Commissioned visuals for Dollars for Profs series
Working with illustrator María Hergueta on illustrating conflicts of interest in academia was a blast. The series comprised four investigative stories written by ProPublica reporters Annie Waldman and David Armstrong, plus a database made by Sisi Wei, Annie Waldman, and David Armstrong.
The series was a good candidate for illustration, since many of the people we were writing about weren’t keen to be photographed. So instead, we got to play with visual metaphors for hiding money in classrooms and universities.
María was game to make several illustrations for the series. She turned sketches around very quickly and her concepts were solid. We made a few edits — having a professor surreptitiously looking over his shoulder in the blackboard drawing, making the fluttering cash more apparent in the columns-and-curtain piece — and María finished them up. I appreciated how she coordinated color and texture across the set. It made the series feel visually cohesive.
My favorite illustration was one with a poorly hidden piggy bank behind a professor at a desk. I immediately understood “hidden money” when I saw the piggy bank. The prototypical shape, down to the curly tail, felt playful while still keeping with the serious themes of the story.