Starting at 4:45am Maria gets up, reads the news, sketches, digitizes, and posts an editorial illustration for a selected headline.
That’s the daily routine behind Wordless News, an inspiring project by illustrator Maria Fabrizio that recently captured the attention of NPR’s Morning Edition, who interviewed her and invited her to spend a week creating images based on Morning Edition stories.
Illustration Age caught up with Maria to talk about Wordless News and her collaboration with NPR:
ILLUSTRATION AGE: What can you tell us about the Wordless News project, for those who haven’t heard of it?
MARIA FABRIZIO: Wordless news (One headline per day, vowel and consonant free) is a weekday creative exercise where I represent one story from the news in an illustration without verbal cues. The concept is a bit of a hybrid of political cartoon and editorial illustration. I bounce around to different news sources — NPR, New York times, USA today, etc to find content. I begin reading articles around 4:45am and wrap up the illustration by 10:00 am each morning. It’s a way for me to expand my awareness and curiosity while working on conceptual development skills and style as an illustrator.
I offer the illustration in a typical blog format but people can also subscribe to receive an email each morning once the post is up. When the email hits your inbox there are no tags or clues related to the article, so it’s a riddle of sorts. I’ve heard from many people that it’s an amusing break in their morning—an opportunity to attempt to guess the story or share it with others and engage in current events.
IA: You recently had the honor of being interviewed on NPR, as well as working with them to create Wordless News illustrations for an entire week. What was that experience like and how did it affect the images you made?
MF: It was a fantastic experience. I’ve been an NPR junkie for a long time — especially Morning Edition. It was very surreal to do the interview with David Greene, I’m so used to hearing his voice most mornings, and it was a bit shocking to chat with him one on one, then hear the broadcast piece that resulted.
Unlike most editorial work there wasn’t an art director overseeing anything or approving my sketches. They wanted me to go about the illustrations just as I do any other day so I had complete freedom. They didn’t leak any stories to me or drop hints on what would air so I just followed my normal routine. Once I was finished each day I passed along the image to the producer and they went up on the site.
I think the images from the week with NPR are a bit more specific and detailed than some of the other days where I address a big headline. I love finding conceptual solutions to scientific stories (robot) and ethical conversations (desegregation and medical marijuana), but I also enjoy creating images that are just plain fun (cronut). The stories from Morning Edition last week really offered an opportunity to explore a variety of news.
The exposure sent my email subscription numbers up by more than 4,000, and I received so many wonderful emails from people across the country. It was extremely rewarding to see how my passion project turned into something that people were interested in and appreciated.
IA: Any plans for the series going forward? A book perhaps?
MF: I’m planning to continue Wordless News into the foreseeable future and I’m hoping that it continues its momentum. I’ve started working on a book for the first year of Wordless News, which will wrap up in February and am hoping to have the opportunity to publish it. I’m also excited about opportunities to work on specific commissioned editorial work outside of the Wordless News project.