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?

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