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How Steve Jobs is making cartooning more difficult

Tom Pappalardo notes that many of the visual props (newspapers, televisions, music players) used to create context for comics are getting smaller and harder to use. The visual language is evolving as technology evolves:

In many ways, technology?especially consumer-driven technology?has been striving for the same thing as cartoonists for years now. Simpler, smaller, more streamlined. Minimalist. Removing as much of the object as possible, leaving only the key components (in technology?s case, the interface, the screen). Steve Jobs led the way for elegant and simple device design, and it?s a beautiful thing. But a cartoonist might reach a point where representing something in a super-simplified style when the object itself is already super-simplified becomes increasingly difficult. Let?s take a look at a few examples:

Check out his examples.

Community Comments

#1 Stephen Beals
September/19/2011
@ 9:33 am

I’ve been thinking the same thing. Is my character holding a phone or a deck of cards? Let me spend an hour getting that phone just perfect so everybody knows what it is.

I guess I could just set my comic in 1920.

#2 Mike Cope
September/19/2011
@ 10:18 am

Old stuff is simply more fun to draw and funnier to look at. My grandfather is a prime example.

#3 Scott Lincoln
September/19/2011
@ 10:21 am

I believe this has been an issue before technology stepped up. The real problem is that the industry abandoned iconicism for minimalism. Iconicism is about the essence of what makes objects instantly recognizable and minimalism is about stripping away detail. I enjoy a number of strips that are minimalist because they remain iconic, but the line has been crossed (as a standard) where there is minimalism to the point iconicism being sacrificed.

Sure smaller gadgets make for a harder read, but DETAIL can return iconicism to those objects. Let’s take an example from the article: No one mistakes Jeremy Duncan (from “Zits”) for a secret service agent. Why? Because illustrative detail gives the reader enough information to make a clear iconic determination that Jeremy is a teen-ager listening to an iPod.

I still believe people want to SEE comics as much as read them, but if minimalism continues to prevail over iconicism there will be nothing left to see.

#4 Terry LaBan
September/19/2011
@ 11:18 am

Good cartoonists develop ways to draw what they need to to communicate their message. Bad cartoonists complain that it’s hard.

#5 Scott Metzger
September/19/2011
@ 11:28 am

It’s a funny post – saw it last week and it cracked me up.

#6 Tom Pappalardo
September/19/2011
@ 11:54 am

Words of wisdom, Terry Laban. Words of wisdom.

#7 Anne Hambrock
September/19/2011
@ 11:57 am

@ Mike

I wish I could say that John draws old stuff like the 1962 era Sunbeam Mixmaster in Edison because it looks cooler. The sad truth is that it’s my real mixer.

As are all the other odd old gadgets that show up.

Except for my ipad, I’m a bit of a luddite.

Or cheapskate.

Or poor.

Take your pick :-)

#8 Tom Falco
September/19/2011
@ 2:38 pm

Every time I draw a phone now, it’s a little black square without any character, nothing like the old fashioned phones with the dial and buttons and different shapes. And flat screen tv’s are very blah compared to the old fashioned style with the big box and the knobs and even the rabbit ears.

#9 Rick Kirkman
September/19/2011
@ 2:57 pm

I’m going to start drawing iPhones and other cell phones with this:

http://www.amazon.com/Native-Union-Handset-Verizon-Blackberry/dp/B003DKL4JA/ref=pd_bxgy_e_img_b

#10 Pete Valle
September/19/2011
@ 6:20 pm

Loved it. This is especially true on geek-themed comics such as ours!

#11 BOB QUICK
September/19/2011
@ 6:40 pm

I think we may have to start labeling everything just as they did in the Dick Tracy strips.

#12 Kevin Moore
September/20/2011
@ 9:10 am

This is a funny post. I don’t think it is meant to be taken too seriously, just pointing out a new wrinkle in our visual language due to new technology. It’s probably a good thing that new tech forces cartoonists to come up with new ways to convey information. And if it puts a coffin nail in the couch potato receiving news via giant TV gag, I am all for it!

#13 Machado
September/20/2011
@ 1:54 pm

Just a warning, The link posted above to tompappalardo.com is infected with the html:iframe-inf virus as reported by Avast.

#14 Tom Pappalardo
September/20/2011
@ 10:08 pm

Hey, Machado. You just freaked me out and made me comb through my code! Everything looks all right to me. The only iframe on that site is the regular Facebook Like button.

#15 Machado
September/20/2011
@ 10:55 pm

Sorry ’bout that Tom, better safe than sorry?
But my Avast was reporting the virus, I also freaked out and re- scanned my PC just in case even though it was blocked. I actually never heard of this virus.

Maybe Avast is over-reacting? I don’t know, but I thought best to warn here just in case..Sorry again if I caused any headaches..

#16 Tom Pappalardo
September/21/2011
@ 6:23 am

No problem. I agree. When it comes to virus junk, err on the side of freaking out. heh.

#17 Tom Racine
September/21/2011
@ 12:22 pm

Holy crap, Rick Kirkman…I may have to buy one of those handsets! That’s hilarious.

#18 Jaz Tupelo
October/9/2011
@ 10:26 am

Actually Terry, I would say good cartoonists can make anything, even complaining, into a funny subject, as Tom did right here.

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