Gchatting with Jennifer Daniel

Bloomberg Businessweek’s graphics director on pictograms, clowns, and outsourcing sex ed to Yahoo! Answers
11:44 am Michael: Hey, Jennifer.

11:46 Jennifer: hello hello!
look at me i’m typing in REAL TIME
11:47 Michael: Whoa!
(Though you might have a Gchat autoresponder.)
Jennifer: “your IM is important to me. please hold”
11:48 Michael: Well, I’d love to interview the automated Jennifer Daniel or the real one, if now is a good time.
Jennifer: yes i love the gchat
11:50 quick meeting but i’ll be right back 🙂

———–12 minutes

12:02 pm Jennifer: back!
12:05 Michael: So I interviewed
Richard Turley [Bloomberg Businessweek’s creative director] a month ago,
and he brought you up as one of the reasons why the magazine is able to
tell stories so well.
12:06 He said: “We have this insanely good graphics director called
Jennifer Daniel who we kind of stumbled on accidentally. She’s just kind
of crazy. She doesn’t respond to briefs in the same way as a lot of
people do. She doesn’t really have a very conventional head on her
Jennifer: HA HA
He’s very kind to say that.
12:07 The first time Richard emailed me was sort of like magic
12:09 and then my phone rang
and he hasn’t been able to get rid of me since
12:12 Michael: If you don’t have a conventional head on your shoulders, I’m curious how you’d describe the one you have.
Jennifer: Pretty.
That’s what my mom says at least.
12:13 No really, i mean I’m not sure
i don’t do a lot of self-reflection
Michael: I found this quote from you: “I have no idea what I am doing and I often say or do wildly inappropriate things.”
12:14 Jennifer: hahahahaha
12:17 I guess I try to keep things interesting. I am a slave to making people laugh.
12:18 It’s much easier to get someone interested in content they aren’t
familiar with if you hoodwink them into thinking it’s entertaining
when in actuality it’s about an old rich fat man
Michael: Ha ha
Jennifer: I don’t mean I’m trying to FOOL anyone and I don’t want to be a clown
12:19 clowns are NOT FUNNY
I try to think what is interesting, what is provocative
and getting someone to think and laugh then that resonates more
12:20 also it reflects well on me. Like I am smart too!

———–17-minute aside on alchemy, metalsmiths, cheese, 13th-century Italian poets, and Bob Dylan

12:37 Michael: Some elements reappear week to week—the Neurath-ish figures, the arrows—but in very different ways.
12:38 I guess what I’m wondering is how you see the visual language of the magazine.
Jennifer: Oh sure, people have been using arrows though since cavemen days 🙂
I guess the magazine visually isn’t divorced from the content
12:39 they really have a similar attitude
and approach
The magazine can be read a couple of ways
flipping through it, big numbers, dramatic photos, grabby headlines
you get a skim of the week
the structure is set up for people with the attention span of Bart Simpson
but then you can sit down with it and study it
study the charts
like Lisa Simpson
12:40 (to be honest the bart simpson and lisa simpson analogy i stole from Matt Ericson at the Times)
12:44 Michael: Have you always been drawn to pictograms?
I can’t always tell which illustrations are yours—I’m guessing they’re mostly the uncredited ones.
12:46 Jennifer: Well, I like pictograms
because they are familiar
working with a visual language that people know
and then fucking with it
giving it a twist to hopefully say something new
it’s being able to find something everyone has noticed but not been able
to articulate that I guess I try to do with my illustrations
12:47 Jennifer: Yeah, in the magazine I graffiti the issue, pick up pages, add little things here and there
like a fairy illustrator
Richard calls them “jennifers”

———-Jennifer eats lunch

12:55 Michael: This is Print’s “power” issue, so I wanted to ask a hard-hitting question.

———-She has a salmon-and-cheese sandwich

1:00 Michael: Who/what do you think is
the most important person/thing in the design world today?
Jennifer: Jeeze!
Designers take themselves so seriously!
1:01 I think google images
Or maybe yahoo answers
Michael: What’s the best question you’ve asked Yahoo Answers?
1:02 Jennifer: Well i went roller skating
and i held hands with a boy
and the next day i’m pregnant

Photograph by Ross Mantle