ariel zambelich


By night, they play gigs. By day, they sample ramen in cities across America.

They’re the three women of Shonen Knife, a legendary rock band from Japan. For over 35 years, the band has been serving up infectious punk songs with a delicious twist: Many of them are about food. Think song titles like “Wasabi,” “Hot Chocolate” and “Sushi Bar.” But don’t dismiss them as bubblegum pop: Over the years, some of their biggest fans have included giants of alt-rock music.

This spring, Shonen Knife embarked on its latest adventure – a ramen rock tour of the U.S.

Why ramen? Well, ramen is really like Japanese soul food, says Daisuke Utagawa, a ramen restaurateur in Washington, D.C., and unofficial ambassador of Japanese food culture. “It’s probably as important as your pizza here.”

Ramen Rock: These Japanese Punk Legends Sing About Food

Photos: Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Image: Chimamanda Adichie. (Ariel Zambelich/NPR)

A few years ago, Chimamanda Adichie received a message from a childhood friend asking for advice: She wanted to know how to raise her newborn daughter to be a feminist.

For Adichie, the question was a bit daunting, but she wrote a long letter back to her friend. Now, that letter has been published as a book. It’s called Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, and it talks about everything from how to choose toys to teaching self-reliance to challenging traditional gender roles.

How Do You Raise A Feminist Daughter? Chimamanda Adichie Has 15 Suggestions

NPR's Tumblr Guidelines

Since December, we’ve made an effort to see if some consistency in tone, purposeful selection of stories and consistent publishing of posts throughout the day / evening / weekends could help us grow the audience for our flagship NPR Tumblr.

The results? We’ve seen engagement, impression and follower numbers rise in comparison to the period leading up to our renewed focus on the Tumblr. Aside from some isolated spikes, we’ve managed to bring our daily engagement rate up into the 2-3K range. We’ve even had NPR content featured on the Tumblr Radar.

This is a big change from the catch-as-catch-can approach we’ve taken with the Tumblr for some time. Leading the way have been Ariel Zambelich and Emily Bogle of NPR’s Visuals team, with significant assistance from Kate Parkinson-Morgan and Social Media Desk intern Tajha Chappellet-Lanier.

Based on the relative lift for any given post, here’s what we’ve identified as solid practices for posting to

1. The winning mix. We all think of photos, arresting images and funny charts, when we think of Tumblr. But we think there’s more to Tumblr than a nice picture or illustration.

  • While photo posts tend to do the best, we’ve tried to include a mix of link, video and quote posts. This strategy ensures that we avoid monotony in our feed and it can help us stand out from the Tumblr crowd. Using a variety of post types also gives us some easy workarounds for really interesting stories where we don’t have a strong visual element or are not allowed to use the images that come with the story (based on rights/permissions issues).
  • Every item, whether original NPR content or a re-blog, should come with some contribution by the person posting it to our blog. Provide some additional context or insight into what you’re posting. Point readers to previous NPR stories on this subject, or sources beyond NPR that add something to our reader’s understanding of the story. Do it in a human voice. You can sign off the post with your first name in italics [example].

2. Consistent formatting of posts. Here are the details we keep in mind when posting original NPR content.

  • When posting NPR content (something that links back to an page), we always want to include our analytics tracking code on the link so that we can see how often people are coming to from the NPR Tumblr.
  • The link back to should be both in the text you write (see headline note below) and set as a click-through link with any image you post (hover over the image, click on the link icon in the bottom left, paste in the link). If you make a post that is a photo set (more than one image), you can’t set a click-through link for the images.
  • Always include an image credit. This is a MUST. Our style is put it in italics at the bottom of the post. The wording should be “Photo credit:” or “Illustration credit:” and it should include the exact information attached to the image on the original story page. If the image caption would add/clarify, then include it on the same line, also italicized.
  • When preparing a post, you should also set the post’s “content source” to for clarity of provenance. This is done by clicking on the gear menu in the top-right corner of the post and filling out the appropriate field.
  • We also want to include the original headline at the bottom of the post. Our style is to capitalize every word, just as it appears in the story, and to link the headline back to the story page. We also make the headline bold.

3. Timing of posts. We’ve been erratic in the past. The fact that the NPR Tumblr is a group blog without a lot of coordination meant that sometimes we’d send out a flood of posts, and other times we’d consistently space posts throughout the day. And then there were the times that we just went silent for a while. That’s not a recipe for success!

  • We want to stay away from reblogging the same posts multiple times or hitting the same topic too much (to avoid audience fatigue). It’s imperative that each person posting does a quick scan of recent posts to make sure they’re not repeating something that’s already run.
  • One way we’ve found to offset our publishing boom-and-bust cycle has been to use Tumblr’s scheduling option. The number of posts that are scheduled in the “Queue” show up in the Dashboard’s right-hand menu. Click on it to see what’s in there. We’ve been aiming for a posting pace of once every 2-5 hours, including overnight and weekends. We’ve found that traffic on overnight stories has done almost just as well as stories published during the standard East Coast work shift.

4. Original NPR content vs. reblogging other Tumblrs. Roughly speaking, our goal is to balance the NPR feed 50-50 between featuring our own content and that of others we find interesting. We don’t do this on any of NPR’s other branded social feeds, but we decided early on that this was the way to go on Tumblr. We share many of the same interests as our audience and like to show it by featuring content from many sources.

  • We’re here to highlight the great work that NPR produces. We have reporters across the country and around the globe. Their stories are the reason people come to us for news. Our first job is to craft posts on Tumblr that fit the medium and do the stories justice.
  • But we have another way to highlight NPR posts. That’s because NPR has a ton of Tumblr accounts! Rather than compete with them for views, we regurlarly scan our other branded accounts for stories we’re interested in promoting through a reblog. Some of the places we look are the NPR Music Tumblr, Skunk Bear, NPR Plays, WNYC and NPR Books.
  • Last, but not least, we’re following 500 other Tumblrs and scan our Dashboard feed for posts we’d like to reblog to the NPR audience. With so many sources publishing so many posts, choosing what to reblog is about serendipity and the personal preferences of the person doing the reblogging.

5. Taking care with images. It is our responsibility to use images properly. Here’s what that means on Tumblr.

  • We are not allowed to use agency photos on Tumblr, with the exception of Getty.
  • We can use handout images if the image has already received approval for use by an NPR editor. Some images have usage restrictions, so if you’re not sure, ask the Visuals team or the Web editor who handled the story.
  • We can use Creative Commons images that NPR has published. For CC images you’ve found yourself, please check with the Visuals team.
  • Government created images (from .gov or .mil, for example) are generally OK to use. You know who to ask if you have questions!
  • We can use work published on that was created by NPR employees, member stations and freelancers that we’ve commissioned. Again, if you’re unsure about whether that applies, you can always ask the Visuals team!

6. Read and respond to your mail. The structure of Tumblr doesn’t exactly encourage exchanges between users. But the mail/fan mail function does provide a painless way to talk with others. When we look through our inbox we sort through it this way: 1) notes we ignore and delete; 2) notes we respond to privately; 3) notes we respond to as public posts on the blog. Generally, knowing what not to respond to is easy. Notes in the respond-privately category tend to be straightforward questions with answers very few other people would be interested in knowing. The last category, public responses, are the most fun because they are often playful or give us a chance to share something that we know many people will be interested in. This is your best chance to connect with your community!

We’re always thinking about what we’re doing. So these guidelines are sure to evolve. Tell us what you think and what questions you have about our approach to the NPR Tumblr.

Wright, Ariel, Emily, Kate and Tajha

[UPDATE: Point #6 was added on Feb. 19, 2015. The post was also edited to note Kate Parkinson-Morgan’s significant role in improving this Tumblr.]

How We Did It - Immigration Stories

Illustrator Chelsea Beck worked with art director Ariel Zambelich, both on NPR’s visuals team, to conceptualize personal stories by their colleagues for Hispanic Heritage Month. The stories were compiled in this piece for Code Switch. We asked Chelsea how she and Ariel approached the look and tone of the illustrations.

How did you come up with the concept of these portraits?

My ideation process for stuff like this is a total mystery. I knew Ariel wanted the pieces to be stylistically similar to this illustration I did, but there weren’t many specifics beyond that. They didn’t even have to be portraits! Usually when I start any illustration, I do a read-through of the story and something will pop out. Luckily, each of these people had a super interesting story chock-full of visuals for me to draw from.

I’ve actually been playing a lot with using bodies/animals/shapes as frames for other illustrations. It’s not a new concept but it’s something I find really satisfying when done correctly. These stories laid the groundwork for who the authors are today- I thought it was fitting.

How much of a collaboration was there between you and the people in the portraits?

Surprisingly little! Their stories about family members or themselves were so powerful and well-done that I didn’t have many questions. Plus we’re in pre-election season so I didn’t want to go running around the office bugging everyone. All of the authors were nice enough to send me a few pictures of themselves that I could draw off of and I was good to go!

What was the biggest challenge?

The act of drawing the scenes in the portraits, and depicting such big events in these teeny tiny little icons. There was some back and forth with Ariel because maybe something would be totally illegible or a color wasn’t working or there was a perspective issue. She was super patient with me, though. From what I hear they were received well by my colleagues who shared the stories and their families which is what’s most important to me.


On a Monday morning in June, Simon Tam woke up at his home in Portland, Ore., to 753 notifications blowing up his phone.

“At that point, I knew something had happened,” Tam said. The Supreme Court had finally resolved his nearly eight year fight with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over the name of his band, The Slants.

The justices ruled, unanimously to strike the section of a federal trademark law that prohibited the use of disparaging and offensive terms. The trademark office had cited part of a 71-year-old trademark law, Section 2A of the Lanham Act, when it prohibited Tam from registering The Slants, a slur against Asians, as the name of the band.

The Court’s ruling agreed with Tam and the other band members that the law had infringed on their free speech. But in the process, The Slants case had opened up a whole can of worms involving other offensive or racist terms, most notably the debate over the Washington Redskins. The team’s owner, Dan Snyder, said in a statement that he was “thrilled” with the decision.

And sure enough, the football team has since won its own trademark fight. A group of Native American activists led by Amanda Blackhorse, along with the Department of Justice, gave up their longstanding court efforts to ban the team from using that name.

Which was something Simon Tam and his band mates never anticipated when they formed their Asian-American rock group more than a decade before.

What’s Next For The Founder Of The Slants, And The Fight Over Racial Slurs

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/NPR

WikiLeaks is billing its latest document dump as the largest leak of CIA material in the history of the spy agency, and it describes cutting-edge ways to hack into phones, computers and even televisions connected to the Internet.

The thousands of documents, many of which are highly technical, are said to be internal CIA guides on how to create and use cyber-spying tools — from turning smart TVs into bugs to designing customized USB drives to extract information from computers. The CIA has refused to comment on their authenticity.

But there are significant differences between this set of documents and those revealed by Snowden four years ago. 

The CIA Document Dump Isn’t Exactly Snowden 2.0. Here’s Why

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Oh hai, Tumblr!

We’re interrupting your regularly-scheduling reblogs to share some exciting news - you may have noticed that we’ve got a new intern helping us out on the ole NPR Tumblr, and she’s pretty awesome so we want to officially introduce you to her. Everyone, meet Vesta:

Hi! I come to D.C. in ✌ from the perpetually summery, concrete- & palm-tree- bound metropolis of Los Angeles. I just graduated from UCLA with a degree in Film, Television and Digital Media. I spent an intense couple years there developing my voice as a storyteller and mediamaker (film/digital/Web).

I always had a hunch, though, that working in Hollywood wasn’t the right fit for me. So I tried it out and realized I was right. I don’t like traditional film production or Hollywood’s gravitation toward lucrative blockbusters. I love nonfiction storytelling and socially responsible media. That’s why I chose the concentration I did (“interpretive” — a fancy word for experimental — digital media) and dedicated my senior year to researching, coding and filming Greenspaces, a participatory media installation in Los Angeles.

I'm here now, delving into creative possibilities at the intersection of social tech & storytelling. I like art, film, food, and fluffy things. 

…and while we’re at it, we thought this would be a good time to formally introduce ourselves, your NPR Tumblr mavens/webmasters/writers of terrible puns!

So hi, I’m Ariel, and I’m a photo editor for I used to work here, and I helped start this, and I’m a big fan of this lil gal. Also, people tell me a *lot* of Little Mermaid jokes… you know, bc of the name or whatever.

Originally posted by disneyboost

Hiya, I’m Emily and I’m a producer for (and I sit right next to Ariel)! I started at NPR as an intern four years ago and before that I interned here and here. I love dogs but I’m highly allergic to them, so dog GIFs are perfect for my lifestyle.

Originally posted by animalgifdaily

It may not seem like it sometimes, but we do read every piece of mail y’all send our way. So while we’ve got your attention, we thought we’d *also* address the most common message we get from you guys:

“Tagging your name to every comment is clearly the mark of a person over 40.“

Fun fact: Despite our penchant to reblog cute animals and the latest trend in knitting, we’re actually not 40! FWIW, we’re all solidly millennials and [mostly] digital natives. We like to sign our posts here (unlike on our personal Tumblrs) so y’all know who’s reblogging what, and who’s making which bad jokes. (Emily’s jokes are way better than mine. -Ariel) (That’s debatable. -Emily)

Originally posted by spoopylitus

So send us more notes, tell us what you like and don’t like, and *definitely* check us on our old-lady style. This is why we love you guys.

-Ariel, Emily, & Vesta

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the Trump administration is open to direct talks with North Korea as long as the agenda is right — that is, denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

As he prepared to chair a U.N. Security Council meeting on the subject, Tillerson sat down with NPR’s Steve Inskeep to explain his approach. The secretary says North Korea has to come to the table willing to talk about giving up its nuclear weapons.

“You know if you listen to the North Korea, their reason for having nuclear weapons is they believe it is their only pathway to secure the ongoing existence of their regime,” Tillerson explained. “We hope to convince them is that: you do not need these weapons to secure the existence of your regime. … We do not seek a collapse of the regime. We do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula. We seek a denuclearized Korean peninsula,” he stressed, adding he believes that China shares this goal and is beginning to question whether North Korea is a “liability.”

Trump Administration Wants North Korea At Negotiating Table On Nuclear Weapons

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Condoleezza Rice’s new book, Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom, is a full-throated endorsement of overseas engagement and democracy building. It comes at a time of widespread distrust of government and institutions.

Rice’s “through line” is that institutions provide the bedrock for any successful democracy. Though institutions are built by people, she says, no country can rely on a single personality to carry it forward. The Founding Fathers knew this, so they constrained the executive by embedding it in a balance with other institutions.

“What the American Founding Fathers understood was that institutions were built for human imperfection,” she says, “not human perfection.”

Condoleezza Rice: Institutions Aren’t Perfect, But They’re The Bedrock Of Democracy

I was hired by NPR to cover the intersection of demographics and politics. My job required crisscrossing the country to talk to all kinds of voters. I attended rallies and town halls for nearly every candidate on both sides of the aisle, and I met people in their homes, churches and diners.

I am also visibly, identifiably Muslim. I wear a headscarf. So I stand out. And during this campaign, that Muslim identity became the first (and sometimes only) thing people saw, for good or for bad.

Reporter’s Notebook: What It Was Like As A Muslim To Cover The Election

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Editor’s note: There is language in this piece that some will find offensive.


African-American women have been wearing fancy hats to church for generations. That tradition is being celebrated at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which officially opens in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24. Vintage turbans, caps and fascinators that span a half-century are on display — all from the shop of one woman.

Her name is Mae Reeves.

In 1942, a time when few women were becoming entrepreneurs, Reeves opened what would become a Philadelphia institution with a $500 bank loan. Her hat shop, Mae’s Millinery, helped dress some of the most famous African-American women in the country, including iconic singers Marian Anderson, Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne.

Reeves hung her hat above the store, raising her family in the same building — first in downtown Philadelphia and later West Philadelphia.

“You do what you got to do,” she said, reflecting on the early years of running her business in an interview with the Smithsonian recorded after the museum acquired a collection of her hats. “I had to work with my family and make a living too. So I did it, and I’m very proud of it.”

Mae Reeves’ Hats Hang At National Museum Of African American History And Culture

Photos: Ariel Zambelich/NPR and Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from Mae Reeves and her children, Donna Limerick and William Mincey, Jr.


We take the packaging our food comes in for granted. Yet many of the boxes, bags and bottles that protect our edibles were once groundbreaking — both in their design and in how they changed our perception of what’s inside. Sometimes, packaging is so distinctive, it transforms food from mere consumer product to cultural icon. As Stephen Heller, author of over 100 books on design and popular culture, says, “Coca-Cola is not a bottle of soda — it’s Coca-Cola.”

So we’ve curated a list of some of the best examples of food packaging design over the last century, with help from experts in the field – take a look!

Looks Matter: A Century Of Iconic Food Packaging

Photo credits: Ariel Zambelich/NPR


There’s no denying it: The architecture on the National Mall commands a kind of weighty reverence. From the neoclassical columns of the Capitol dome to the immense, white marble of the Lincoln Memorial, charm does not seem to have been the design goal for the nation’s front lawn. Save for one standout: the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building, which, until this summer, had been chained shut for years.

With its colorful facade, arched windows, spires and rotunda, the A and I (as it’s often called) is a festive relief. Even the building’s next-door neighbor, the brownish-red Smithsonian Castle, feels somber by comparison.

But despite the perky building’s popularity, its reopening was hardly grand. Why so little fanfare? Lack of funding seems to be one explanation.

Belle Of The Mall: Saving Smithsonian’s Jewel-Like Arts And Industries Building

Photos: Ariel Zambelich/NPR, Detroit Publishing Co./Library of Congress, Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Apple has long touted the power and design of its devices, but recently the world’s most valuable company has been emphasizing another feature: privacy. That’s no small matter when many users store important private data on those devices: account numbers, personal messages, photos.

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks to NPR’s Robert Siegel about how the company protects its customers’ data, and how it uses — or doesn’t use — that information.

On Apple’s recent emphasis on customer privacy

We do think that people want us to help them keep their lives private. We see that privacy is a fundamental human right that people have. We are going to do everything that we can to help maintain that trust. …

Our view on this comes from a values point of view, not from a commercial interest point of view. Our values are that we do think that people have a right to privacy. And that our customers are not our products. We don’t collect a lot of your data and understand every detail about your life. That’s just not the business that we are in.

Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘Privacy Is A Fundamental Human Right’

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/NPR


When Virginia farmer Charles Martin first got into the pumpkin game a decade ago, he started small, with a half-acre plot of traditional round, orange jack-o-lanterns. Today he grows 55 varieties of gourds, squash and pumpkins, and he’s always looking for something new.

As he walks through his half-harvested patch, Martin points out an orange pumpkin covered in green bumps — the Warty Goblin. A few feet away there’s a white-and-red-striped pumpkin called One Too Many. “It’s supposed to resemble a bloodshot eye,” Martin says, laughing. Then he spots a striped gray squash. It’s a new variety a seed company is toying with, and it doesn’t have a name yet — it’s Experimental 133.

These colorful gourds aren’t just a hobby for Martin: They’re big business. In the last 30 years the amount of American farmland devoted to pumpkins has tripled, and most of those big fruits aren’t filling pies. As the weather turns, the Pinterest-loving sorts among us increasingly look for odd, eye-catching pumpkins, gourds and squash to decorate homes and offices.

Good Gourd! What’s With All The Weird-Looking Squash?

Photos: Ariel Zambelich/NPR