Record

A new face appeared on page 1 of the Wall Street Journal Journal on Nov. 18. At least, a new kind of face did. In the leftmost column, snuggled up beside the second and third paragraphs of a Greg Ip article about Alan Greenspan’s record, there was a tiny rendering of Mr. Greenspan—a tiny, cute rendering of Mr. Greenspan. The Fed chairman’s nose was an elongated pentagon, point downward. His eyebrows were line segments, seemingly drifting away from each other. His itty-bitty necktie was blue, his face a deep, rich pink. He looked as if he were preparing to deliver a lecture on the longterm economic implications of productivity gains to the Powerpuff Girls. To say that The Wall Street Journal follows certain conventions of portraiture is like saying that Cardinal Edward Egan has a steady Sunday-morning routine. The Journal’s standard half-column-wide, engraved-looking images of it’s story subjects are a prized part of the paper’s lore—so fetishized that the paper reserves one of the links on its sparely designed corporate Web site for an explanation of them. “‘Hedcuts’, as they are called,” the document says, “are dot drawings composed of tiny ink dots and lines illustrated by artists using pen and ink, not computers.” Producing them is a six-stage effort, according to the official explanation, in which photographs get cropped, traced and shaded to Journal specifications: “The entire process takes from 3 to 5 hours. Great attention is paid to shadows and highlights.” “It looks expensive, those things,” said Brooklyn-based illustrator Stephen Savage, who drew the shadow-free version of Mr. Greenspan.

Excerpt from Off the Record, by Tom Scocca, The New York Observer, 11/29/05