Robert Black’s
Cartooning Journal  

We live in an age of information overload.

All the easy problems have been solved. What are left are the trickier, abstract and nebulous problems that take creative insights to solve. What I love about my work as a Strategy Cartoonist, is finding visual metaphors that help people see things in a new or different way.

Here are some samples of the kind of work I do...

Dynamic Charging 

Exciting! A few months ago I did some illustrations of a new green mining technology called BluVein, which enables the use of massive electric trucks via a sophisticated Dynamic Charging system, and now some of these are appearing in this month’s issue of Engineering and Mining Journal.

When new technologies are depicted, it’s common to turn to 3D CAD renderings, but they all start to look the same. Interestingly 3D renderings also include every detail, which can sometimes be a distraction — the eye is often drawn to small details that aren’t important.

So the client wanted hand-drawn renderings that were highly accurate, yet had the human touch in their line-work and colouring, which led to a series of seven drawings to tell the story of BluVein in mining.

“These illustrations have since reached so many and have been instrumental in helping BluVein's solution be understood at a glance. Thank you for the superb work!”    — BluVein

I did have the help of 3D models to use as reference, and Jock Macneish provided the backgrounds. I hope you’ll see they have a look that stands apart from the usual 3D renderings you’ll find everywhere else.

Unsolicited client feedback (July 2021) 

A text-only post! This is a selection of unsolicited client feedback I received via email in July 2021.

A Journey Map

"This is way cool Robert!"

James — Sales and Market Manager at Large Australian Manufacturer

A Video

"Everyone loved your work! Thanks a lot for the effort through storms and late nights to get this done. Really appreciate the quality and ease for implementation for this process. … Again thanks. I’m sure we’ll be in touch for more work to come."

A few days later…

"The video is getting a lot of airplay in the business and people are very impressed with it! Hats off to you guys."

Liam — Superintendent Strategic Mine Infrastructure at Large Australian Mining Company

Concept Illustrations…

"Great work in a very short time frame and greatly appreciate your efforts (& creativity)"

Ray — Program Director at Industry Thinktank

A Safety Logo…

"Wow!  Finally got a chance to play the video.  Was expecting it to be good given the comments below, but it was even better than I thought it would be … a great conversation starter.  Thank you for your creative flare Robert!"

Philip — COO at Large Australian Mining Company

"That is excellent - Robert, you are a creative genius !!! 👏👏👏👏 I think it has a fabulous amount of colour, detail and ambiguity to inspire/create a conversation that will be rich and full, and provide an opportunity to discuss with our people what we discussed with you. Well done."

Gerard — CFO at Large Australian Mining Company

Covid-19 and Staff Communications 

Hand Wash

Soon after the full impact of Covid-19 was beginning to be understood, I was approached to illustrate a large mining company’s rapidly evolving internal message to staff on their physical distancing policy.

Working with colleague Jock Macneish, we quickly produced 8 drawings to a brief from the client …

“Can you please prepare drawings for the below:”

  • Three COVID-19 Vital Behaviours
    1. Wash your hands
    2. Cough & Sneeze Etiquette (sneeze/cough into tissue or into elbow etc)
    3. Maintain social distance 1.5m apart
  • Physical Distancing
    1. People doing the right thing in their homes with family, working from home, maintain distance
    2. People doing the wrong thing – at a birthday party / BBQ
    3. People doing the wrong thing – people at a park with kids, etc.
  • FIFO Etiquette
    1. An image to highlight the importance of physical distancing at the airport - People congregating closely with little virus bugs at the airport terminal together undoes physical distancing and then showing effective physical distancing etc
  • We are all in this together
    1. Image of everyone working together to beat COVID19: People in Hi-Vis, in corporate gear, in medical gear (nurses, Drs), in casual clothes, etc.

Look at all that text — ponder how many people would stop to read it all and take it in. Now consider the impact of these drawings at a visceral level …

This is a good example and reminder — Cartoons remain a potent and affordable way of quickly conveying any essential message to staff or customers.

While the world is changing and the way we do business most certainly will change for the foreseeable future, it’s important for businesses to keep their communication lines open.

Cute animals 

Who doesn’t love cute animals?

Well, some people it seems, which is why The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in Victoria commissioned Jock and I to create a social media video campaign highlighting the virtues of living with native animals — although, there are some things you wouldn’t share …

We came up with the concept — Living with Native Animals, and the things you wouldn’t share with them — wrote the scripts, drew, filmed, and edited the videos.

See our videos page

Finalist at the 2017 Stanleys! 

Finalist at the 2017 Stanleys!

Last night I had the honour of being a joint-finalist for Australia’s Animation Cartoonist of the Year at the national awards for professional cartoonists — The Stanleys. It was a black tie gala event held at Old Parliament House in Canberra.

As I’ve said before, these awards are voted on by all of Australia’s professional newspaper cartoonists, so I’m thrilled we made the cut this year! That’s three years in a row I’ve been a Stanleys finalist.

Congratulations go to this year’s Animation Cartoonist winner, Peter Viska.

Wind of Change is a corporate video made as a collaboration between Jock Macneish and myself for the Victorian Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and was our joint entry to the Animation Cartoonist Category of the 2017 Stanley Awards…

Journeying to Sydney 

Recently I’ve been making quite a few trips to Sydney to create Journey Posters for large corporate clients who are household names …

Note: There’s now a dedicated page for Journey Maps.

A Major Telco

The Mid-Market Delivery Managers group of a major telco recently met in Sydney for a two day strategy session following a big restructure of the division. Their journey over the next two years will see them having to overcome many challenges against great odds, so I drew it as a quest through Middle Earth Middle Market…

Telco Journey Map


Last year I did an interesting job for the National Finance Group at the Woolworths HQ in Sydney, so I was very pleased when the National Procurement Group saw that work and asked me to attend their annual three day strategy session to create a Journey map for the next 5 years…

They’re having it printed and installed in their main offices as a 4 metre long wall mural!

A workshop with The Lot 

Last week I participated in a large two day strategy workshop, and this time the client wanted the works — huge pre-drawn workshop banners detailing the structure of both the workshop and the next 12 months, my attendance at the workshop to draw metaphors capturing both the mood of the room and key issues, and a Journey Poster at the end based on what had been discussed in the workshop.

Note: There’s now a dedicated page for Journey Maps.

The client was the management group from a division of one of the big three banks…

Tinderbox’s flaming 7 

Every so often, I get an interesting job that brings my skills as a cartoonist to a design project. Recently, one such project was modifying the application icon for Tinderbox 7.

Tinderbox is incredibly powerful yet easy to use ‘pro’ software for writing, dissecting, structuring and working with complex information, that is used by everyone from novel writers to security data analysts.

The lovely original icon was designed by Brian Bell, who’s highly regarded in the Mac community for his app icons, but when Tinderbox 6 came out in 2015, Brian wasn't available to revise the icon, so the developer had added a number 6 to it himself.

As a cartoonist, it seemed to me that using a plain white Helvetica numeral was missing an opportunity, so I changed the flame in the old Tinderbox logo into a flaming ‘6’, and sent it off the the developer, Mark Bernstein. Mark loved it, and so my 6 ended up emblazoned on the icon for Tinderbox 6…

Fast forward two years — Mark was working on Tinderbox 7, and he needed a new flaming number 7. Ah! While the flaming was 6 had seemed obvious, a flaming 7 in the same style wasn’t so immediately apparent. But, after a little doodling I realised that the flame could fit inside the number rather than above it.

I’m really happy with the final flaming 7 — it’s kind of nice to sit down to my computer each day and see my work right there in the application dock, adorning software that is so widely and highly regarded. I guess I should start thinking about Tinderbox 8 soon?

Update 1, April 2019:

Two years came and went … eventually Tinderbox 8 did come along, and I did end up creating a new number for it …

Update 2, April 2021:

Another two years came and went … eventually Tinderbox 9 did arrive, along with a new flat icon design convention from Apple for macOS Big Sur, so we jointly decided to put the version numbering to rest — I reworked the icon to both reflect its heritage and the new paradigm. There will be no flaming numbers 9, 10, 11, etc.

Company Blogs and LinkedIn Posts 

Recently I’ve had a number of companies approach me to draw custom cartoons for their corporate blogs, or articles they’ve written for posting on LinkedIn.

It’s a smart move by companies wanting to use tailored imagery that stands out from the pack, while at the same time reinforcing the message of a particular post with humour and visual metaphors.

I’ve adopted a style for these cartoons of drawing them mainly in black, white and grey plus the main branding colour from the client. In some cases I even integrate the client’s logo somewhere into the image to reinforce their brand online…

(samples above taken from work done for Nuffield Group)

Finalist at the 2016 Stanleys! 

Finalist at the 2016 Stanleys!

Last night I had the great honour of again being a finalist for Australia’s Single Panel Gag Cartoonist of the Year at the national awards for professional cartoonists — The Stanleys. That’s 2 years in a row for The Sharp End.

As I’ve said before, these awards are voted on by all of Australia’s professional newspaper cartoonists, and the competition for this category is very high, so I’m thrilled!

Congratulations go to this year’s well-deserved winner Matt Golding from The Age!

Journey Posters 

One of the things I get to work on are journey posters. They allow a company or group to put something complex into cartoon metaphors.

Note: This page is 5 years old! Visit the new page dedicated to Journey Maps.

These are detailed large-scale images made up of many smaller drawings that use multiple metaphors to build up a bigger picture of the evolution of a process/​company/​culture/​values over time. Here are some very recent Journey Poster projects…

AEMO Video 

Jock and I have been doing a lot of videos in the last month or two, for the Victorian Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Lake Macquarie City, Manningham City, etc. This is one of two we’ve done for the Australian Energy Market Operator, AEMO — it’s on the topic of Power System Security, a subject that’s been in the news here a lot lately…

There’s a page dedicated to our videos where you can see more examples of how our engaging videos can be used to explain the ‘why’ behind complex issues.

COP21 Paris 

In November and December I was commissioned to draw cartoons for the European Climate Foundation, which they used as communication tools for various contentious issues in the lead-up and during the United Nations’ COP21 climate talks in Paris. I developed imagery based on issues from delegates at the conference in Paris, drew them here in Melbourne and sent them back via email. It was all very exciting!

(move cursor over images to pause slideshow)

Finalist at the 2015 Stanleys! 

I just wanted to share some news… The national Australian cartoonist awards, The Stanleys, were held last night, and I’m thrilled to say I was one of a handful of nominees for the coveted Stanley Award for Best Australian Gag Cartoonist of 2015, for my work on The Sharp End.

No, I didn’t win – but it’s a huge honour to even be a finalist after only a few years as a cartoonist, because these awards are voted on by all of Australia’s professional cartoonists.

Congratulations to the well-deserved winner Cathy Wilcox (2 years in a row!)

Theatre Posters for God of Carnage 

Theatre Posters for God of Carnage

Occasionally I get to design posters for the theatre, which is always a treat. I’m particularly fond of my latest design for the stage play “God of Carnage”.

Here’s the blurb for the play, which will give you an idea of why I’ve drawn this image…

“This widely staged and acclaimed play questions the values of society through a discourse between two couples meeting to discuss their sons and a fight that resulted in one injuring the other. A civilised and moderate discussion evolves or rather disintegrates into chaos as the couples begin to disagree.

Dramatic and dramatically funny.”

It’s a great play.

The Age, the weird and the truly wonderful 

The Age, the weird and the truly wonderful

In December I had a chance few in my industry get – to draw a cartoon for Australia’s pre-eminent daily newspaper, The Age.

It came about because one of the paper’s most respected cartoonists had taken up my cause, championing my work to the editors. With things quiet over Christmas, my opportunity came – would I like to illustrate a Sunday column by one of the paper’s stalwarts, John Elder?

Umm… Yes!

My simple brief was to illustrate a column still being written, that would pivot around 5 odd stories that had been in the media that year…

I had two days to turn it around, and they expected some sort of montage – after all, how could such disparate stories fit into one image? But it occurred to me that there was one place they might all cross paths in their stories: a hotel lobby. So that’s what I drew, from the kitchen table of our rented holiday house on Christmas night.

It got a big thumbs up from the editor and writer, and went to press as-is. Here’s the image that appeared on page 4 of the Sunday Age, 28 December 2014

They even used it as the poster outside newsagents around Melbourne. You can read the full article here.

Moving Pictures 

Update: This journal entry was written in 2014! There is a new page dedicated to our ‘drawn’ videos where you can see recent samples and learn more.


After being asked for the 100th time by clients if we offered animated videos of our cartoons, Jock and I decided to try our hand at producing one. That brought in some orders, and we’ve since done a bunch of them. Here’s one we did recently…

Thanks go to Jock Macneish my cartooning colleague, and Sarah Dempster for the voiceover.

Mensa Journal Cover 

Mensa Journal Cover

My cartoon is on the cover of Mensa Australia's journal, just out — the theme of the issue is humour.

There's also a full page article inside about my work as a strategy cartoonist.

Here’s a link to a large version.

Hypothetical Customer Contact 

A week ago I completed work on a series of eight large posters that mapped out customer contact and interaction paths for another major energy sector company. While I normally do workshop cartoons in person, these were different — they were produced in advance of the workshop, scripted, and highly produced.

The international consulting firm that brought me on board used the drawings as the centrepiece of a 5 hour workshop which brainstormed hypothetical customer interactions and ways to improve them. The drawings were digitally printed as posters one metre high by 4 metres long.

Word has since come back that the workshop, and the posters integral to it, were a huge success…

"Today we had a 5 hour workshop with over 20 client team participants, with most of the time spent on the cartoons. They enabled us to have structured and energised conversations on important elements of the new propositions. It worked really well and the clients enjoyed this ‘different’ way of workshopping. Feedback was very positive. … this really provides us with an added value"

Customer 1

The AGE and my newspaper cartoons 

Robert Black

It’s not quite Strategy or Corporate, but there’s a nice newspaper article about me in the Melbourne AGE and the Sydney Morning Herald, about how I use an iPad to draw cartoons for my series in the Warrandyte Diary newspaper.

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