Friday, September 25, 2009

Skewed Projections

For years computer monitors have been getting larger and thinner. Screens are dramatically wider now than they are tall, giving a person more real estate to navigate. Extra screen width, for an Adobe Creative Suite user, is great for being able to see a whole lot more of your document space uncluttered by panels and tool bars that you now have room to drag off to one side.  

But what about the aspect ratio? What about respecting the height to width proportion of images and text that you see on the wider screen?

It started for me with those new iMacs a couple of years ago. I taught in a classroom where they had just upgraded to slick 24" iMacs; it was shortly after Apple flattened the whole computer into a slab of monitor that at first made me wonder what happened to the rest of the computer.

The business of graphic design makes clear distinctions between squares and rectangles. A square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square. Same with circles and ovals. When I draw a perfect circle, I expect to see an object looking very round on the screen.  

When every square looks like a rectangle and every circle appears oval, it impedes my ability to bring the pictures inside my head to life in the digital world. Digital projectors, as well as wider computer monitors, also suffer from this proportion distorting phenomena.

Monitor display preferences offer all the choices of aspect ratio an artist could want. One can select an older, squarer standard that brings everything back into proportion, but defeats the purpose of having the wider monitor at all, that extra real estate on either side now left unused.

So what's to be done? 

I call for computer companies and digital projector manufacturers to produce monitors in a taller format while still providing ample screen real estate, and to offer a wider range of projection modes that respect proportion, not only for artists, but for anyone who gives a whit about image integrity.

After all, if we can make a choice, should we not make the one that yields the most beauty?

Scaling vs. Skewing

Proportion is paramount to design. 'Scaling' and 'skewing' are as different as looking at yourself in a mirror and looking at yourself in a funhouse mirror. Stretching a picture of your face wide makes you look fat, stretching it tall makes you look skinny.

Same with text. A type designer purposely renders a typeface to be tense or open, flowing or rigid, conservative or novel; a feeling and character emerge that give a font identity, a face. As loathe as I am to distort a picture of your pretty face, so it is with typography.

To idly distort by stretching and pulling the faces of people and text, to lose proportion when imposing a size change, is to break a basic tenet of good design. It also falls short of respect for the sanctity of 'image.'

Constraining proportion is a task that design software does very well when placed in the hands of a competent designer. Holding down the shift key, however easy that may seem, is a act of proportional constraint that many novice designers and students simply fail to do.

Creative license withstanding, disproportionate size changes, unless done in a very deliberate manner by a practiced hand, just look like mistakes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

No Longer About Copyright

Creating and maintaining a blog on any particular subject of interest, the intent being to foster continuing readership, can generate ad revenue based on what the demographic of people who read your blog would like. It no longer becomes a question of copyright—exclusivity—but one of exposure—notoriety—that brings revenue and broader forms of recognition. It's one of the ways Content Management Sites (CMS), like Wordpress, Blogger, and MySpace are changing the way people communicate and businesses advertise via the Internet.

Granted, blogging is different than posting photos and hooking up with friends on Facebook, but the database driven software running behind the scenes is the same, making far flung connections paired up in the wink of an eye—commonality found, email sent!

It's one of those best kept secrets happening right under our noses! We think of them as 'social networking' sites, but that's a misnomer for a cleverly veiled commercial enterprise exploiting popular media. (Viral Marketing)

News agencies for years now have been mining blogs for source material. Broadcast news is witnessing the emergence of 'social media' experts brought on for commentary about what's increasingly become a significant part of the average person's life. Facebook's phenomenal growth threatens market share of other service providers, with perks like instant messaging and email built right in.

Jobs in graphics, marketing and media are being advertised for individuals who can step into a business, establish a presence for that business across a range of social media offerings, and then maintain involvement and exposure through various marketing strategies. Printing Industries of America (PIA) is now teaching seminars to enhance these skills for businesses looking for better exposure and individuals desiring to enhance their job skills.

You might think and Facebook are doing you a favor by ferreting out people you know from the past, but in the information age, it's really all about marketing. Cashing in on the social networking craze as a vehicle of information delivery, reaching the consumer on as many levels as possible. Building demographic profiles which are sold to companies that send personalized junk mail showing you things you really do want—the software does a great job! (Cool Hunting)

So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Take advantage of the freedom of Internet publishing—you wouldn't find it very interesting to live off the grid anyway. Generate passive income and share your voice!