Visual Storytelling at The New Yorker Magazine

Every executive should master the art of storytelling, an essential skill when trying to explain concepts, ideas, and plans.


Jul 19, 2015

Every executive should master the art of storytelling. It is an essential skill when trying to explain concepts, ideas, and plans, so they unfold naturally and make sense to the listener. Telling a story is essential to everyone attempting to sell a product or pitch an idea. In all these scenarios, storytelling is an important and strategic business tool

Storytelling has essential elements, whether you a senior executive presenting to the board of directors, an IT manager hoping to increase budget, or a startup founder pitching investors. Consider shaping the story in a narrative arc, which can also be summarized in four stages: exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action. In summary, good stories have a particular kind of flow.

During a recent episode of CXOTalk, long-time cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine, Liza Donnelly, gave us first-hand experience of how a story develops and unfolds. During the conversation, she drew a complete cartoon, explaining the meaning while showing us the process.

As she draws the picture, Liza illuminates the act of storytelling by demonstrating the beginning, middle, and end. You can watch this unique unfolding in the video clip below.  Also enjoy the entire discussion on the CXOTalk site.

This article first appeared on ZDNet.


Liza: It may take me a minute, but I will come up with an idea.

Liza: We could keep talking because this will take me a few minutes.

Michael: I’m watching this and seeing it take shape. The logical part of my mind understands what’s happening here. I have yet come to grips with the fact that this thing is taking shape.

This representation of a person and it’s a story that’s happening as you’re drawing. Beginning with the shape of the head and then the computer and then the table, and now out of the story there’s another person.

The first one, it’s hard to tell if it’s a man of a woman, and now clearly there is a woman here and she’s having some type of interaction or exchange or dynamic with this man. This is all emerging out of your mind. It appears to be some kind of office, and what the hell is going on here? This is emerging as we’re talking; where is this coming from?

What actually is taking place here? There’s this aspect of it that I find magical. The story is happening. She’s sitting on a chair and this is definitely some type of work environment, you know, the big conference table, and there’s some action happening here.

Liza: So I’m going to do this and you’ll know that it’s a woman. I shouldn’t have to do that, but…

Michael: There’s probably parts of her anatomy that I didn’t quite get.

Liza: But even still if – and this table’s a little funky, but.

Michael: Yes, and it’s also small on my screen, but you have these two women, and it looks like a job interview may be. No, wait, there’s something else going on here.

Vala: He has his back to the women.

Michael: Oh my, there’s this whole social vignette that’s taking place.

Liza: This is so interesting, I’ve never done it – I’ve drawn live for people before, but I’ve never drawn live and people comment on what I’m doing.

Michael: The live cartoon commentary.

Vala: Is Michael’s commentary changing the story I hope not.                     

Liza: No, no

Michael: Okay, so we have this…

Vala: High school lunchroom, the boys are together, and the girls are together. I hope Joanna Young is watching, this was inspired by your request on Twitter which is pretty cool.

Michael: There’s this whole scene taking place here. It’s all visual but I feel like I’m reading the novel and sort of observing the story unfold and wondering what the end of the story will be.

Liza: Right.

Michael: Even though it’s visual it’s like somehow mentally it becomes no different really than a novel in terms of the unfolding.

Liza: Interesting. Let’s see.

Michael: So we do have this kind of lunchroom thing going on, as Vala mentioned, of the men hanging together and the women. You have sort of symbolic women being hired, or left on the side where actual stuff of business is taking place excluding them.

Liza: You know, we see some change happening but the change and that’s good, the hiring of women is not fast enough in many cases, but it’s the culture. It’s the tone of the culture that also needs to change.

Published Date: Jul 19, 2015

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 210