Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

cartoon20n-3-webIn an instructional talk given to the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club, in March 1911, newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane coined the phrase “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” Contemporary idiomatic use may have modified the phrase ever so slightly, yet Brisbane’s axiom remains universally agreed upon and frequently employed. A little research would suggest that Brisbane’s phrase was ever so slightly derivative and perhaps numerically understated even. For example, a character within Ivan S. Turgenev’s 1862 novel, ‘Father and Sons’, opines “[This] drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book”. Unless, each page of Turgenev’s hypothetical book contained pages of no more than one hundred words, it seems that an element of textual deflation of several degrees had occurred between the scribings of Turgenev and Brisbane. If, in spite of numerical differences, both these learned gentlemen are correct in principle, then the typographically reductive nature of modern day social media, best depicted by the one hundred and forty characters of Twitter, was perhaps therefore inevitable. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the advancement of image technology and the reduction in the number of words needed. Think of Instagram as a perfect almost wordless example of this seemingly immutable law of inverse picture/word relationship. Continue reading


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