Tom Pappalardo, cartoonist behind The Optimist and Broken Lines, put together a humorous piece about how modern technology — while very convenient — makes cartooning so much harder. From his humorous (yet true) piece “How Steve Jobs Ruined Comics“:
Cartooning is, to me, an art form of simplification. The artist uses a minimal amount of lines to communicate characters and place to a reader. Mouths are often oddly-shaped black holes. Cartoon evolution often does away with lips, body hair, elbows. Eyebrows are reduced to lines. Eyes become dots. A background might be a line indicating where the floor and wall meet. Maybe a squiggle of distant trees, or a cloud. Maybe just a flat field of color. Cartooning is also about communicating an idea in the briefest terms possible. It is literally a shorthand form of storytelling. If you’re making a comic strip, and that joke takes place in a restaurant and the setting is important to the joke or narrative, you damn well better explain that as quickly as possible in the first frame so you can get on with what you’ve got to say. In short, in cartooning things need to be made apparent.
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.
People interacting with multi-purpose devices aren’t doing anything, at least nothing particularly visual. They are sitting or standing, moving their eyes, maybe tapping the screen, maybe swiping. They might be doing something crucially important to the narrative of the story you’re trying to tell, or the joke you’re trying to set up, but in appearance they’re just… standin’ there. It forces the storyteller to drop a big dialogue hint to clue the reader in, like:
“Hi! I was just calling to leave you a message…”
“This Bluetooth headset is so comfortable I barely notice it!”
“My, this is a wonderful video I am viewing on my portable media playback device!”
As interfaces with technology continue to become smaller, thinner, less obtrusive, less noticeable, and less identifiable visually, creative artists will have to continue to adapt and improve their visual communication skills. I look forward to seeing these forward-thinking solutions to these incredibly important challenges, so I can steal them. HA-HA! Some day soon even the small electronic devices will disappear, and this tyranny of the black rectangle will come to an end, leaving visual storytellers in an even more challenging environment: A world of people laughing, talking, and staring off into the middle distance as their neural implants amuse, entertain, and sell them things. That will make drawing stories about them very exciting, indeed.
Check into his site for the rest, which includes some fun illustrations.