‘Eezy Peezy’ is a series of books that aims to illustrate essential concepts of today and tomorrow, in simple drawings, and for all people. I believe we can engage people of all ages through well-referenced, simple stories that make accessible complex concepts such as Machine Learning, Data Privacy, Food, Genetics, Climate Change or the future of Governance.
I want to put to work my ability to explain complex ideas in a simple language through art and storytelling, and do so combining my years of experience working in technology, international development, and traveling and meeting exceptional individuals who are at the edge of their fields of study in cryptography, microbiology, food, virtual reality, space exploration and more.
Eezy Peezy is an idea that has been marinating in my mind for a long time. Soon after I started University, I entered the world of innovation and future technologies. As a generalist, I organically sought breadth over depth, and navigated across different fields such as Environmental Engineering, Data Science, Global Politics, Economics, Food Waste, Energy and Climate, and Machine Learning. I always tried to understand the bigger picture, how they all connect with one another, and make up the world we live in.
One of my strengths is to know how to adapt my language and explain the same thing in different, engaging ways for different audiences, which I acquired through my previous experience in Innovation and Design Thinking. For the past four years, I have taken on innovation roles, being Innovation Manager at a strategy consultancy in London, and Head of Innovation at a startup harnessing technology for conflict resolution in the Middle East and East Africa. I worked mostly with partners and beneficiaries on the ground, designing, iterating and evaluating the systems and products we were building together. A lot of it was design thinking, and I spent a lot of time facilitating workshops, trying to smooth out communication between different interest groups, and in general making things happen!
So now, I want to turn this strength into something many more people can benefit from. I also think that artists should and will be at the forefront of many of the paradigm shifts our world will be experiencing in the coming years. I recently just became a full-time, committed artist, and a such l have a lot to learn and I don’t want to (can’t!) do it alone. I want to be surrounded by and work closely with artists and find new mentors, who I can learn from new skills and mindsets.
CONTENT & AUDIENCE
Each book in the series will tell a children story that describes important themes for the future, and explain the implications of each topic implicitly in the narrative. A special element of these stories is that they will be referenced, meaning that when a concept is introduced in the story (e.g. epigenetics, or encryption), it will have a footnote and on the second half of the book the concepts will be explained in a paragraph with simple language. In other words, the concept will appear implicitly in the story narrative, and will be explained in plain English explicitly at the end. In this way, both adults and children can be introduced to complex concepts through the simple and gentle narrative of a children's story.
Eezy Peezy books purposefully use a language, narrative structure, and content aimed at people of all ages, from a seven-year-old all the way to an old grandma sitting in her armchair. The design will be similar to children books: simple language, large illustrations, light and straightforward stories. They will be books that parents want to read to their children because they will learn too. Or children to read by themselves. Or adults to read and understand concepts that we often can’t get our minds around. I believe we can create books that guide us all and speak to us all. I draw inspiration from the universal language and values found in The Little Prince and the power of narratives and stories such as Black Mirror. I want to mix both to create global stories that are engaging, informative and accessible to children and adults alike, that will help us better understand the basics of paradigm shifts that will shape the future.
SETTING & CHARACTERS
Every story in the book will be different, but the universe in which they happen is the same. Over a series of brainstorming sessions, I have come up with five main characters will appear across the series: Salmon, Hot Pink, Mustard, Cyan and Mint - below you can read a bit more about each of them. They are not set on stone and I'm always willing to rethink them with mentors and guides.
I'm excited about this character set because I feel it gives space for a lot of imagination and opportunity. After discussing names with different people, I gave them the color they're made of as their name, to make the characters culture-agnostic and because if we want to bring in a new character later on, we can simply choose a new color and name them that way! For example, one of the topics I would like to write an Easy Peasy book about in the medium-term is about what different religions and spiritual paths around the world have in common. To explain the idea of balance, I'll introduce two new characters: Yin and Yang, which will be White and Black. I also don't plan to address them by he or she, and instead will call them by their name.
Salmon is nerdy and explains many different things to the rest of the family - kind of like a lemon-shaped encyclopedia! That makes Salmon pretty cool. Hot Pink has great style, force of personality, elegance in speech and action, and charm. Hot Pink leads the family through the adventures through its clear and kind mind, and brave actions. Mustard is delicateness, warmth, home-ness and gentleness, is always keeping an eye out for all the rest, and encompasses the spirit of togetherness and respect for one another. Cyan loves to play, and sees the fun in everything, all the time. Cyan loves to dance and has a bird named Bird living in its funky hair. Another fun fact? Cyan doesn't speak - the bird speaks instead! Mint brings peace of mind, balance and mindfulness to the group. Mint floats around, and doesn't need to do much to feel fulfilled and happy.
Inspiration & REFERENCES
There is a big wave aimed at explaining more things more simply out there. There are many inspiring initiatives that aim to explain complex concepts in simple terms. XKCD and WaitButWhy are doing a beautiful and really successful job at explaining relevant topics to today's world. I find inspiration in their accessible language and thoughtfulness, yet I think we can take that and create stories of greater artistic quality and more beautiful drawings. That said, their follower base shows there is a need for straightforward explanations. We just need to google a few simple searches to really see how much people seek simple talk:
Other groups such as TED-Ed, GlobalPOV, WhyMaps, or Pictoline prove the need for artists to step up and help people visualize key topics. They craft explanations using beautiful and often interactive art. I find huge inspiration too in the delicate and touching children book's illustrations of Quentin Blake and Francisco Meléndez.
Top: Pictoline, TED-Ed | Bottom: Quentin Blake, Francisco Melendez
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I find deep motivation in the ability of Beatrix Potter, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Maurice Sendak and Crockett Johnson to write and illustrate timeless stories. They have mixed art, storytelling and very simple language and visuals to truly bring people together. And interestingly, all of them rejected the idea that they were writing children's books, stating that their books were for everyone.
Top: Potter, de Saint-Exupéry | Bottom: Sendak, Johnson
WHY NOW? WHY ME?
I believe artists are and will continue to be responsible for communicating key ideas, emotions and paradigms in accessible, engaging and beautiful ways. I believe also that there is too much noise around macro-trends and so much extrapolation on their implications on our future world. And the quality content, in the form of great publications or in-depth analyses, are often inaccessible to the wider public, let alone children.
I feel I am uniquely placed, given my background, interests and skills, to explain these topics in a simple format using art and children storytelling. What if we could guide a seven year old through the basics of cryptography, or data privacy, or food waste? What if I could inform my sixty-five year old mother (and the generation she represents) about the implications of CRISPR-related breakthroughs for the cure of cancer? In a way, my vision is for Eezy Peezy books to become both 'adult books' for children and 'children books' for adults.
Above: my illustrated explanation of Trump's Immigration ban (Jan 2017)
NOW wHAT? WHO WITH?
I have committed to making this project happen regardless, launching the first Eezy Peezy book (the Crypto Series) by late June 2018, and I feel I'm on the right path and doing today everything I can to make it happen. But still, I know I still have a lot to learn, I don’t want to do this alone, but surrounded by other amazing artists and mentors that can catalyze my learning, the potential of the project, and my ability to tell important, complex projects in simple doodles for all.
Having collaborated closely with artists in my recent Iceland art residency has made me realize the powerful work that can happen when you create strong bonds and let yourself be inspired by other artists. I am just starting to be surrounded by artists who inspire me, support me and teach me new tools and show me that there's always more to my art than what I thought. Now, I am looking to receive the support and the know-how that I need to continue to bloom as an artist.