A fun — and simple — page-one illustration on housing issues

As I mentioned yesterday, I took a week off of my new job in Victoria, Texas, to teach in Fargo, N.D. One of the main topics we covered there: How to build centerpieces when you have little art to work with.

On my way home Saturday, I stumbled over this delightful example of exactly that from the Tennessean of Nashville.

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Bill Campling, a designer for the Gannett design studio in Nashville, tells me:

I put together the Saturday cover.

The main story was about the impact gentrification is having on affordable housing. The study the story refers to talks about Nashville’s efforts to maintain affordable housing as being haphazard.

The concept of the main package was based off of a conversation I had with reporter Tony Gonzalez that focused on the term “scattershot,” which was used specifically in the study.

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A graduate of the State University of New York at Brockport, Bill Campling worked at the State of Columbia, S.C.

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He moved to the Observer of Fayetteville, N.C. in 2008 and then to Nashville in 2011. Find his portfolio here.

A 2008 graduate of Hillsdale (Mich.) College, Tony Gonzalez was a merit scholar and editor-in-chief of the student paper.

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He interned at the Toledo Free Press, the Detroit News and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. After graduation, he spent three years with the Waynesboro, Va., News Virginian before moving to Nashville in 2011, where he specializes in stories about family issues. Find his Twitter feed here.

Also, I might add, my former Orange County Register news editor, Marcia Prouse, is now a storytelling coach at the Tennessean.

Average daily circulation of the Tennessean is 118,589.

Previous appearances of outstanding visuals from the Tennessean here in the blog:

  • Sept. 9, 2011: My favorite Obama jobs speech headline of the day
  • Jan. 12, 2012: Nashville Tennessean shows us what’s inside President Obama’s head
  • Feb. 4, 2012: Four clever and fun page-one illustrations
  • Feb. 12, 2012: Eight cleverly striking Sunday page-one visuals
  • Feb. 18, 2012: An appreciative reporter brags on the designer who worked on his story
  • Feb. 28, 2012: A few outstanding pages from last weekend, courtesy of Gannett’s Nashville Design Studio
  • March 20, 2012: Paths not taken today in Nashville
  • March 30, 2012: For your Friday enjoyment: Two truly clever illustrations
  • Aug. 19, 2012: A big day for illustrations on page one
  • Sept. 26, 2012: What you need is a big glass of whiskey
  • Oct. 23, 2012: Inside the Nashville Tennessean’s 10-page special report on athletic concussions
  • Nov. 6, 2012: Today’s five best Election Day front pages
  • June 26, 2014: Inside the Nashville Tennessean’s addicted baby presentation
  • June 30, 2014: Nashville Tennessean celebrates a college baseball championship

Features designer Julie Frady to join GateHouse hub in Austin

Features designer Julie Frady — with whom I’ve worked at two different times in my career — is moving to Austin, Texas.

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Julie and me on my first day of work at
the OC Register, two years ago this week.

Joe Greco, director of the GateHouse Center for News & Design in Austin announced a couple of weeks ago:

We are really excited about Julie joining our staff at the Center for News & Design. She’ll be joining a growing team of deputy design editors that tasked with designing front and project pages of some of our larger papers.

Along with Julie, the team of deputy design editors includes Ariana Torrey, Becca McGovern, Oscar Martinez and Jason Armstrong. They report to G.W. Babb, our senior deputy design editor.

Julie and the DDEs are part of a great team we’ve built here in Austin, Texas. But we have a ways to go. We have about 165 staffers right now and hope to hire many more this year.

We’re growing like crazy. We’re going to do our best to convince our candidates to consider Austin over the likes of, say, Victoria!

Actually, we just announced [Feb. 19] that GateHouse acquired Stephens Media, of which the Las Vegas Review-Journal is a part. The group includes eight dailies and 65 weeklies. Find out more at are just-launched site: www.centerfornewsanddesign.com.

A 1986 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Julie spent 11 years as a features art director for the Chicago Tribune and then six-and-a-half years as a senior features designer for the New York Post. She left New York in 2011 to move to the West Coast. She spent a few months doing contract work for the features department of the Los Angeles Times, and then a year as a senior features designer for the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif.

A few samples of Julie’s work:

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Until recently, she volunteered at the Aquarium of the Pacific, near where she lived in Long Beach. I’m not quite sure when Julie starts her new job here in Texas, but it’s pretty soon.

Birthdays for Tuesday, March 3

Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to two brilliant visual journalists…

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Lisa Horldt is a finance specialist at Lowe’s Home Improvement. A 2004 graduate of Ohio University, Lisa interned at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before joining the Courier News of Elgin, Ill. as a designer. She worked there for two years before moving to the Charlotte Observer in 2006 as a sports designer. After the Observer laid her off in 2008, Lisa moved across the freeway to Sporting News Today, a daily PDF sports e-newspaper. Sporting News pulled the plug on that publication in 2011. Lisa earned a degree in accounting from UNC Charlotte and went to work with Lowe’s in 2013. Find her Twitter feed here. She turns 33 today.

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David Putney is a user experience designer and front-end developer for Cantina of Boston, Mass. A 1995 graduate of Eastern Illinois University, David spent two years as a designer for Sun Publications of Naperville, Ill., before joining the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., in 1998. He became design director for Link — the Pilot‘s free youth tab — in 2006 and then moved to the online side a year later. He moved to the Boston Globe in 2012 and spent three years there as an internet producer and designer before moving to Cantina in January. Find his web site here and his Twitter feed here. Dave turns 46 today.

Lisa and David share a birthday with actors James Montgomery Doohan, Jessica Claire Biel, Julie Bowen, Isabella “Bella” Heathcote and Harlean Harlow Carpenter (better known as Jean Harlow); musicians Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson, Anthony Terrell Smith (better known as Ton Lōc), Jason Curtis Newsted (of Metallica) and Stacie Joy Orrico; sports greats Herschel Junior Walker, Santonio Holmes Jr. (both football) and Jacqueline “Jackie” Joyner-Kersee (track and field); TV chef Kevin Tyler Florence; YouTube star Toby Joe Turner (better known as Tobuscus); inventor Alexander Graham Bell; astronaut Bonnie Jeanne Dunbar; controversial South African politician Julius Sello Malema and radio-based journalist Ira Glass.

In addition, today is International Ear Care Day, Princess Day, World Wildlife Day, National Anthem Day, I Want You to Be Happy Day, Peace Corps Day and What if Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day. Seriously.

Best wishes, you two! Have a truly wonderful birthday!

Why I went to Fargo in February… and why I loved it

In the years since I left the cold, cold north — we moved out of Iowa back in 2003 — I’ve managed to throw out most of my warm clothes. No sweaters. No hats or heavy jackets. My snow boots dry-rotted years ago.

For the past 12 years, I’ve enjoyed living in relatively balmy Virginia Beach, Orange County and, now, South Texas. And, to give me some credit, I agreed to this teaching + consulting trip to Fargo, N.D., last fall, when I was toasty warm in Southern California. I just assumed I’d be able to deal with whatever mother nature threw at me.

So it was with a bit of alarm that I watched the extended forecast roll in the week before I left.

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That showed a full week below freezing and lows, four out of six nights, below zero. What it doesn’t show is the wind chill. And it’s very windy in Fargo, this time of year. This screen snapshot from my phone the day I departed showed a wind chill factor of minus 40.

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Minus 40. Wow.

In fact, it was closer to minus 30 when I arrived last Sunday night. Obviously, I survived.

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I took my thickest coat — which really isn’t all that thick — my one pair of gloves and the wonderful scarf that was a gift from my friends in South Africa. I left my usual Hawaiian-themed shirts at home and took the warmest clothes I could find in my closet. I have a limited number of long-sleeved shirts. I took all but two with me.

The hospitality I received from my new friends at the Forum of Fargo/Moorehead was just wonderful. Editor Matt Von Pinnon met me at the airport with two things: A sign, made by his daughter…

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…and a knit stocking cap. Which I didn’t actually use all week long. But Matt was afraid I’d hurt my ears walking around in the cold.

I arrived at my hotel — the Radisson, in downtown Fargo — just early enough to glimpse the area in the fading sunlight.

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It looked cold outside and it was. My hotel was, in fact, the tallest building in town. This is what it looked like, later in the week.

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I was on the sixth floor and I was never really uncomfortable at any time… as long as I was inside. The folks there know that, when you walk in, you’ll be awfully chilly. So they have this fire-burning heater set in the wall by the front door.

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I’d walk downstairs to find folks crowded around that thing, trying to thaw out their fingers.

Bright and early Monday, I had breakfast in the in-house restaurant on the second floor of the Radisson, from which I had a clear view of the Forum Communications building.

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That shows how far I had to walk in the frigid air every morning: Exactly one block. It took me maybe a minute.

Every day at 9 a.m. or so, I’d walk in the front door…

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…receive a friendly greeting from both the receptionist and from this bronze kid hawking newspapers…

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…and ride up the elevator to the newsroom, where they hold the morning news huddle every day at 9:15.

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Interestingly, they begin every morning huddle with a trivia quiz by Jack Zaleski, the editorial page editor sitting here to the right of Matt.

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Jack would read off five questions. Folks would write down their guesses on the back of their daily budgets and then compare their answers to Jack’s answers after the meeting.

I managed to hit five out of five on Tuesday. Which kind of made up for my dismal performances on the other days.

On Monday, we hooked up my laptop to the brand-new oversized newsroom flatscreen — They used my visit as an excuse to upgrade, I was told — and I gave an updated version of my Graphics for Word People talk and a presentation on basic charting.

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One of the things that delighted me about this trip was how quickly and how enthusiastically the staff of the Forum picked up on the lessons I bought them. We spent some time Monday looking at spectacular pages built by papers around the world, blowing most of the stories off page one — when the news merited it, of course.

That very afternoon, we discussed how to present the story about a hotly contested runoff election. Was a boxing metaphor appropriate? Yes it was. So I fished out of my hard drive a few Chris Morris illustrations from a while back and showed them to the Forum‘s super-terrific artist, Troy Becker.

Troy put his own spin on the idea and turned Tuesday’s front page into an entire boxing poster.

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Holy cow. It happened so fast that it really caught me off guard. That suggested these folks were really, really hungry for inspiration.

We also spent a lot of time talking about alternative approaches and things like quick-and-easy “big numbers” graphics. The Forum‘s design director, Jason Miller

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decided this was the way to go for Wednesday’s paper. And darned if he didn’t knock it out of the park.

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He even sampled the red color out of the photo, to help the centerpiece hold together.

Later in the week, we talked about skyboxes. Most newspapers build boring, ordinary skyboxes that aren’t very effective at catching anyone’s eye. Which, of course, defeats the purpose of a skybox in the first place. We talked about how skyboxes need to be selected more wisely, cropped better, constructed more effectively and written in a more snappy manner.

And occasionally, maybe — just maybe — a skybox might interact with the paper’s nameplate. We looked at a lot of examples of cool, eyecatching skyboxes. Everyone seemed to appreciate the session.

So, for Thursday’s paper, Troy illustrated the front of the daily features section…

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…and they decided they wanted to put this in the skybox. Troy’s artwork converted nicely for a fun piece of art. But that day, the staff went a step further when Troy suggested this catchy headline:

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So by midweek, I was completely knocked out by what the Forum staff was doing with the topics were were covering each day.

On Wednesday, however, we changed everything up. Forum Communications owns dozens of other papers around the region, including maybe 12 or 15 dailies. The ownership had asked all the other dailies if they wanted to attend a few sessions. I’m told they expected maybe a handful of additional people to show up. Instead, we had 45 or 50 responses.

This was too many people to see my presentations on the new widescreen and it was too many people to stuff into the largest conference room in the building. So for the first time in my life, I got to play Broadway.

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In order to get there from the hotel, I had to walk a block in the opposite direction from the newspaper, turn left and then walk another block. The meeting place was then directly across the street.

We met in a little building that held a coffee shop, an art studio and a marketing firm. In the back of the building was a cute little venue called Studio 222. The operator, Spider Johnk rents it out for speeches, concerts and whatnot.

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In fact, I had to giggle when I saw myself listed on their calendar.

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Every Friday night, Spider’s Studio 222 hosts a live jazz show. So the place had a basement jazz club kind of feel to it, including vintage advertising-type art.

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Naturally, I had to introduce myself to the gorgeous lady on the wall.

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Find Studio 222′s web site here and its Facebook page here.

Folks from all over the chain came to see my presentations. On a few occasions, folks from the Forum staff came over too, packing the place pretty tightly.

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Over the course of Wednesday and Thursday, I gave eight presentations there at Studio 222. I spoke on the aforementioned Skybox design and proactivity for visual journalists. I spoke on breaking news visuals and showed sketches from the old days when I covered plane crashes and shooting sprees.

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I spoke on alternative story forms and techniques for scrounging when centerpiece art is scarce. And, of course, I gave my old Art of Being Brilliant motivational talk. I hadn’t done that one in a while.

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And I showed folks some material I’ve not shown in a long, long time. I was especially delighted with this picture — one of the best ever taken of me teaching.

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One staffer tweeted this really awesome quote — one so awesome I don’t even remember saying it.

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Turns out, I was talking about the complicated blends in the water in that battleship graphic from 1995. The folks at Adobe told me the water was clearly drawn in photoshop and then placed as an eps image. But no, it was all vector blends. I don’t think they believed me until we sent them a copy of the graphic on a syquest disc.

The folks in Fargo me me feel like such a rock star. I just hope I made last week’s shows worth their time.

And, on occasion, I learned something new myself. I knew it was possible to create artwork on an iPad, but I hadn’t seen anyone actually do it until Friday, when Troy Becker showed me his cartoon work.

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Troy creates two cartoons a week for the Forum‘s sports section. He uses his iPad, a stylus and an application called Sketches.

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The pro edition of Sketches costs $4.99. Plus, you could pay an additional $1.99 for “more tools.” And then $1.99 for a layers version. And then $1.99 for a version enabled for use with a stylus.

So the outlay would could be as much as eleven bucks, depending on how you need to configure your app. But you get so much function for this. Note the various pen tools on the left side of Troy’s screen.

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This photo looks pretty rough, but the actual artwork on Troy’s Retina screen was perfect.

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Troy then uses the various pens and whatnot to trace directly over his pencil sketch. A wide variety of textures and effects are literally at his fingertips.

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Once the drawing is done, he fills in the image with, y’know, 50 shades of grey. Or maybe just three or four shades of grey.

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He moves the result over to his computer, where he adds the text…

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…which, I might add, is made from his own handwriting.

Very cool.

So as I was wrapping up and saying my goodbyes Friday afternoon, I found this little gem on Twitter.

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Not only did they decide to put Leonard Nimoy in the Skybox for Saturday’s paper, they had Spock’s Vulcan salute take the place of the “u” in Forum. I couldn’t get over how well this fulfilled the challenges I laid out for them in Wednesday’s session on skyboxes.

Jason told me that he designed the thing but then turned it over to designer Alicia Strnad – a comics and sci-fi fan — to write the actual text.

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Alicia came up with that particular quote from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

I was so thrilled. What a great week it had been. In addition, Jason built a huge page-one bar chart for Saturday’s page one and another one for Sunday’s metro front.

I got up mighty early Saturday and took the shuttle to the airport long before dawn. The sun came up as we were sitting on the tarmac, waiting for our plane to be de-iced.

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The window was too fogged to see it clearly. But Saturday’s dawn was certainly colorful enough.

I flew to O’Hare and then to Austin, retrieved my car and then drove the two hours home to Victoria. Where I was delighted to discover that a) My cats were just fine, b) My daughter didn’t host a party in my absence, and c) My own paper, the Victoria Advocate, looked pretty good during my absence.

So it was a wonderful week in Fargo. Just fantastic.

A collection of newspaper tributes to Leonard Nimoy

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this weekend, then you’ve probably heard that Leonard Nimoy — the actor who played the iconic science fiction character of Mr. Spock on Star Trek — died. He was 83.

Nimoy was originally from Boston and it reportedly took him years to ditch his Bahhstahhn accent. Astronaut Terry Virts tweeted this little tribute from the International Space Station — high above Boston on Saturday.

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That, of course, is the Vulcan hand salute, typically used when one wishes another to “live long and prosper.”

I spent this past week in Fargo, N.D., where I taught staffers of the Forum newspaper company. Among the topics we talked about were ways to have fun with skyboxes and when to alter the paper’s nameplate. After my week was over and I returned to my hotel Friday night, I nearly fell out of my chair when I spotted this little gem on Twitter.

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Sure enough, that was the Forum’s nameplate Saturday. Outstanding.

Several papers paid homage to Nimoy Saturday or today. Most looked rather like this one, on teh front of Saturday’s Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader.

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The Associated Press moved that portrait of Nimoy, shot just a few years ago before his health began to fall off. Note the secondary photo of Nimoy, shot during an appearance at Eastern Kentucky University in 1978, around the time the first Star Trek movie was being made.

Also, note the downpage interview with Walter Koening, who played Star Trek‘s Ensign Chekov,

My favorite front page of the day was this one by the Hartford Courant.

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That is essentially a centerpiece promo to a story inside. But it was clearly assembled by someone who had a lot of love for Nimoy and for Star Trek.

The Staten Island Advance led Saturday’s front page with a collection of ten “pithy sayings” from Nimoy’s character.

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Here’s a closer look:

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The folks in Pensacola, Fla., received the benefit of some great timing: There was a comic book/scifi convention in town this weekend. Sending someone to poll the folks there about the loss of Nimoy was a no-brainer.

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My friends at the Villages Daily Sun in Florida went out and asked locals about Nimoy and Spock.

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It’s great if you have a science fiction crowd in town. But this proves you didn’t really need one. Nearly everyone loved Star Trek and Mr. Spock.

The two major New York City tabloids were regional twins yesterday. The Daily News used that AP portrait with a rather obvious “Beam me up” headline….

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…while the New York Post wrote a similar headline but stuck with a vintage 50-year-old photo from the original TV series.

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My former colleagues at the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif., pushed back whatever they had planned for Sunday’s Focus page and spent their Friday putting together this nice page on the career of Leonard Nimoy.

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Jeff Goertzen and Kurt Snibbe get brownie points for pulling out a picture of Nimoy singing. Ugh!

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Kurt drew this little bit down the right side of the page showing three seemingly mystical aspects — or abilities — of the Spock character.

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The Los Angeles Times Saturday led page one with a fairly recent portrait of Nimoy — shot through a window, for some reason — and a very nice obit.

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I didn’t quite understand the little graphic at the bottom of the package, though. Here’s that same little graphic, from the web site.

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This turned out to be a little refer to a fun online listing of all of Nimoy’s onscreen appearances as Spock, created by Javier Zarracina. There’s a little icon of Spock for every episode in which he appeared.

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Mouse over each to find out what episode it was and when it was broadcast.

As you continue to scroll down, you see variations in Spock’s wardrobe for the odd episode here and there — like, for instance, the dungarees and stocking cap he wore when he and Kirk visited Earth in the 1930s in the episode City on the Edge of Forever (upper right). Or his fighting stance in Amok Time (second row, second from left). Or the “evil” alternate-universe Spock from Mirror, Mirror (second row, far right).

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The little figures are animated, which is guaranteed to make you smile. Especially the Amok Time figure.

As you scroll to the early 1970s, you find icons for the animated Star Trek series from that era…

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…and then the Star Trek movie series, which debuted my last year in high school.

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Here, you see the final original Star Trek movie in which Spock appeared, his two appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation and then his surprise appearance in the Star Trek reboot movie in 2009. Note the 18-year time gap.

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I didn’t quite understand the little figure in 2012 until I read up on it: That year, Nimoy voiced a vintage Spock action figure in an episode of Big Bang Theory.

Fun, fun stuff. Go here to see it for yourself.

And then there’s this fine tribute to Nimoy by the Washington Post — which I would have never seen had it not been for my monitoring Twitter during my travel layover Saturday at O’Hare.

First, there’s this great headline atop the job of Nimoy’s obit in Saturday’s paper.

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But the truly outstanding part was this fabulous illustration on the front of Saturday’s Style section.

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That was created by London-based freelance illustrator Noma Bar.

Noma writes, on his web site:

I am after maximum communication with minimum elements.

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Right. Well, he certainly pulled it off with this Spock piece.

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Find Noma’s Twitter feed here.