There’s one thing I love about Chinese moguls. Many of them have something absurd on their campus that has no definable ROI, but it’s just something they’ve always wanted. Like a mini-Versailles. Or a petting zoo.

In my tiny, far more cost effective way, I decided early on I wanted to invest in something that blogs almost never do: good artwork. I wanted something so unseen on most blogs it was downright journalistically anachronistic: an on-staff illustrator. There is just something great about covering an industry that’s all about automation and taking the time to illustrate our work with hand-drawn art.

I couldn’t quantify what precise value this would bring to the site in terms of page views or ROI, but we never really make any decisions on that basis. If we thought that way, we wouldn’t invest so much of the staff’s time in producing the weekly PandoList.

I just love great artwork on stories. And when you trust writers to come up with them, they grab something lame from the Web as an afterthought. (Trust me, I do this all the time.)

We tried having a few illustrators on a sort of unpaid retainer, but there were always issues with turnaround because they had other jobs. That obviously doesn’t work with a news-based blog.

Fortunately, we found Hallie Bateman, or rather our managing editor Nathan Pensky did. We decided to pay her per illustration — a significant investment for a startup — and we were blown away with the results. Her work has a sense of whimsy and fun, and she always takes a creative approach to illustrating a story that doesn’t seem illustratable. Hallie comes from a family of journalists, so she got the soul of what we were trying to do here from day one. In addition to all of the above, she was just a joy to work with.

She was so good, that Paul Carr started to steal her to do some illustrations for NSFW Corp.’s pilot issue. What started as sort of a crazy idea had a clear value in practice, and it soon became silly that she wasn’t just on staff full time. So we fixed that.

Hallie starts full time today, and her duties will include taking over the art direction of PandoDaily in addition to her own illustrations. (She will also continue to do some work for NSFW.)

Please welcome her!

And, we’re not done adding to the PandoDaily team. Over the next few months we’re continuing to add to our already amazing reporting team — email sarah at pandodaily dot com for more.