the sally sisson blog

January 26, 2011

The Power of Cartoons: TED Talk on Feminism, Humor and World Peace


Click here to watch: Liza Donnelly: Drawing upon humor for change | TED Talk

How cool is this?

New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly shares a portfolio of her wise and funny cartoons about modern life—and talks about how humor can empower women to change the rules.

Her latest project supports the United Nations initiative Cartooning For Peace. The exhibit “The Folly, Fun and Flexibility of Women” showcases cartoons by artists from around the world.

Women as change agents

“Visual humor has the ability to reach the viewer quickly and succinctly, speaking not only to the intellect, but also to the heart. Rather than reify, laughter has the power to break down stereotypes and unchallenged beliefs.”

“We can change this thing… one laugh at a time.”

Click here to see a gallery of Liza’s cartoons. Her latest book, When Do They Serve the Wine?, is available on


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November 4, 2010

Left vs. Right: Re-visualizing the political spectrum (in polarizing times)

l vs r

Click for full size version:

Left vs. Right: A Visualization of the Political Spectrum

Fair and balanced

Back in January I posted this infographic on my Facebook page as an interesting example of information design. I found it thought-provoking, but didn’t bother to articulate why.

Then this morning, I was watching a TED talk on YouTube with information designer David McCandless, and up popped the same chart. (Ironically, I had just come indoors after pulling my collection of political yard signs out of the ground, hoping to appease my neighbors.)

Viewing the graphic nearly a year later, in the aftermath of the cut-throat mid-term elections, it struck me as quaint and out of date. The hues of red and blue now looked too subdued, the lines too soft around the edges. It’s a friendly looking graphic, in contrast to the technicolor FOX News one in my mind.

And I guess that’s part of the point — and perhaps the chief reason it begs a second look. These are polarizing times, and we desperately need to find some commonality.

Oh say, can you see…

As McCandless eloquently described the thought process behind his infographic, I scribbled down his words (on Post-its, the back of an envelope, and the margins of the comics section of the Boston Globe). Here’s the bit that resonated with me most:


“When I was designing this image, I desperately wanted this side, the left side, to be betterthan the right side (…being a journalist type, a left-leaning person). But I couldn’t because I would have created a lopsided, biased diagram. So in order to really create a full image I had to honor the perspectives on the right-hand side, and at the same time I had to sort of, uncomfortably, recognize how many of qualities were actually in me—which was really, really annoying… and uncomfortable.

“But not too uncomfortable … because there’s something unthreatening about seeing a political perspective versus being told or forced to listen to one.

You’re capable of holding conflicting viewpoints, joyously even, when you can see them.”

consiousnessA matter of perspective

“That’s what’s exciting for me: to see how data can change my perspective and change my ideas, even mid-stream.”

— David McCandless, author of Information is Beautiful,
available on and at

Watch the entire TED Talk here:

David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization

(Click on link above. The Left vs. Right bit is at 14:50.)

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April 10, 2010

Overcoming Creative Block (part 3): Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity

ElizabethTED Talk: Nurturing creativity

I love this video clip. I watched it a year ago and just watched it again—twice in two days. As the TED intro says, it’s surprisingly moving—on many levels.

It covers ego, insecurity, the creative process, mental instability, fear of failure, perfectionism, the Ancient Greeks and Tom Waits.

It’s for writers, artists, anyone who’s anguished over, as Gilbert puts it, “the utterly maddening capriciousness of the creative process.”

The author of Eat, Pray, Love turns the whole notion of creative genius on its head and ponders the use of ancient muses to create distance between the person and the product. In the end, she comes around to a common sense approach to the entire process and lauds the value of  “just showing up.”

In other words, lightening doesn’t have to strike every time you type a sentence.

“Don’t be daunted, just do your job.” That’s her closing line.

Good advice, indeed.


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