November 23

Faking It




“How do you get those uneven edges in your illustrations?”
“I draw them, unevenly.”

“What’s the best way to get this to look like it’s cut out of paper?”
“Cut it out of paper.”

“What typeface are you using? It looks so much like handwriting.”
“That’s my handwriting.”

These are all real questions I’ve been asked by folks. At lectures, in class, over email. It makes me feel like I’m in the business of serving up plain, glaring answers.

“Care to shed some enlightenment, Frank?”
“Hm, I don’t know. How about a big pile of obvious?”

Sorry folks, the most evident way of doing something is typically the way that I do it. No secret labs, no special tools, no computer gee-whizzery.

Disappointing, isn’t it? I’m not surprised that these people are asking these questions. I think everyone wants a peek into someone else’s process. What surprises me is that they infer there isn’t an easy, obvious answer to their questions. There’s a digital silver bullet somewhere, and damned if they aren’t going to find it. But still, surely people still know that handwriting something and scanning it in is an option, rather than using a typeface?

What’s interesting to me is that these questions are being raised because some peoples’ default states are to “fake it.” Maybe that’s a natural response to being constantly presented with things that aren’t real. Maybe it’s from working with tools whose reach is so wide, it’s difficult to grasp where their edges truly lie. The issue is that I think that faking it is turning an awful lot of creative processes that have the potential to be deep oceans into shallow puddles. It’s weakening our physical connection to our work.

Our audiences have lower standards too. It’s unusual for them to be confronted with authenticity. When confronted with it, they’re startled by it. They don’t want to believe it and their first response is generally to scream “fake!” But, no green screen. No movie special effects. No camera tricks. Nothing that’s kind of like this other real thing but isn’t quite it. It is what it is. And it really happened. I hadn’t really realized it until recently, but authenticity is special now. Authenticity is special now.

“Wait, are you telling me they really released all of these bouncy balls down this big hill?” Yes I am. And if you have the choice, I think you should do it that way too.


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