Exercise: Getting the gist

Brief #1

“Choose an editorial from a newspaper or magazine. Read it for information or pleasure as you would ordinarily. Read it again and this time highlight or underline key words which you think are important to conveying the meaning of the piece overall. You may find that you are choosing a single word per sentence or that your selection is dispersed throughout the text and denser in some areas than others”.

The words that result from this process are your starting point. You can now say to yourself “I’m going to create an image about….”

Now have a go at an illustration for your text. Try a number of different ideas or variations. Keep the drawings together with the text so you can refer back to them”.

Chosen Editorial | BBC News | 6th August 2019

  • The key words I selected are underlined in bold

China warns Hong Kong protesters not to ‘play with fire’

China has issued a strong warning to Hong Kong’s protesters, saying their attempts “to play with fire will only backfire“. A spokesman for China’s top policy office on Hong Kong told protesters not to “underestimate the firm resolve [of] the central government“.

Hong Kong has seen nine consecutive weeks of anti-government protests. On Monday, a call for a general strike caused severe disruption, and more than 200 flights were cancelled.

Protesters want an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, the complete withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill, and the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam.

The demonstrations have frequently ended in violent clashes with police. They are seen as a challenge to Beijing’s authority in the territory – and a reflection of how many Hong Kongers fear that their freedoms are being eroded.


  • China
  • Hong Kong protesters
  • Not to play with fire
  • Backfire
  • Government
  • Anti government protest
  • Police brutality
  • Resignation of Carrie lam
  • Clashes with police

Brief #2

“Read the text again. You may well find that your understanding of the text changes as you re-read it. This time focus specifically on the words that you have already selected. With a different colour, jot down the words that summarise the meaning of the entire text. Depending upon the nature of the content, this may be one single sentence or a string of words. This process of distilling and condensing the text will help focus on the message that needs to be communicated”.

After highlighting keywords from the article, I found that the main title of the editorial was really all I needed to create an illustration from. Looking deeper into the keywords as asked later in the brief, I feel I could work Carrie Lam into the image along with the police brutality. My main focus will be “not to play with fire”, “Protesters” and “anti-government”.

To quote the brief: “I’m going to create an image about Hong kong protestors being warned by the Chinese government not to play with fire”.


I wanted to focus on the “don’t play with fire” quote from the article. My initial thought was to have protestors fighting against a flame of some sort. I played with the idea of using the old saying “Don’t play with matches, or you will get burnt”. With this in mind, I began to rough out some ideas.

Some of my sketches included: a packet of matches laid on a map of Hong Kong, with a single match burning into the paper around the region. Another saw a hand holding a flame over protestors and the flames subtly representing the stars on the Chinese flag. And finally, protestors trying to fight against a striking match, with the packet showing the Chinese flag.

I like the ideas that I came up with, but I was finding it hard to portray where the threat was coming from and felt a more simplistic and governmental view might work better.

I then created the image below. A packet of matches bearing the Chinese flag. I thought this would sit well within the article as it shows the Chinese identity on something that could potentially cause harm.

Stripped down original idea

I then took the view from the government’s side and instantly thought of a propaganda poster. I used the same image of the matches I created and used it to design a poster. I thought this idea worked well as it translates the warning from the Chinese government into a visual.

Final version


I enjoyed this exercise, and I feel that my final piece works well with the article I chose. Looking back, I think I should have tried out some different ideas using other articles. I may have invested too much time into one design, although I am happy with the result.