tail. So, I think that when you're drawing types, spend a lot of time thinking about what the feeling is that the letters can convey because you can do so much when you're doing it by hand. When I first did this, I didn't know that I was actually going to end up putting a poem on top of it. So, by the time I got to this blue piece here, I got bored of doing the straight lines and ended up doing a zigzag which I actually like. I also did this piece well after the poem was completed, I ended up including this piece in my book self-portrait Azure trader and each piece needed a title page. So, I created this way after and thus you can see how different it looks. "You didn't realize I had died until you walked in and found me freezing under the beige blanket we both hate. While relaying the news to my friends, you decided it was good that I went so quickly. In mulling this over since, I'm unclear who had benefitted most. You couldn't know that I woke before I went. It was 2:15 a.m. Scruffy was sleeping by my side. Duff started looking my face and suddenly, suddenly I couldn't see. Remorse raced up through my arms and exploded in my head. It took a long time for my brain to wind down. And I cried to myself it was too fast, too soon, too, too. I tried to hold on as I felt the dogs slip away from my side. I have traveled a long way since then, way past Saturn and Pluto. I like that I can see them up close, but I hate that they wave as I pass." 10. Conclusion: You finish your visual story and what do you do after that? You can enjoy it, you can hang it up on your wall, you can give it away as a gift, you can photograph it. As far as my work, what I ended up doing was including it in a book that came out last year called Self-Portrait As Your Traitor, which is a collection of essays that I did, visual essays. So, you could see here why we needed the cover page. Brent Taylor is the man who photographed all of this and he did, I think a really magnificent job of keeping the shadows that were necessary to give the type depth, as well as the accuracy of the colors. He photographs all of my work. I consider him to be a really integral part of the process of making my visual art. I was asked by to create mini cards, and so, what I ended up doing was taking excerpts of all the art from the book including fairly well, and created these little cards, which I sort of feel are like refrigerator art, the magnets where you can make your own poems in your own statements. So, what I did was just cut up all different pieces of the artwork, and created ways that you can create your own visual poems from the work that was already made. I mean I like to experiment, I like to imagine what something can look in a different way. I was asked to submit a piece to a group exhibit in Brooklyn and decided to print the whole thing on fabric. I used, they make fabric out of anything, and so the whole piece is here in one place on fabric. So then, I decided to take the panel that said it took a long time, and I turned it into a clock. I uploaded my art to Society6 where you can make all sorts of objects. I hope that you've created a story that you feel you've edited, you've drawn, you've created, you've made into one narrative. The visual narrative, and the language all coming together to create one cohesive expressive piece. I'd love to see what you've done. Upload your sketches, your process, pieces, your final piece to Skillshare, and please comment on it. The greatest way to learn is to seek out criticism, to seek out feedback, to seek out a way in which to see things that you might not have seen yet about your own work. So, leave feedback, contribute, keep editing, keep making, and keep creating visual stories.