On telling stories, and the dying imagination


[Image from Marc Johns]
Does sketching help us picture? The leap from sketch to focused image is an enormous leap. Perhaps what we see when we read are, in fact, sketches. Perhaps sketchiness is a crucial component of why we love written stories.


Do stories and their native inhabitants seem sketchy because we are bad at imagining? Maybe the muscles we use to imagine are growing weaker as our culture ages. Before the age of photography and film did we picture better, more clearly, than we do now? I know our mnemonic skills are atrophying (we in the developed world: drowning in The Image, as we are)—our visual creativity might be as well. The fact of our culture’s visual overstimulation is widely discussed, and the conclusions drawn from the fact of this overstimulation are alarming (our imaginations are dying, some say). Whatever the relative health of our imaginations may be, we (technologically over-stimulated children and adults alike) still read. The rapid proliferation of the image in our lives has not kept us from the written word. On the contrary- we turn to books in record number. And we read because books bestow upon us unique pleasures; pleasures which films, television etc. cannot proffer.

To whit: books allow us certain freedoms—we are free to be mentally active when we read as we are full participants in the making of (imagining of) a narrative. We desire the fluidity, and vagary that books grant us when imagining their content. Some things we do not wish to be shown. [Peter Mendelsund]

I stumbled upon a very beautiful, detailed blog by a designer today.
While spending the day busy with imagining things and coming up with concepts for some ads, this blog really struck a cord.

I think this foretells a lot about the changing landscape of media in general, as active participants and receivers of stories. Through the clutter, the visual saturation, the overwhelming proliferation of visuals – It’s sometimes nice to step back and rethink the way we deliver the message. Ultimately, it has to stem from a single minded idea – A tight belt, a measuring tape, a golden thread – that sometimes can be frustrating / helpful / rewarding all at the same time.

Funny enough – I just realised that I started drawing earlier than reading. And I suppose it’s the same for a lot of people. Drawing, sketching things out, affording ourselves mistakes – aids in understanding and digesting messages.

Maybe the idea of mass suicide of imaginations is a crazy thought. Maybe the rest of the world is busy consuming culture trash – But I believe in a world that still has a high standard on art, a world that constantly evolves and makes itself better.  It’s our role as designers to prevent this suicide of imagination, interrogate what we feed the public, and make the most beautiful work possible.

Ultimately, it means telling a good story.