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Chabon on “Graphic Purity”

This is a link to one of my favorite entertainment blogs ( that featured a post written by author Michael Chabon concerning the power of print over reality.  His post focused on the translation of a comic book superhero’s costume from the hand-drawn printed serial illustrations to a 3-D concoction made for a Hollywood production. 

Of the oft-absurd superhero garb that appears in the movies Chabon writes: “This sad outcome even in the wake of thousands of dollars spent and months of hard work given to sewing and to packing foam rubber into helmets has an obvious, an unavoidable, explanation: a superhero’s costume is constructed not of fabric, foam rubber, or adamantium, but of halftone dots, Pantone color values, inked containment lines, and all the cartoonist’s sleight of hand.”  

I enjoyed this article because it reminds us of the genuine honesty of print and reinforces the validity of the designer’s sphere.  Chabon also discusses the concept of “graphic purity” and I think that turn of phrase is especially apt.  Design as a medium is transparent and exposed with little room for explanation or “foam rubber padding” that can mask its flaws.  In my view, printed design is a raw translation of a creative thought into a visual product. In the same way that a cartoonist uses his “sleight of hand” to affect his vision, a designer must create with an authenticity and level of skill that cannot be easily recreated in another form.

Here is Chabon’s article in its entirety as it appeared in the New Yorker