The 3D Essay
A publication built around Data, Art, and Collective Action
Helloooo and welcome! I’m Morgan, illustrator and writer of the publication Figures.
Today is the launch of a project that has been brewing in my heart, mind, and sketchbook for a few months now. I’m excited to finally share it with you and thrilled you’re here with me. Consider this a prologue to the publication; the essay that will set the stage for what to expect as a reader.
What is Figures?
Did you say 3D Essay? Yes, I did.
Why it’s called Figures?
What will Figures discuss?
What is Figures?
Figures is a collection of illustrated essays on how we tackle the big stuff.
The world today is really complicated. We need to dramatically reduce our impact on the planet to mitigate further climate change. We need to address the growing wealth gap and flaws in American capitalism. We need to reckon with our country’s past in order to redesign our political, social, and economic systems to be equitable and just.
And yet, so many of us are burnt out. We are buried under unprecedented productivity expectations, competing obligations, crippling debt, and on and on. We know this ‘do it all’ lifestyle is not working, but we don’t know how to claw our way out. How can we expect a generation of people completely under water to simultaneously grapple with and find solutions to some of the most complex problems humanity has yet to face?
Figures will examine these paradoxes with fresh perspective, merge deep thinking with lighthearted illustrations to inspire hope and rally collective action.
Did you say 3D essay?
Yes I did.
Each topic will be examined through three dimensions: Data, Art, and Action.
First, I’m both artist and engineer. My right brain and left brain are always firing, always arguing, always coming up with better ideas and solutions as a team than they would have on their own. My left brain wants to see the numbers and facts. My right brain wants to draw pictures, discuss the story, the people, the nuance. You’ll see those show up as Dimensions 1 and 2.
Second, I prefer action-taking over philosophizing. I don’t have all the answers, but I learn fast by doing and working with others. When we work together, small individual actions get supercharged. Then it’s just a matter of figuring out what exactly we should spend our precious energy on. That’s Dimension 3.
Numbers! Pictures!! Collective Action!!!
Why is it called Figures?
The word figure is a beautiful, multi-dimensional word with dozens of definitions, including being both a noun and a verb. You’ll notice I like multi-dimensional things.
1. Figures are numbers
A number symbol, numerical value, a multiplier (she makes six figures!)
Arithmetic calculations (good at figures)
Value expressed in numbers (sold at a low figure)
Facts and information help give us something to hold onto. Root us in reality and larger trends. At the same time, statistics can deceive us, so I’ll always do my best to to do diligent research before sharing numbers. If I ever screw up, I’ll make it right.
2. Figures are drawings, form, shape, and people. Figures is art.
A drawing or diagram conveying information. (see figure A on the board)
The representation of any form, as by drawing, painting, modeling, carving; especially, a representation of the human body. (action figure, stick figure)
To make an image of, either palpable or ideal; also, to fashion into a determinate form; to shape. (figure drawing)
A prominent personality (historical figure)
To represent by a metaphor; to signify or symbolize. (a figure of speech)
Visuals can sometimes make things easier to understand, more relatable. Often I’ll come across an image that makes me go that is exactly how i feel, I thought it was only me. Art makes us feel less alone in the fight, gives voice to the ‘hard to describe’. Art is better at dealing with the grey area, asking different questions, unpacking human behavior. Expect each post to have visuals as the centerpiece, drawn by yours truly.
3. Figure is an inclusive action. Figure has outward direction.
Figure becomes a verb in this dimension. We figure in, figure out, and figure forward.
To be, appear, take part, or be included in something: (Their names did not figure in the list of finalists)
To come to understand; To solve a problem. (I figured out how it works.)
To expect or predict that something will happen: (We figured you'd want some)
To make sense of something —used interjectionally in the phrase go figure to suggest that something is surprising or perplexing
To be rational, logical, or expected (that figures)
We figure in the data, the details, the various perspectives. We figure out the real problem, ask new questions, make sense of the mess. We figure forward on solutions, keep an open mind, and envision new possibilities.
What will Figures discuss?
Here is a laundry list of complex topics I have been learning and thinking about over the last year that I hope Figures can shed light onto over the coming months+ :
Climate impact and capitalism
A price on carbon/pollution
Income inequality and the growing wealth gap
Consumerism and debt
Exotic travel and social responsibility
Burnout and impossible standards
Social media and mental health
Homelessness and the housing crisis
Universal Basic Income and free money
Women’s health and lack of research
Systemic racism and Nationalism
Any of the above topics peak your interest? What issues feel too big to make real progress on right now? Are you already working on one of these issues?
Reply! I’d love to hear from you.
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I look forward to ‘figuring’ things out with you.
Looking forward to this!