10 years to Wikipedia, 10 illustrators debating for 4 hours

in the picture: Guy Saggee, Zev Engelmayer, Itamar Daube, Dani "Hatayas" Meirav, Einat Peled, Yirmi Pinkus, Hilit Shefer and Galia Offri

This Saturday Wikipedia celebrated its 10th anniversary, and we celebrated our first workshop. We invited some of the best illustrators in Israel to join us for a pretty peculiar meeting where they would share their process and consider contributing their work to Wikipedia. Zev Engelmayer, Dani “Hatayas” Meirav, Yirmi Pinkus, Einat Peled, Guy Saggee, Eitay Riechert, Itamar Daube, Hilit Shefer and the two of us (Galia Offri & Mushon Zer-Aviv) have met at 11am to collaboratively inquire into the challenges of this project.

We started with a presentation of the project which we couldn’t really complete as people were too eager to talk. Some of the issues that were brought up were:

  • How can we browse Wikipedia visually? – Yirmi gave the example of illustrating 50 (or was it 125? or 250?) portraits of nuclear scientists, and while browsing through the articles someone might notice a pattern through the visual content.
  • How can the illustrations still have presence in Wikipedia and not just disappear within the countless Wikipedia pages?
  • What is the use of adding to the information overload? Or rather, how can the visual contribution actually contribute to advancing our understanding of the articles?
  • Why would anyone need an illustration of a rabbit rather than a picture of a rabbit?
  • What are the boundaries of Wikipedia? If we create extensions to it like this blog or the book that we intend to publish, aren’t we basically creating distractions away from where the action should take place—within the pages of Wikipedia?
  • We also got a very important feedback on the current state of the project. Some of the people in the room stressed that even though the project has only started, the blog should already be open to a group of illustrators and not only feature our (Galia & Mushon’s) project. Along the same line they claimed the book, being a closed, fixed, “dead-end” outlet is conceptually contradictory to the rest of the project.
  • The question of motivation to contribute visually to Wikipedia—why would we be interested? Who might be interested? Illustrators at the beginning of their career? Maybe Illustrators at the end of their career? While it is intellectually intriguing, how can it be made creatively attractive?
  • What illustrative styles might be more collaborative? Dani’s vector style? Hilit’s Photoshop layers? Maybe Engelmayer’s collage style with its already remixing of public domain illustrations? Do we maybe need a collaborative software? Something like a collaborative canvas? We agreed that all of these ideas still do not solve the challenge of collaborative meaning construction, as unlike in text, creating & reading an image is non-linear.

In the picture: Zev Engelmayer, Eitay Riechert, Guy Saggee and Dani "Hatayas" Meirav.

The conversation was so fascinating and we definitely learned a lot from it. The first lessons we took are:

  1. This one was a more conversational meeting and that was great. But in the future when we would want to also have a hands-on workshop, we should not start with a full-on conversation, as people are eager to talk and might tire themselves before creating anything 🙂
  2. There are too many things to cover in a conversation, the presentation should set the stage for that to happen rather than introduce all of the themes.
  3. We have to get the site ready for contributions from more artists as soon as possible, as currently it is giving a contradicting message to the openness we’re advocating.
  4. There is definitely room for giving a Wikipedia Illustrated assignment to students (we’ll already start working on that with some of the participants in the workshop).
  5. We should do more of these, it’s fun!

Towards the end of the workshop Engelmayer showed us some illustrations that he brought and we agreed that one of them would really fit the article on ‘humor’ in the Hebrew Wikipedia. We are proud to say that the first Wikipedia Illustrated article on Wikipedia is now live!

Engelmayer's visual/verbal pun illustrating the Hebrew article on 'Humor'

Jan 16th, 2011

Now Discuss:


  1. martina wember Feb 2nd, 11

    hello! please give me a translation of the humor_illu of Engelmayer, which is in the real Wikipedia already.
    I cant understand hebraic…

    • mushon Feb 27th, 11

      Hi Martina, it’s actually a pun in Hebrew so it’s very hard to explain, any translation would make absolutely no sense, which is also a nice way in which this illustration can only work for the Hebrew Wikipedia 🙂

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  • By Transmediale was great! on February 27, 2011 at 11:29 am

    […] but we made sure that first we work, then we talk (this was the first lesson we learned from the workshop we held in Tel Aviv in January). Wikipedia Illustrated Post Its / CC-BY-SA by tracy the […]

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