In praise of stick men

Foto de Larry

Foto de Larry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lots of people think that they aren’t creative. I used to think this myself, despite having worked in a number of jobs that require some degree of creativity, including working as a film editor, writer and teacher. Nevertheless it took me quite a long while to realise that when I said I wasn’t creative, I really meant that I couldn’t draw.

Whilst I would love to be able to draw, I have come to understand that if you are trying to explain something complex, stick men are not only perfectly adequate, they are actually preferable. Stick men, which even I can draw reasonably well, can convey information very clearly because they don’t come with the visual distractions that accompany a photo or a drawing of a real person. When we look at photos our brains are distracted by the extra information that we are asked to process. How old is that woman, what colour are her eyes, is she happy or sad, does she look like someone I know? These are only a few of the thoughts and ideas that flow through minds in the first few milliseconds when we see an image. The same goes for an illustration, especially if it’s well executed and life-like.

Not only do we get the message really quickly from a stick man (or a stick woman for that matter), a stick man can also convey movement (for example running) with little of no effort on our part.

So don’t fret if you can’t draw. You only need the most basic skills to depict relationships, instructions and behaviours. Go ahead and practice your stick men. Your audience will understand that you are merely illustrating a concept, and not trying to be an artist. And if you figure out a way to draw a stick woman (without be rude), let me know.

What does this image mean to you?

I have just finished doing an assignment on digital imaging where I had to produce a photomontage with a ‘message’. 

The instructions were to create an image which would make a strong visual statement about an issue, for example a political or social issue. This was difficult for me, not because I don’t feel strongly about a lot of things (because I do), but because it’s really hard to visualize some concepts, especially when you’re a bit hazy about your message.

The other criteria was that we could only use the photographs of certain (famous) photographers, so finding suitable source photos entailed hours of trawling the internet in a search for images which would inspire me. When I tried to rope in some friends and relatives to help me with my assignment, they all seemed to think that it would be a much easier task if I just knew what it was that I wanted to say. As a person who advocates for people to know what it is that they are trying to say before they start writing or creating presentations it struck me as hilariously funny that I had clearly failed to take my own advice. There was no way that I could find images that suited my theme when I didn’t have a clear idea of what it was I was trying to say.

I tried to get away with making some vague statements about the way the privileged classes monopolise culture, but it was hard to disguise the fact that I was just plain confused. I also tried to suggest that the finished image would express my idea better than any words ever could. Does an artist need to be able articulate the ideas behind their art? Shouldn’t the work speak for itself? Another ploy was to suggest that the viewer should be able to ‘read’ the image in any way they chose. Clearly, I was desperate and the due date was looming ever closer.

In the end I came up with the image below. It’s called ‘A visit to the gallery’.

What, if anything, does it mean to you? I would love to know if it says anything at all, or if you also struggle with pinning down your ideas?

Welcome to my blog

This blog has been designed to introduce you to some basic ideas about design. You can use these ideas if you are developing presentations, documents or any other kind of work where you need to make your ideas clear.

Improving your skills involves thinking and practicing. Your skills will not improve by just reading through the material, you need to apply the ideas.

Feel free to comment on any of the information, or ask any questions.

Happy learning!