“Just set your resolution high on your monitor, scale it up, take a screenshot and slap it in there,” I said to the panicked marketing artist who was stressing over the jpg of a 1X3 benevolent ad she was given without the high-res artwork or fonts. The client was not returning her phone calls and her submission deadline was twenty minutes out.
She took the screenshot, resampled it, leveled the grays and sent it off to press, fully expecting that her last days at the newspaper were just about here. This wasn’t the way you were supposed to do pre-press on an ad. Who runs a 72dpi ad in a newspaper? From a screenshot? She was very nervous.
The next day, the newspaper came out and she ripped through the tear sheets, expecting to see a pixelated mess or worse, a blank space with an X through it. But there it was, a perfect ad.
And she started to giggle with relief. She had just gotten away with something that didn’t play by the rules at all. In fact, this went against everything she ever learned in art school or anything they taught her at her last agency job.
That was the very first day she became a real graphic artist.
My favorite fashion designer of all time is Tim Gunn, not because of his sense of style, eye or any design skill but because he understands how to throw the problem back at a designer to “make it work.” That is him posing in the photo above with another rule breaker, Lisa Grimm, a marketing genius at the Mall of America in Minneapolis (ok, Bloomington) Minnesota. Tim understands that a great designer will solve the problem best when faced with the stress and frustration of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Designers who are simply good will fail.
I read this blog post from FootnoteTV today. It’s got a short video that is a must-see for every creative person who has only been given eight broken crayons and the back of a shovel to “make it work.” It made me think of my screenshot story. I had a good laugh and then decided to write about it, lest I forget at some point in my older age.
My editor said it best when he commented, “The worst artists in the world are those who have access to unlimited resources.” The best artists are those who have worked in newspaper. They know how to hold a dot pattern destined to be printed on paper as absorbent as toilet tissue, how far to push a gradient screen before it bands and how to mess with the key color to make a blurry, muddy mess sing. They understand the math of their craft, when and where to apply the duct tape and when a screenshot will look every bit as good as a coffee table book.
Real artists know how to craft a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and sew straight seams. They know how the machinery works and are not scared to get in and tear it apart to make it work. While they may not know exactly how they will get there, they are confident in the construction of their craft.
Do you “make it work” or do you make excuses?
*Lisa let me use her photo for this blog post. Thank you! She is on a quest to pose with every famous person ever, lured to the Mall of America through her wicked awesome spell.