Images recall stories

Nancy Duarte

Written by

Nancy Duarte

My Grandma Fern lived a full life of love, wit, and simplicity. Gram wasn’t a “stuff” person. She had simple treasures like stained tea cups and old dusty books. So, when Gram died earlier this year, my Mom carefully sorted through what little she had and personally selected small tokens she felt each of her children would enjoy.

When I picked up my little box of “worthless” treasures, I was moved to find a little ceramic blackbird.

Ceramic black bird with beak raised to allow for steam to flow out of it

The human brain is amazing. Memories that had been filed away in the recesses of my mind were recalled in an instant, complete with scent and images. I could see the fence line where the blackberries grew, the smell of the harbor as we picked them, the shade of purple our fingers turned, the tiny cuts from the thorns, the near misses with spider webs and the smile Gram had when we picked enough for a pie.

Gram would bake the pie with the black bird in the middle, and steam would release  from the beak so the juices stay in the pie and not all over the oven.

An entire page of details could have been written (I didn’t want to bore you), but it was like an entire file cabinet of my mind burst open after seeing this little bird. Its incredible how the brain can take a simple image, and carry enormous meaning and recall.

Frog Design puts together a beautiful publication about design called design mind. The recent issue had an article called The Collective Instinct that covered my sentiments exactly

“Affinity for an object may be physical (through a visual, aesthetic channel) or experiential (representing a memory or feeling, whether real or desired). Physical affinity is a response to form: material, shape, texture, color, style, design, culture. Something in the object itself speaks to us, and we respond through a recognition of, and desire for, that thing. Experiential affinity is when the meaning of an object is seen through our own lens of emotion; the object isn’t loved for the object itself, but for what it represents.”

An image can stir us, move us, and cause action.

I baked a blackberry pie last Sunday and savored every minute.

Nancy putting berries in a pie dish, then topping them with pie crust and putting the ceramic bird in the middle. The end product is a golden pie with a bird's beak peaking out of the top.