Leonello Calvetti's Crude Math
Almost every major conflict from the last half century can be attributed to struggles over energy. Oil’s value has gone from monetary to cultural, representing all the baggage that’s been attached to the market and political engagements. Contemporary oil companies are the most profitable corporate endeavors in human history, and they're tied to a market swayed by the volume of natural resources, untethered from human desire.
Because of new methods of extraction, the prices of oil have fallen by more than 50% in six months. It’s changing the way the industry, and the world, are doing their calculations on the future of energy. Fortune Magazine dove into how the economics surrounding oil have changed, and put the story on their cover for the International edition. “Oil’s New Math: How oil’s dramatic plunge has changed the energy equation” explains to the rest of us how the terrain has changed, what we should expect, and what remains in question. On thing is for certain: a lot of economic researchers are looking for answers in between graphs and calculators. It’s a lot of math.
To illustrate the ideas within the story, the magazine tapped Leonello Calvetti to create a compelling image speaking to the issues. Leonello was given a wide berth to experiment, using the theme of math and playing off of mathematical symbols. No stranger to using liquids, he gave Fortune a range of options and together they narrowed it down to using the multiplication symbol. “I suggested we use the multiplication symbol because I thought it was the most beautiful and interesting sign,” says Leonello. “And they liked it so we went ahead with it.”
As an Italian illustrator, Leonello has illustrated oil before, but crude oil is a game all its own. He experimented with different techniques before arriving at the final composition. “I did some research and went online to see how crude oil looks more closely. It has some transparency only when it becomes very thin,” explains Leonello, which explains that color gradient you see in his illustration. Substances like crude oil are especially challenging to get exactly right. We’ve included some of Leonello’s sketches on the way to the final cover image so you can seehow texture and color changed as he and Fortune worked together.