The number two pencil has supplanted the fountain pen as the writing implement most frequently pictured in the op-ed illo. We saw a pretty prosaic version just a week and a half ago and today we get a more playful take from designer Michael Bierut. As an icon, the pencil lacks the pretensions of its predecessor. The pen usually stood for The Fifth Estate at its most international and idealistic—see in particular the '70s work of Eugene Mihaesco, where the pen was always foiling some unseen sword. Nowadays you'd never see this usage, since readers don't think of the press as having ideals or using pens. The pencil, on the other hand, signifies not a class of people but a type of work: the drudgery that we all endure in rites of passage like taxes and standardized tests. So Bierut has fun with it, as he might not have with the pen of yore. To me his illo suggests that we think of the essay as a welcome departure from the multiple-choice regimentation of the rest of the SAT; writing requires the test-taker to blaze his or her own trail. (And in my experience, such essays are often tortured and circuitous ploys to fill a fixed space, just like the path of the pencil in the picture!) I like that this idea does not come directly from Curtis Sittenfeld's article—instead it's an imaginative extension of the author's argument. My favorite thing about Bierut's pencil, though, is that it would be physically impossible to use.