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illo to web VER. 1.0
posted: July 28, 2007
If Business Week is right and the days of the print edition of the San Francisco Chronicle are numbered, it probably means that a lot of other major regional dailies will fall right behind them.

If it's an inevitable truth that the daily news we read will soon only be found behind the smudged screens of our iphones and laptops, it might be time to start wondering how illustration follows along.

So far, no one seems to have figured this out, at least not in a way that makes much sense.

Here's an example of The Chronicle using a Joseph Fielder illustration, taken from print and brutalized with extreme prejudice for the web edition. If you miss it, don't feel bad. It's only 64 pixels wide. You can get a bigger view by clicking on the little fellow. I wonder how many people bother?

The segway from print to web isn't going so well for illustration and if you deal with web code at all, you will have a fairly good idea why this is so. It's just a hard design nut to crack, if it is crackable at all.

Some news outfits do make an effort. The New YorkTimes makes the case for illustration here with a John Hersey spot, handled as well as probably can be done. ( You may have to SIGN UP to view it )

What this sort of thing means to the art directors at the Times is that the days of designing around illustration, which the Times always handled to great effect, are over. The web likes rectangles. Wrapping type can be done on the web, but it's tedious and rarely worth the effort. Design looses out to the grim realities of HTML. Perhaps illustration does as well.
11 comments
Dale Stephanos July 28, 2007
Maybe, but look at how far html has come as far as ease of use. Even a luddite like me can fake it with Dreamweaver and other programs like that. I hope that the demand for good design will also demand a relatively easy way to accomplish it. If not, I guess I'll start painting landscapes.
Edel Rodriguez July 29, 2007
Or, you could sell your Drawger technology to the newspaper folks and we could have big pictures with our online newspaper articles. It's an idea!
Tim O'Brien July 29, 2007
Interesting food for thought here, Zimm. I am also a bit of an optimist. The value of having a great picture and blinding speed is best suited for graphics, video. You do raise some questions though so get crackin'. Build some design software that uses illustration and type in unison.
df July 29, 2007
I'm doing some animation for a magazine that went web-only a while back. So it's a different type of assignment, but just shows that they have not closed the door to illustrators.
Nancy Stahl July 29, 2007
You mean... "haven't", don't you, df? Today I'm in agreement with the "one door closes, another opens" scenerio, but if you had asked me last week I might have gone with the "we're doomed" version. The normal ups and downs of this business are turning into a real roller coaster. I tell myself that my skills are marketable but it may have to be to a different market in the future. The weird thing is teaching illustration and all the students who are coming out ready to conquer a world of image-making that may not exist for them. They can't all get a job at Pixar.
Robert Saunders July 29, 2007
You make a good point Nancy. When I taught seniors preparing to go out and show the world their stuff, I sensed a feeling among me and fellow academics that if we taught illustration without questioning aloud its future viability or lack thereof, we might be leading lambs to the slaughter. On the other hand, anyone who has made art their career choice is not someone for whom job stability is a priority. I too like to believe that when one door closes another opens. Trouble is, it's something you can't quantify or prepare for but only take on faith. Good topic, Zimm, keep them coming.
Steve Brodner July 29, 2007
I think we are very hung up on the word "illustration". We are storytellers, okay. Period. It is our job to communicate a literal point to a total stranger in a second or less. This is what is done in film, TV, video games, even radio. These skills, which we know maybe better than anybody else, can find a home almost anywhere. Take our narrative skills and add Flash, you have computer animation, and immediately we move into the new media. I agree with Tim and Edel, this thing we do will not die. In fact I think that mags as we know them will carry on for a very long time (you don't hear of them dying, in fact there are more of them all the time). Magazines are very cost-effective (except now with the postal hike). They don't have anywhere's near the problems that newspapers have. Our world is growing. The other day Walt Handelsman was on the Newshour being interviewed about his Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. And much was made of his use of Flash; "the first Pulitzer given to a guy who uses this online techno . . ." you get the idea. Well, you know, Handelsman's a really good cartoonist but the animation stuff looked like so much first year high school computer lab stuff. I couldn't get over it. Anyone of us can belch out something better than that. Sorry Walt if you're watching, it's the way I feel. But that tells me something. There's this market; it's wide open. We just need to watch and see who's most successful in integrating ideas and art over there, and follow the lead. And then be great (which, for this gang, is the easy part).
Alex Murawski July 30, 2007
Nice topic Zimm, The future is impossible to see right now, which is of course an entirely different situation than when I came into the biz. Then the emphasis was on specialization. Not so much now it seems. I did an interview a bit back with a young guy from NY who said while he considered himself an illustrator he was doing all sorts of stuff like CD design, freelance art directing, illustration, some video production. He said most of the young artists he knew were in the same boat and loved the adventure of it all. Part I liked best was when he said that while he'd missed the "golden years" (can you believe it?) of the 1990s he was happy to be an artist who identified himself as an illustrator. My thought is that illustration is not a product description, it is a mindset, and a skillset that will find a home in whatever media comes to the fore after the current tech shakeout runs it's course (hopefully soon). Humans are strorytellers and illustration is the artform that embodies the skills to do job. Whatever the medium and whoever the practioners might be, that won't change. So I'm also an optimist for the future of the art.
Alex Murawski July 30, 2007
Sheeesh.... And (a lilltle late) I just read Steve Brodner's preceeding post which says it so much more eloquently.
Leo Espinosa July 30, 2007
Illustration (as a profession) will not suffer (as much) but design will. Design has already, along with the public that benefits from good design. We are jumping from a media with great sensibility to one that's cold and pixelated; One that offers all the information that you want in a snap, at the cost of not really allowing that same information to be analyzed in depth or to take a random detour like the one I'm about to describe: I walked into the dining room yesterday and I found John Hersey's illo from The Times completely covered with doodles by my daughter (age five) who also outlined all the characters in different colors. Next to the paper were about ten new drawings with these amazing expressions that blew my mind, all of course a product of her previous exercise over John's piece. Information in any shape (including illustration) will increasingly be fed to people faster and in a more robotic way no matter what. Now, would I like to be producing work to be digested that way? I guess I much rather spending my time trying to find new channels for it.
Joseph Fiedler July 30, 2007
A funny thing: remember when AD's started asking you to "work outside of the box" as in "no rectangles" [so they could "design"]? Hmmm....