Illustrating 100 Billion Dollars

The story: the LDS Church’s $100 billion in investments. Deadline: a few hours away. The idea (given to me): photograph one of the church buildings downtown.

My idea: photograph the temple and grid it into 100 blocks – each block representing one billion dollars.

Here is the process from initial concept to finished piece…

Before grabbing a camera I put together these 100-block grids to visualize possible shapes. Each block at this point was in the shape of a dollar bill:

The light was bad at Temple Square. But then, good news – the story was holding a day, so I could come back the next morning for better light. I started playing with this photo I had just taken:

A bold idea would be to do something with just the center tower – run it as a thin vertical all the way down the front page. But I didn’t think I’d have time to build out two versions. Here’s the tower isolated:

The initial grid I came up with was a simple overlay, this:

The next morning I made this image as the sun began to rise:

I started out slicing it into 100 layers. First attempt:

Then I went in another direction, setting up grids with all 100 blocks in the central tower. Doing it this way would give me two versions (the isolated tower and the full frame) in the time it takes to build one:

next, slice out the three outer layers – left right & sky:

then create layers of all 100 blocks:

Tall J suggested breaking up the grid as seen below, which helped emphasize the number of rows:

I made this option with the sky layer brought back in:

Getting close. But the way the brick layout broke up the tower left and right was bothering me, so I started over and re-created the 100 tower blocks, this time offsetting every row while keeping the image in the blocks lined up and straight. Then I cropped the left and right layers up from the bottom a bit to match the top and removed the sky layer. That became the final version:

In the end, the image was not used.