Why Cartoon Art Sucks

I talk a lot about what’s wrong with using character art to sell software.  I am glad I never have to present what passes for ‘state of the art’ with a straight face to our clients.  I imagine that meeting going something like this (picture any explainer demo video you’ve seen):

“Well, this is the random 31 year old dude that has nothing to do with anything…. that has a banal problem, and we, um, show your logo and make your logo solve the problem.  Yeah, we’ve done this 200 times before and were kind of bored.  It shows?  Bummer.

We included some industry-standard vector  art here and we used 7 different Jump Cuts….Yeah, he’s just like that one 26 year old dude, except we put a goatee and a tattoo on him to show you that he’s 31.  Yeah, we’re done.  That’ll be $10,000 please.”

That style is 99% schlock.

I find it profoundly disrespectful to the makers of beautiful software to use stale, recycled and dated art to sell it.

I find it impossible to think that the people that make this stuff honestly believe that it works except I’m reminded of the famous quote from Upton Sinclair:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”-

It’s an insult to try and use disposable characters to sell something great..  This is why we will never do it. It’s too easy, too obvious, and has been de rigueur to order one from one of the many, many, many production houses that do this style.  (We were incidentally unable to make this style convert at the level of nearly any other style, but that’s an afterthought.)

I was convinced that there was a fundamental deficiency of style with this type of art.  That intrinsically the style was going to make conversion to action less likely.  But I am not convinced anymore.  I saw another company – I guess a competitor – making something that might be able to salvage this from the junk heap.

It was the social object factory by Hugh Macleod & Jason Korman.  And he’s made a new style- typical Hugh, addition by subtraction.  The difference is that Hugh’s characters aren’t just from Central Clip-Art Casting, they have personality have a look:

“Freedom To Pursue Your Passion” – Freedom Is Blogging In Your Underwear by @gapingvoid from Gapingvoid on Vimeo.

This is reverent for the idea.  This works.  It’s not clip art.  We know it’s done by a human hand, and it feels right.  There are picky details that they’ll get worked out, but this is the only character art that I have seen that I can endorse.

Yes, there’s a distinct style, but you don’t feel insulted after you watch it.  It’s probably not a fit for all types of things, but for certain ideas, it’s a nice way of sharing stuff publicly.

There is humanity here, it’s some a reduction-to-role paint by numbers piece of schlock.  I love it, and I want to see where it goes.  I suspect I’ll get the chance to over the course of the coming months.

This has actual personality, and is actual art that respects the ideas that it carries.  It’s a “one off” but not a “one off the line.”

Welcome to the fray, and I look forward to seeing how this can get used.

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