Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cartoon Avatars: They're Now, They're Wow!

"Cartoon avatars are back in vogue"
CNN (August 9, 2010)

"Editor's note: Damon Brown is a Northern California-based freelance writer and author of books, including 'Damon Brown's Simple Guide to the iPad' and 'Porn & Pong: How "Grand Theft Auto," "Tomb Raider" and Other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture.'

"If recent trends are any indication, cartoon self-caricatures are becoming more popular than the clichéd photo in the mirror headshot. Cartoon avatars, both classic and new, are hot right now.

"The cartoon-spawning series 'Mad Men' is back. The critically and commercially successful AMC show about 1960s ad execs has revived its popular 'Mad Men Yourself' campaign, which lets you create an animated doppelganger that smokes like a train and wouldn't be out of place in a film noir.

"Since 'Mad Men Yourself' launched a year ago, thousands of people adorned their Facebook profiles with the retro caricatures. The trend was not unlike the personalized knockoffs of Shepard Fairley's striking Obama Hope design during the 2008 presidential election...."

I'm inclined to agree with the writer, that this is a fad that will end as soon as folks get tired of seeing their 'unique' avatar repeated with minor variations on social networks.

Clichéd or not, I think that a clear photo of a person's face is generally the best avatar. Or, in my case, part of the face: That big eye is mine. Most folks are able to distinguish faces, almost without effort. The trick is to pick a relatively high-contrast, sharp-focus photo with a neutral background.

The biggest drawback, as I see it, to using something that's popular as an avatar is that - it's popular. Standing out from the crowd takes work online, and blending in with everybody else who's following a current trend doesn't help.

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