Every three or four weeks, I see a new link get passed around the comic/geek/design circles. It’s usually called something like “Movie/TV/Video Game Minimalist Posters” or “Some Fucking Stupid Shit Re-Imagined As Vintage Paperbacks” or “Look At All These Pop Culture References Reduced To Simple Colors And Shapes” or what the fuck ever. Before clicking (because, God knows I can’t not click) I already know a few things in advance:
1. There will be lots of negative space!
2. There will be a limited color palette of muted tones!
3a. Everything will be waaaay too rough and distressed! OR:
3b. Everything will be waaaay too ultra-clean & flat!
4. It will infringe on some other creator’s copyright
5. Everything will be conveniently sized to 11×17!
6. Everything will be for sale!
See, the best part is that there’s never just one of these posters, there’s always a series! Because these graphic design geniuses aren’t just shitting these out, people! No! They’re not just in it for the quick buck! Uh-uh! They’ve put a lot of thought and time into their bootlegged merchandise! They’re not hiding behind a few well-worn tropes of minimalist design to cover up any inadequacies in the skills department, either, so don’t even think that! Just because they’ve shat out an entire body of work based around the same two or three “old piece of paper” scans they have lying around on their hard drives does not make them lazy designers! I mean, every fifth or tenth design they’ll ROTATE those scans A FULL 180 DEGREES.
Every time I see a new series being touted by the same handful of comic-themed/geek-oriented sites, I try to give it a chance, I really do. But once I get past the initial premise/hook/geekbait of the post and really look at the designs, they’re almost always disappointing. Try it yourself. Do a Google Image Search. Pick ONE poster thumbnail that looks promising and take a look at the full-res. Is it REALLY that well done? The concept, the layout, the execution. Does it really seem like the designer has put more than five seconds of thought into it, or spent more than 15 minutes in Illustrator? Is the thing really any good? Now back up and find the rest of the series it came from. You’ll most likely find the same formula applied with a minimum of imagination added (maybe that’s what they mean when they claim they’re making minimalist designs… hmmm…). These series are more often than not excellent studies in lazy design, lazy thinking, and wanton self-promotion.
Now, don’t misunderstand me: I not only love minimalist design as a viewer, but I also love it as a designer. Simple solutions are usually best. I get it. Bold is good. Etc. etc. But the proliferation of portfolio-padding and illegal-merchandise-creating happening online (and the fact that it is spread around like wildfire by any vaguely-related site desperately in need of content) is over-the-goddamned-top. It’s not that all of these designs are bad—not true at all. I mean, okay, some of them are absolute shit, but there’s some good stuff out there, and some okay kernels of ideas that are woefully underdeveloped, and then… Well, then there’s still a lot more shit, I guess.
So to all of you minimal retro vintage poster hawkers, I say this: Sure, it’s okay to do these little design exercises as a way to hone your skills, have fun, make fan-art, or show off to your friends… but posting them on your flickr or deviantart or tumblr accounts as ‘art prints’ for sale? Nooo, my friend. You’re not art-making or print-making. You’re just ripping off other people’s creative properties and trying to make a reputation and/or a buck off it. You’re not showing how creative and imaginative you are. You’re showing the opposite. You’re being an uncreative, unimaginative opportunist.
So just stop, please stop. Turn off your fucking laser printers, close your fucking web stores, suspend your PayPal accounts. Concentrate on improving your craft. Come up with ideas that are wholly your own. Then try to make a buck off of those.
See also: Addendum: More Minimalist Shallow Bullshit
A related post: Stunt Design