So Fairey’s getting sued for the Obama poster. I have to say, I think the AP has a good case. If I believed that he used the photo as a source for an illustration, that would be one thing. And had he done that, it would’ve probably been nothing to get permission from the photographer, if not for the support of the candidate, then for some percentage commission. Which would be just plain fair – photographers gotta eat, too. And even if it is the AP which is suing, it’s good to remember that the AP is paying that photographer for his work (which is how we have the image in the first place – a photographer was getting paid to work).
But Fairey was kind of cheesy about the whole thing: grabbing the shot from Google, Live Tracing it, and then crapping out a poster for sale (remember, this was not a public service). That’s the thing – doing it honorably would not have taken much extra effort on his part. And presumably, Fairey’s making a decent living, so why not hire an illustrator? Why not shoot a percentage deal to the photographer? Think about the flip side – Fairey himself is hired by art directors, and he has been involved on the other side of the copying issue. It seems like he thinks compensating creatives doesn’t apply when it’s him.
Another update: This thing is really going crazy. Glaser weighs in here. Heller weighs in here. Even though Heller and Glaser are (for my money) a bit tepid, and there may be some schadenfreude in other critiques, I do think this is bad for the field of graphic design. With his complicity, he’s become a huge public face for design, and now we’re now just another fraud. First it was baseball, then the politicians, the newsmedia. And now we suck, too.
Sorry, no post today (or probably tomorrow). Instead, please enjoy this photo and contemplate the limits of perfection.
Post-election, I was hoping that this poster would go away and I could keep my carping to myself (and my long-suffering special lady). But lately, Shepard Fairey’s been all over the place, and while I think it’s great that we’re inviting graphic designers into the larger conversation, the downside is that the poster’s back again and so here goes.
I don’t hate it. It’s fine. But there are two major problems that just keep nagging.
The first is simple craftsmanship: it’s just not been drawn. It is more a demonstration of the limits of Adobe Illustrator Live Trace than it is an illustration. The shapes around the mouth, especially, are just horribly weak. It becomes a clip-art version of a WPA poster. Someone versed in anatomy would know how the philtrum is constructed and how the lips curve over each other and would (even if he was tracing it for a photographic likeness) be able to finesse the lines to push the perspective and the reinforce the overall strength of the image. This is what illustrators do that computers can’t (among other things).
Just look at the uneven lips, the shapeless shapes around the mouth, the incorrect perspective. It’s kind of exasperating if you get into it. Don’t even get me started on the nose (just look at the comparison! Ugh).
The second is more the fascist style of it. I’m not sure if it was intentional or subliminal, but it’s definitely there. It seems like, after the past eight horrid years, and with a great candidate to get behind, all of us Obama supporters couldn’t wait to shove some of our own fascist imagery down the throats of the other guys. I don’t think that a poster image of fascism is as bad as the more real-life shades of totalitarianism embraced by the neoconservatives of the past two terms. But still. I didn’t like the toothless fascism (they call it “school spirit”) of high school rivalries, or the subtler but slightly less toothless fascism of patriotic displays, and I don’t like fascism here, even though it’s my side that’s doing it.
Also: I am an Obama supporter. And I don’t know much about Fairey’s work, except that I did like the Andre the Giant stuff. But this thing – okay, maybe I do kind of hate it.
Wow. The holidays are over, and a nephew’s in town, and I’ve got a jillion new things to work on (thankfully) even as the economy begins its death rattle. More scans to come. And thanks for visiting, anonymous internet peeps.
Working on projects here and in Japan, I’m always bouncing back and forth between imperial and metric (btw, metric is so much better – too bad we Americans don’t have much of an intuitive feel for it). Google converts the numbers for me, but I always have trouble visualizing the differences. So, here’s a chart showing relative sizes and a few actual differences, with some silhouettes of popular, large things for scale.
And scroll all the way down for a truly magnificent comparison of feet and inches.
Magnificent, I say!
The type on Annie Leibovitz’s new book is total bullsh*t.
Normally I wouldn’t bother with this, but it’s not like a piece of cheap direct mail. It’s a hardcover monograph for a stellar artist and cultural force. If junk design is done for junk, who cares? But Random House and Annie Leibovitz should be in another class. If these folks can’t get their typography to even a basic standard of professionalism, then who will?
Below are a few corrections that I made to the lettering, and I wouldn’t normally’ve done this (much less posted it), except – and here’s the thing – it took me about a half an hour to do. We live in an era free from x-actos and stat cameras and rubber cement and press type. We have infinite x-actos and magical tracing paper and the most perfect duplicating (at least while it’s still virtual) machine yet conceived. To make these corrections takes almost no time, and therefore almost no money.
- The A and N serifs want to be together. That awkward just-wider-than-a-hairline is distracting. Join em! And the inside serif on the A is a horrid stumpy thing – just because whoever digitized it screwed up doesn’t mean you have to live with it.
- Again with the awkward relationship on the T-Z serifs. Fix the letter spacing, then make the serifs relate in some way.
- Another awkward relationship. The serifs want to be holding hands.
- Make the cross bars of the E and B relate better.
- The R and K are right next to each other, again with the cross bars. And good lord is that letter spacing a train wreck.
Side by side:
It’s subtle, but when you even start addressing the letter spacing, the typography begins to coalesce as a single piece of design. And I do mean this is only a start (lord knows letterspacing is subjective and a matter of personal taste).
With that said, why is the type so poorly done? How does a design team this ignorant (they don’t know) or slipshod (they don’t care) get to be in the position to foist this junk on us? I don’t mean to ream whoever the designers were on this (I couldn’t find any info so I’m assuming it’s in-house work), because there’s a larger point: that this is (yet another) crappy thing in life that has absolutely no reason to be crappy. Making it decent would’ve involved, like, 10% more effort than making it lame. But it’s lame. And life* sucks a little more because of it.
*I know it seems like I’m confusing life with design, probably because I’m a designer. But think about how much of our lives, our environment, is designed: all the ads, all the book covers and magazines and type on cars and packaging and blah blah blah. So yeah. Life sucks a little more when the design sucks (especially when it sucks for no reason).
Back after the holiday. This year, try some stuffing with your turkey. You might like it.
I’m feeling less bad about using everyone else’s research now that I’ve become that horrible neologism a “prosumer.” It’s not entirely my fault, though – I blame the Internet. Two photos I took of a now-signless, but formerly iconic Crenshaw neighborhood Ford dealership have been used to illustrate the troubles of the auto industry, in two separate articles. I’ve never been so damn zeitgeisty and it’s freaking me out a little.
And from Wired.com:
By the way, the sign was rather unceremoniously thrown away. At least its image lives on as a metaphor for failure.