• Michael

Is Simplification Ruining our Culture?

There has been a trend in the media landscape over the last decade. Logos are losing their details, animations have become more simple and 'corporate'...it is as if companies are demanding less and less from their creative talents to squeeze pennies. What's really going on? Is it something we should worry about, and what can we do?

It is in the nature of companies to be as cost effective as possible. As technology evolves, so do techniques to decrease time and increase productivity. This certainly has had an effect on our media landscape. For instance, it takes a lot of time and money to produce creative animations. Decades ago, animations couldn't rely on the processing power of computers to help fill in the work gaps. They mostly had to be hand-drawn. This style and effort certainly due to these limitations certainly gave an aesthetic and pleasing feel to some of our favorite shows such as Loony Tunes. Even when computers started advancing, shows from the 80s and 90s, and even 2000's still retained a golden standard of effort and quality in its animation. The Ghost in the Shell movie is a fantastic example of animation.

Then as computer processing become more accessible, things started to change. You started getting the "Cal Arts" style of animation and themes from modern Cartoon Network shows from "Steven Universe" to "Teen Titans Go!"

Western animations have taken a common "bean-face" theme. This certainly makes it easier to animate, but it also simplifies the overall quality and art style of these shows. There's nothing inherently wrong with the style on its face. This however requires much stronger writing. This also can cause further slips into "convenience."

In more egregious examples, some anime such as "Overlord," have utilized cheap 3-D animation for the various creatures and monsters. For the sake of saving money and man-hours, the use of computer technology often leads to quick and easy solutions that end up lowering the overall quality of the experience for the viewers. What could've been immersive, intense scenes get cheapened by the quality of the animation.

Animation isn't the only area where this simplification is occurring. Many companies worldwide are removing the details from their logos. Let's look at Firefox for an example.

The Firefox logo shifted from a highly detailed logo to one that's very simple. This has been affecting Google, Facebook, YouTube, and many other applications. Marketing research may be the key driver behind this decision making. Arguably, attention spans are much lower than they were 10 years ago thanks to our internet culture, which may affect how people become receptive to certain imagery. It may be extreme to assume we'll just fall into unrecognizable "Grey Blobs" with our art the way things are going. However, let's take a look at Google's newest icons for their apps:

It's more difficult to differentiate their icons now than what they were before 5 years ago. What icons will we see on our phones in the next 5 years? What about the packaging of products? Our comics? Our animation? Will we see this trend in writing as well, not just in our creative works but also in scientific literature, educational books, and journalism? What will our creative landscape be like if we allow this trend to continue? Should we try to stop it, or is it ultimately inevitable? If we were to reverse this simplification trend, the best feasible option is to simply start supporting products that don't fall into this trend. Instead of using Google, try DuckDuckGo or Yandex. Eat out at your local burger joint instead of McDonalds. Sure, these companies are gaining a monopoly, but they certainly are not the only options available in the world. And, the more support we give to our local creators, the more creative our culture can become!



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