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Author Topic: Why is Big Tech art so soulless??  (Read 1676 times)
DJoftheCoven
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« on: October 02, 2022 @959.54 »


Recently, I stumbled upon this article (https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/dont-worry-these-gangley-armed-cartoons-are-here-to-protect-you-from-big-tech/) about the corporate art style "alegria", which is used for the vast majority of Big Tech advertisements and websites. I've been thinking about art and the internet recently, how the indie web/web revivalist movement is absolutely teeming with talented artists with an eye for fun color palettes and "ugly" gifs that give their sites a homey feel.

How is it that so many people can come up with beautiful designs for their own personal websites that they make as a hobby, yet companies with billions of dollars and infinite access to artistic resources can't make a single site look like it isn't just blatantly trying to steal your money? People on the small web literally put fake ads on their website and somehow make it look cool, but the alegria art style feels like it's trying to sell me something without there being a single "BUY NOW!" button blinking next to it. I wanted to ask for everyone's opinion on this--do you find the alegria art style to be soulless and creepy, or is it just me? And what do you think makes the difference between our "ugly" graphics and their "ugly" graphics? Why does one feel so much more genuine than the other, even when many of our assets are pulled directly from older operating systems?

Lemme know what you think! :omg:k:
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« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2022 @37.06 »

Hmm its a good question and you can apply it to almost all corporate culture; I think it's to do with professionalism; I find myself asking "What is professional?" what does that term mean? Particularly what does it mean in terms of design. Partly its just a made up idea and partly its about things that have a consistent utility and quality; a corporate graphic needs to reliably convey a message without a risk of misunderstanding.

Thats the ultimate answer RISK. Creativity is risky! For every 10 great personal sites, there are a 100 broken or unfinished sites that just didn't work out (I have dozens of sites that never made it to the internet). For art its even worse; I bet for every 10 successful artists there are 10,000 unsuccessful ones (I know people in this community don't like to apply good/bad judgments on creativity, and for good reason; however the wider world does make those judgments and can be very harsh). That level of creative loss is fine for individuals, but if your a professional designer you typically cant go to your job and burn 99% of your time on unsuccessful ideas. So you find a trend thats already working and recognized as socially acceptable and you use that instead.

Thats why so many TV shows, movies and games are all remakes or just very similar; creativity is too risky for todays economics!

I'm not sure there is an easy solution.. :sad: Partly we need kinder economics that allow more room for companies to fail and make mistakes without endangering their existence and the jobs of their employees. Additionally as individuals we need to be more forgiving for the mistakes that designers and companies make; we should be more patient with game designers who make bad mechanics, or movies that are just too weird, or websites that are confusing at first; but we should also be more critical of those same companies and make it clear that we don't want the same old junk with nothing new.

In general that feeling of "soul" comes from flaws and honesty, those are not traits that tend to be rewarded in the corporate world or even in mass culture as a whole; but they are at the very heart of web revival sites.

EDIT: I suspect thats one of the reasons why old graphics seem to work for us; the early web was risky, it was new and full of ideas that were not quite polished yet; its those flaws we often pull into our sites today!
« Last Edit: October 02, 2022 @40.81 by Melooon » Logged


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« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2022 @642.45 »

As someone who recently received a diploma in graphic design, I think I am qualified to answer this.

I think the core answer is time. Clients (in this case a corportation) wants to have a design as quick and cheap as possible. As a result the graphic designer need to be "efficient" and comply to the (probably unreasonable) deadline.

Those Algeria in character all have one thng in common, they can easily be made in an Adobe Illustrator in a relatively short period of time. As their artstyle is abstract, there is no need to have "realistic" body proportions, wich make this artstyle more efficient.

In other words, it's easier to made than something wich has a soul. As graphic designer have little time, they gravitate toward this artstyle as it is a logical choice.

As for why most of them have no faces, I think this is as it's origin in the minimalist movement that started around 2015-2016. Back then there was a trend of drawing already existing characters (i.e Link) with no facial features, as it made "modern wall papers".

I think this recent wave of minimalistic design originated from some of Apple's UI design but I would need to do further research to confirmthis.

This sort of minimalistic design is not a new thing. It's influence can be seen in older graphic design - such as Soviet and WWII propaganda. That being said, I am not 100% sure where it truly originated from but it certainly not a new thing as far as graphic design is concerned.
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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2022 @352.64 »

Oh, oh, what will the future bring then? Will colours be scrapped for the sake of simplicity? They started with ugly concrete buildings already... and the cars on the road also lost some colours over the years, being mostly black, grey and white (at least here).

100 years ago, the designers must have had a lot of time. In the attachments, may I present you the cover of "The Book of Inventions".


* inventions_16.gif (103.47 kB, 512x790 - viewed 217 times.)
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« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2022 @384.09 »

100 years ago, the designers must have had a lot of time. In the attachments, may I present you the cover of "The Book of Inventions".

As a small counterpoint, when I walk in to the second hand book store around the corner and look at the old books, most of them aren't exactly inspiring: plain, single colour covers, titles all in similar looking serif fonts. I go home and I have plenty of books on my shelf published in the past 10 years that have beautiful covers. I'd be wary of too much pearl clutching re: now vs. then without (someone smarter than me) running the numbers. In fact, I'd speculate that while there's a greater volume of bland "corporate" art now, there's a greater overall percentage of beautiful artwork and that the range of acceptable self-expression for companies is far greater now than it was in the past.

There's an additional factor I'd throw in. Big tech is surprisingly insular. Many of these designers go to the same conferences, have worked at the same places, have the same friends on Twitter, etc. They're vulnerable to following trends just like everyone else. When every tech company was using Mailchimp yellow for a while, we rightly winced. When the Impressionists did it, we called it a movement.
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« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2022 @39.80 »


do you find the alegria art style to be soulless and creepy, or is it just me?


I do, LOL - particularly after this specific "style" was pointed out to me. I see it everywhere now, and it does get tiring.

It makes me think of the font "Papyrus." It's absolutely everywhere, and has been memed a lot. But I wonder, if it was never pointed out to me, if I would even notice it.

I guess most people don't, and people like you and I are disillusioned :grin:

In general that feeling of "soul" comes from flaws and honesty, those are not traits that tend to be rewarded in the corporate world or even in mass culture as a whole; but they are at the very heart of web revival sites.

You phrased this so beautifully!
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2022 @502.31 »

Alegria is interesting. In some contexts (like on big tech sites) I hate Alegria. It's also called Corporate Memphis though I think has little in common with actual memphis style from the 1970s. However, some of this memphis style actually looks kind of nice and especially when it's associated with a smaller site or business I kind of like it. It can be unique, and its soft organic shapes can be interesting. I don't think I hate Alegria specifically but just the association with corporations has made me disliked it. Though I will say that Alegria which has characters with missing faces is kind of creepy. I prefer the styles where the characters have some expressiveness and face detail, it's much more human.

Look back at old clip art, and some of the visual trends that make up corporate memphis like wood-cut or cubist abstract or surreal art is actually a bit like corporate memphis now. I think since clip art used to come in huge catalogues with a lot of variety, there was a lot of mixing and matching of styles, it looked a bit less soulless. Since clip art catalogues don't exist in the same way, I think corporate memphis trends toward flat style partially due to the speed but also because it is easy to make into vector and thus scale on digital displays.

So for me, I think it depends on context. But ultimately, I think art online is all the richer for a variety of different kinds of styles. It's a lot like web design. The current trends of web design I find a bit unappealing. I much prefer the amateur web designs, even if some of them are a bit ugly, they have a lot of character.
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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2022 @204.65 »

Oh, oh, what will the future bring then? Will colours be scrapped for the sake of simplicity? They started with ugly concrete buildings already... and the cars on the road also lost some colours over the years, being mostly black, grey and white (at least here).

100 years ago, the designers must have had a lot of time. In the attachments, may I present you the cover of "The Book of Inventions".

Funnily enough I prefer ugly grey concrete buildings over the more modern glass building which come in hundreds of different styles and iterations. Classical architecture definitely beats it out, and so does warm wooden construction but we've also lost the idea of a cohesive cultural design philosophy in the real world (yes i'm aware of the irony of that comment in a post criticising uniformity as boring).


Although, while modern buildings seem varied they're all plagued by the emergent modern coldness and "white death", so maybe the problem is still uniformity, as in the digital design world, but a uniformity of artistic attitude, world-view and philosophy which bleeds into these design spaces. :evil:

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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2022 @626.72 »

All this said, I spotted this in the news the other day; its totally the big tech style, but i kinda love it, its super weird!

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« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2023 @118.73 »

Wow, that artwork is actually pleasing to look at.

I guess the issue isn't the style itself, but the way corporations soullessly milk it for everything it's worth. I imagine if companies uniformly adopted another style, we'd all hate that, too.

I remember hating the Aero style when that was the corporate trend in the late 2000s, but now I think it has an appeal.
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2023 @716.34 »

I started thinking about this question, but it's actually kinda hard to answer. The whole transition into minimalist art styles in marketing and branding that took place in 2015 was done as a kind of response to the detailed and flourished Frutiger Aero. The smooth and bold lines of minimalism along with its simple representation of objects really popped with businesses and people. For quite a bit, I actually liked it. But soon, businesses started going from minimalist to just bland, and I think thats an important distinction to make. You can be minimalist and still be expressive, theres no doubt about that. But these businesses simply just make their websites bland. The art can be considered minimalist, but it doesnt have any character instilled into it. It's just supposed to be the bare minimum.
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« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2024 @770.52 »

All this said, I spotted this in the news the other day; its totally the big tech style, but i kinda love it, its super weird!



i think the reason i (also) kinda like this one is actually that it's pretty maximalist? like the amount of vines/leaves/flowers/etc contrasts the simplistic style and i think that works rlly well. also it lets the artist include big lovely shapes to frame everything. but it's not corporate in the same way most of these are. most art this style is bc it's easiest i think, not because it's nice or well-considered stylistically.  :notgood:
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« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2024 @583.15 »


As for why most of them have no faces, I think this is as it's origin in the minimalist movement that started around 2015-2016. Back then there was a trend of drawing already existing characters (i.e Link) with no facial features, as it made "modern wall papers".

I think this recent wave of minimalistic design originated from some of Apple's UI design but I would need to do further research to confirmthis.

This sort of minimalistic design is not a new thing. It's influence can be seen in older graphic design - such as Soviet and WWII propaganda. That being said, I am not 100% sure where it truly originated from but it certainly not a new thing as far as graphic design is concerned.

I was totally going to say minimalism as my answer, I agree with you. We add things to our sites in a way that is more "maximalist" and requires more time investment with an intent of drawing feelings of nostalgia and irony and humor. It's not on-trend to put the big moving eyesore of a "BUY NOW" button or corner-screen ad window.
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« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2024 @309.80 »

i didn't really notice it before, but yeah, it's totally soulless. in the article shared above theres this quote: "designed for expression, rather than individual identity," which i think pretty perfectly defines just why alegria feels so void of any personhood. these characters while human-like in form have no recognisably 'human' identity -- it centers them as consumers, not individuals. it's very corporate, for lack of any better phrasing.

i don't consider myself an expert at character design, but it's definitely something i take an interest in-- these characters portrayed in the alegria style are not distinctive, at all! typically character designers make characters (especially prominent ones) as distinct as possible-- this probably crosses over into personal sites by means of the desire to make an impression on any visitors, and i suppose that's lost a bit when we get around to promotional materials. the intent isn't to emphasise the person, it's to emphasise their actions. how is the consumer expected to interact with this product? how will it change the consumer's life?

personal sites center around the webmaster and the viewer, that's what makes them personal. even ugly graphics can be looked upon and recognised as a portion of a person's identity! there's heart, there's a motive that's separated from the profit-motivated alegria, a motive that focuses on the identity of the webmaster, with or without a character's inclusion.

i guess the end all be all is that it's all very profit-motivated. it's the same deal as stock photos. they try and make their graphics branch out as much as possible to any potential buyers, and with that, strip away any sense of individuality, any sense of humanity. even from an economic standpoint, it feels counterintuitive, i guess? there's no good way to establish a brand identity. it's all just sludge.
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