THE BIGGER STORY – Holly Foster Media


The United States has two major political parties, represented here by the blue donkey on the left (the Democratic Party) and the red elephant on the right (the Republican party). These two parties control almost all of the political power in the country at the Federal level.

The showdown is central in the mind of “everyperson” (the image of the head), showcasing the attention the presidential battle is garnering. They face each other, eye to eye, in battle. It is not only a battle for the White House, shown in the background, but also a battle of wills.

A battle of wills is a situation that involves people who try to defeat each other by refusing to change their own aims or demands and hoping that their opponents will weaken first. 

There is no negotiation here. The face-off shows the current “partisan politics” that have become the norm in the U.S.

“We the People” are shown on the front lawn, each standing on their respective party’s colors; blue on the left for Democrats and red on the right for Republicans. Their thought bubbles, also color coded, display where each party stands on five hotbed issues:

  1. Gun control
  2. The wall (Mexico-United States barrier)
  3. Abortion
  4. Immigration
  5. Climate Change

The “no symbol,” a red circle with a slash, indicates their opposition to the issue.

The founding fathers created the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights to ensure our citizens were able to live in freedom. Voters exercise their freedom to choose their representatives through voting, depicted as the red, white and blue star-decorated voting box shown at the base of the “everyperson.”

Each symbol stands on its own, but the interpretation of them as a whole is unique to each viewer. For some it speaks of the brokenness of a largely two-party system; for others the current divisiveness of the United States. And yet others may see issues such as freedom of choice, the right or the need to vote, or even the current power of the Republican Party as the incumbent in the presidential race.

Visual Storytelling

“Stories can be used to explain or to help the audience explore a topic” (Watson, 2017).

Hugh Watson, Professor of MIS at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, at the University of Georgia, details a set of storytelling best practices in his recent article published in the Business Intelligence Journal. They are:

  1. Focus on the story.
  2. Know your audience.
  3. Establish the setting.
  4. Define the characters.
  5. Define the problem or conflict.
  6. Show the resolution and future.

Let’s look at each one.

The Story

The reflection. The thought bubbles that hover on either side of the image depict the beginning of the story. Our political system encourages a reflection of our own belief system and how we feel about the hotbed issues happening in our country.

The choice. In our quest to have our voice heard, we choose the party (or candidate) that most closely matches our belief system.

The vote. We believe our voice has been heard as we cast our vote. The story ends at the ballot box.

The Audience

The viewer can deduce from the background image that it is an American story, but you don’t have to be an American to understand the duality of the image. The battle of wills shown in the center image is also a battle of the mind. Our vote is a precious freedom, and it requires a great deal of thought to employ that right wisely.

The Setting

The lawn of the White House makes this an American story, but the struggle inherent in a democracy can also apply elsewhere.

The Characters

Each side of the U.S. democracy is equally represented, with the only exception being the size of the Republican elephant symbol. It is based on real life dimensions, but could also be interpreted as showing the power of the incumbent president’s party affiliation.

The Conflict

Once again, it is a battle of wills and a battle of the mind. The parties engage in a duel for the power of the presidency.

The Resolution and the Future

The election results hold the key to the future.

The Overall Message

Although the two-party system in the United States has its inherent weaknesses, it still allows Americans to exercise their freedom of choice. It is my hope that this image will encourage the viewer to reflect not only on their personal beliefs, but on the effectiveness of a wider political system designed to keep their freedoms intact.

until nxt time …

Want a closer view? Download the PDF version.


Battle of wills definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Nix, E. (2018, October 28). Election 101: How did the Republican and Democratic parties get their animal symbols? Retrieved from:

Political parties in the United States. (2019). In Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from:

Watson, H.J. (2017). Data Visualization, Data Interpreters, and Storytelling. Business Intelligence Journal. 22. 5-10.

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1 thought on “THE BIGGER STORY

  1. Holly, the image you designed is a beautiful rendering of the top five issues that are on the minds of Americans as we head toward an election year in 2020. You also depict a country that is divided in its viewpoints of societal issues.

    The White House is in the background and a ballot box with a checked ballot is on the foreground. You feature the two major political parties in the United States. On the left (left-wing/liberal political views), you have the Democratic Party, represented by the blue donkey. The Democrats support the following issues:

    • Gun control – in favor of regulating the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, modification, or use of firearms by civilians, especially in light of the many recent fatal shootings in the United States
    • Reproductive rights – having the ability to decide whether and when to have children
    • Climate change/global warming policy
    • Equal pay for equal work (for women)
    • No border wall between the United States and Mexico

    Conversely, on the right (right-wing/conservative political views), you have the Republican Party, represented by the red elephant. The Republicans have opposite viewpoints of the aforementioned issues. They believe in the following:

    • Gun rights (Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear arms)
    • Pro-life – they oppose abortion
    • Do not fully support climate change/global warming policy
    • Republicans voted against a bill to close the gender wage gap
    • In favor of building the Mexico-United States barrier (the border wall) to prevent illegal immigration from Mexico into the U.S.

    You use the blue to represent the Democrats (supporters are standing on a blue ground and their thought bubble is in blue), while you use the red to represent the Republicans (supporters are standing on a red ground and their thought bubble is in red).

    Since the individuals were silhouetted, it was difficult to determine what emotions they were evoking. However, based on their body language and mannerisms, they appear confident, vigilant and defiant in their beliefs.

    You did a great job in implementing the following Gestalt principles:

    Simplicity – your use of simple shapes and objects created a thought-provoking image of the American mindset.

    Proximity – the five political issues are laid out closely together.

    Symmetry – the image is a mirror reflection of each political party. If one were to fold your image in half, one will see a symmetrical design.

    Common Region – in the human mind image, you use the common region principle to show the American mindset inside a single human silhouette. You continued this principle in the thought bubbles, wherein you displayed the political issues that are in the forefront of the American voters. You helped us visualize that these issues are very important and demand attention.

    Including the issues in the thought bubbles allows us to perceive them as coexisting within that space. It reminds me of the Pixar example used in the Canva article “Simplicity, symmetry and more: Gestalt theory and the design principles it gave birth to.” In the poster for Pixar’s “Inside Out,” artists Stacey Aoyama and Eric Tan use a human silhouette to unify the movie’s characters.

    Enclosure – things that appear to have a boundary are considered grouped and related. The thought bubbles house the five political issues burning on the minds of the American voters.

    Figure-ground – in your design, the mind of the individual with the two political parties is the figure, while the ground is the thought bubbles.

    Your use of the color gray for the silhouette and the voters signifies a sense of sadness, melancholy and brooding, according to the The Next Web article “Web design color theory: how to create the right emotions with color in web design,” by Jerry Cao.

    Your design concepts help illustrate the issues that are top of mind to American voters in the 2020 election. You did an outstanding job in using storytelling concepts to communicate what can often be a difficult topic to explain. You accomplished what Hugh Watson writes in his article “Data Visualization, Data Interpreters, and Storytelling.” Storytelling concepts achieve the following:

    • Help people understand the substance of an idea rapidly.
    • Help them remember facts better.
    • Are memorable and fun.

    Great job, Holly!

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