2020 Best Digital Drawing/Painting – Shannon Zheng


Beyond the 2019 surge in Amazon rainforest fires, which received heavy media coverage, fires and deforestation have been mounting across South America at alarming rates – though such information is ubiquitous, the true causes of recent spikes in South American forest fires continue to be shrouded in ambiguity. My goal with illustrating and designing this infographic was to remove that ambiguity by presenting deforestation as a direct product of the average viewer’s meat consumption habits. Though many recognize the Amazon/South American fires as an international crisis, the link between the slashing and burning of trees and Brazil’s massive cattle industry is primarily neglected in crisis response.

Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef, driven by strong global demand, especially from Asia, and supported by government livestock programs. In addition to illegal fire activity, often through “slash-and-burn” techniques, fires erupt due to large-scale land clearing and mistakes arising from human-caused deforestation for agricultural and livestock purposes. In order to present the facts of this ongoing environmental crisis in an effective yet minimally biased manner, I designed visual elements that emphasized the severity of the fires and provided geographic and time-based scale for the viewer. To promote visual clarity, I utilized gestalt principles to group information according to the different facets plaguing the issue of deforestation in South America, such as ecological impact, the country’s exports, government policy, and critical fires throughout the issue’s history.