Molly Crabapple on Thriving as an Artist in the Internet Age
Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 04, 2015
Artist and writer Molly Crabapple is no stranger to controversy, having co-founded the burlesque life-drawing class Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, creating large-scale works on the financial collapse for a crowd-funded exhibit, The Shell Game, and reporting in words and illustration on topics such as Guantanamo Bay for Vice. She also has come into her own as a creator during the Internet age, an era constant and rapid change in the ways artists grow their careers. It’s not surprising that she was asked to share her thoughts on achieving creative success in that rough-and-tumble environment.
In “Molly Crapapple’s rules for creative success in the Internet Age” Crabapple offers some pithy and realistic advice for artists. She addresses the pitfalls of comparing one’s success to others, advising creators to take a close look at the trajectory of well known artists’ careers, and pointing out that her own success was not the result of a “big break.” Much of her advice is the kind of common sense your mother would pass on (but expressed in refreshingly frank language): don’t be a jerk, treat your fans with respect, don’t be lazy, move past rejection.
It’s when she addresses the financial aspects of working as a creator that Crabapple hits hard. She particularly advises against working for free – either by creating original work for contests, or for clients with money – pointing out those who do so are gutting the market for other artists. Some of her strongest language is reserved for online platforms that encourage artists to post work: “They're just using you to build their own thing, and they'll discard you when they sell the company a few years later.”
She summarizes by encouraging artists to be idealistic about their art even while being cynical of the business of art. As she wrote, “Nothing will save us but ourselves and each other.”
Illustration © Molly Crabapple. Used with permission.
It’s Dying: Glaser’s Stark Message on Climate Change
Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 02, 2015
'Hoping to galvanize public demand for effective policy addressing climate change, Milton Glaser unleashed a campaign titled “It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying.” As one would expect from the designer of the iconic “I Heart NY” logo, the campaign is built around a logo: a stark graphic of a globe, it’s green field almost completely obscured by a black gradient. The campaign urged contributors to purchase buttons and t-shirts; all proceeds went to creating more buttons and t-shirts. The goal was to create a visual message to politicians, showing a groundswell of public concern on climate change. The campaign was publicized with a Twitter account, using the hashtag, #itsnotwarming. The hope was that the campaign would go viral, beginning with students from the School of Visual Arts, where Glaser teaches.
The campaign had its critics. As Joe Romm wrote on Think Progress, the slogan, “It’s Not Warming,” reinforces climate change deniers. Romm also wrote that the focus on the earth, implied in the globe, fundamentally doesn’t work as a PR message. Instead, he feels that a better message would emphasize that people perish directly as a result of climate change, as witnessed by the 6,000+ deaths which occurred as a result of 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Jeremy Porter on Grist took issue with the #itsnotwarming social media campaign, pointing out that communicators advise against repeating the language of one’s opponents.
Glaser disputed the criticism. As he told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, he feels the term “global warming” is reassuring and comforting: “You begin by attacking the phrase itself… the truth of the matter is that the earth is dying, and wouldn’t it be nice if today was the beginning of the most important date in human history, which is the date we decided not to let the earth die.”
Below: The campaign buttons made an appearance at the ico-D (Icograda) General Assembly in October.
Free Range Fonts: The Google Web Typographic Project
Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 29, 2015
Any web designer scouring through the Google Web fonts library knows how stultifying it can be to find the right combination of faces. After peering at the third (or tenth) waterfall of characters, serifs and weights start to blur into a typographic mess. Self-described tech-tinkerer, Femmebot (Phoebe E.), has come up with a solution to show web fonts in their natural environment: Google Web Fonts Typographic Project.
The project sets Aesop’s Fables, from the Project Gutenberg translation, in Google web fonts. A minimum of two web fonts are paired, and are set in elegant layouts which combine the faces with background images, illustrations, and simple shapes. The result is a scrolling cheat-sheet of sometimes surprising, often pleasing, typeface combinations. Better yet, the selected fonts are listed on each layout and are hyperlinked to their page on Google Fonts. In most examples, the page designer is credited and linked as well. Google Fonts Typography continues to be a collaborative project, and Femmebot is accepting submissions through her Github account.
The project is the first in Femmebot’s larger initiative: 25x52, or 25 projects in 52 weeks. While the 25x52 seems to be a bit behind schedule – only seven projects have been completed since last summer — the projects have yielded interesting discussion and collaboration. In her end-of-year retrospective, Femmebot shares a thoughtful analysis of what the initiative has taught her about work and the perception of achievement.
Below: screenshot from Google Web Fonts Typographic Project. Used with permission.
Artists, Money, and Envy
Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 26, 2015
When the San Francisco Gate reported that author Danielle Steele’s assistant embezzled $400,000 from her accounts, many comments to the article relished the author’s financial woes. The rancor of comments led cartoonist/writer Colleen Doran to muse on the conflicted relationship artists have with money. It’s a situation made toxic by low expectations, envy, and hackneyed stereotypes.
In Art and Money, Doran describes her pursuit of financial stability as a bid for freedom to pursue her art — a habit of fiscal prudence she shares with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yet artists who are financially successful are met with scornful envy. Doran writes:
“What sick mixed messages this ambivalence about material success sends to creators. They are constantly told they are fools for being artists, doing work for the love. Then they are told they are fools for doing art for money. They are fools for not managing money well. Then they are told that artists are constitutionally incapable of handling money because they are foolish artists.”
(Fitzgerald is spared this abuse because he died practically destitute, although because of his wife’s overwhelming medical bills, rather than any artistic financial ineptitude.)
The point of Doran’s article is one that she repeatedly makes: knowing how to manage money can make the difference between being a full-time artist, or one held back by juggling thankless part-time jobs. Buying into the stereotype of the starving artist, and denigrating those who are successful only holds artists back from realizing their goals as creators and successful business owners.
Photo of Colleen Doran used with permission.
Making Brands (or at Least Their Logos) Responsive
Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 22, 2015
Last fall, UK designer Joe Harrison unveiled his exploration of scalable logos. The result was Responsive Logos, a simplistic website featuring the logos of major brands such as Coca Cola, Walt Disney, and Kodak. As the viewer resizes the browser window, the logos respond, becoming both smaller, and stripping away elements. At the window’s smallest size, the smallest recognizable feature remains: Chanel’s interlocking Cs, the Guiness harp, Nike’s swoosh. As Harrison wrote on his website, “The concept aims to move branding away from fixed, rigid guidelines into a more flexible and contextual system.”
The logo project follows his earlier Responsive Icons project, in which a detailed graphic of a house resizes and sheds gables, windows, the chimney, and the door as the screen resizes. At the screen’s smallest size, only a simple house shape is left. Harrison started the project to explore “the perfect balance of simplicity in relation to screen size.”
Both projects utilize SVG files, deployed as image sprites. The sprites are packaged with CSS rules and media queries into an encapsulated SVG file. Smashing Magazine analyzed Harrison’s Responsive Icon project, and published a detailed how-to. They conclude that scalable SVG icons satisfy some key needs, for responsive ads, logos, and application icons. With Responsive Logos, Harrison elegantly illustrates their application in branding.
Logos from screenshot of Responsive Logos. Used with permission.
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