The Scene is the Same, But Not the Message

I know, I know. How tired we all are with these commercials. Especially the big three of insurance commercials: Geico, Progressive, and Liberty Mutual. Nationwide and Allstate are not far behind in frequency.

I actually enjoy watching these ads for the most part (caveat coming). And apparently, so do enough viewers that Geico recently had a website by which you could vote among ten of their ads for your favorite (my fave was not among the ten listed candidates).

But Geico has a somewhat unique position in this. They’ve had different series running for some time now, to include themes like the caveman and the gecko. The gecko has his own long-running gig going and that may run for much longer yet. But they’ve had one-offs with things like the camel and then the absurd series with the zen gardener and the karate wood chopper. Geico’s creative agency has limitless ideas.

Then there’s Progressive, with only two themes: Flo and Jimmy for one, and then the “box” for the other. No one seems to know what the box is (other than to represent the insurance policy), but his lounge lizard persona actually makes me laugh. And I’m glad for Progressive that they have that box, because—and here’s my caveat—Flo and Jimmy can’t go away fast enough for my tastes. And that’s what works for Geico: they change it up often enough that you don’t tire of any of their themes.

Liberty Mutual has had their ad series (“Liberty Stands with You”) of using the backdrop of the Hudson River/Statue of Liberty going now for around five years. The top two visuals are examples of the actors questioning the accepted standards of competing insurance companies (“What good is insurance if you get charged for using it?”). I liked that series, because each actor brought a different slant on how insurance is used or abused from the standpoint of the consumer.

But lately, Liberty Mutual has taken a different direction while still using the backdrop for their “Only Pay for What You Need” campaign. They’re writing humorous spots now, such as the cycler with “customized” calves and the guy who’s in the witness protection program. What changed? Did Liberty think they were missing out on something? Did one of the account execs decide that Liberty was taking itself too seriously?

The answer is yes and yes. Liberty Mutual decided that the old style in this series was too staid. The earlier versions were informative, but feedback was that family viewers were gliding right over the ads without really looking while they were fixing their evening meals. The ad execs were getting a little frustrated that Geico’s ads were watercooler gabfest material and their’s were not. A change had to be made.

Exit Havas Worldwide ad agency, enter Goodby Silverstein & Partners. According to GSP’s executive creative director David Suarez, “The evolution we made was just to give those customers a little more color and let it be more overtly funny versus the traditional testimonial style. The clients were hungry for the work to be more breakthrough.” Suarez’s team brought in the creative minds from Barton F. Graf (known for Little Caesar’s) to inject the absurd humor angles. And apparently, Liberty Mutual is happy with the results.

Personally, I would’ve changed up the backdrop to differentiate the new attitude. Liberty broke the sequence—the consistency—with the absurd humor angle. Sure, the Statue is their monogram. But “liberty” can be stated in so many different ways. Liberty doesn’t have to be so literal. Freedom can be a synonymous underlying theme, something that might be nice for insurance companies to examine.

And so, another thing to consider is this: does every commercial have to be funny? If too many ads on TV are of the humor variety, your funny commercial starts to get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes a serious series of commercials—depending on placement—can be way more effective.

Either way, the issue I have here is in the packaging: the series looks the same at first inspection, most probably because Liberty Mutual has fallen in love with the backdrop. And if you the viewer are not attuned to the new script angle, you’ll ignore the commercials because the scenery hasn’t changed.

My take from this is that Liberty Mutual has already missed several million new viewers.

I Hate Advertising

I’ve been in advertising, in one way or another, for a long time. Decades. I kind of fell into it, first as a direction to follow out of art and design school since I had majored in advertising design. I was a designer/illustrator out of the gate, doing one or the other all the time. Sometimes I did both, and later as a photographer and art director.

I got my feet wet in my first design studio job doing ads for Prell Concentrate shampoo. And I noticed right away, being in the real world, that the thing that you can slide right past—if you’re not really looking at what you’re doing—is that you’re not communicating reality to the consumer. You’re creating the best possible visual of whatever it is you’re presenting—be it a hair product, a car or even a cream pie—and saying to the prospective buyer of that product that this is what it really looks like all the time. And you’re lying.

Suppose you do an ad for a plant nursery, keying on rose bushes. You hire a photographer and head to the site of the grower (after finding and scheduling a day with good natural light) and set about shooting the best rose bushes from a few different angles. Naturally, after assembling the best images, you design the piece in question and it looks great.

Too great. 95% of the customers who order from that nursery will not be able to grow the bushes they get to look anywhere near the images you present in the ad. It’s hopeless. It’s like ordering that Big Mac from the sumptuous photo on the sign at the drive-thru and getting a slightly smashed version with sauce and lettuce running out the side.

Advertising is all about expectation and design perception. And we as designers have already sidestepped past the point of consciously viewing this process as consumers. We are inured to it automatically, like a doctor is to blood. We don’t see or even feel the expectant want of that consumer, because—from the moment we start to conceive the ad in our minds—all we feel is the art of selling. We become automatons to it. And we own it.

The car in that commercial you love to watch onscreen is not how you’ll see it on the road where you live. The car in the TV ad is the only one on the highway with mountains in the distance or a winding country lane. That imagery is what sticks in your consumer’s mind, the romance of it. But putting on your designer’s hat, you know better: that’s an illusion sold to you by the advertiser.

Later on in my career I found myself immersed in package design for a well-known food conglomerate. And one of the things that’s always done in food photography is food styling. (Styling is always a part of commercial photography, but here we’ll concentrate on styling food.)

A food stylist is brought in ahead of the final product shot to prepare the food to look the best way it can possibly be using underlying and out-of-sight artificial things to make the food look fuller, glycerin or clear glazing to make it look wet, and adding more of the included ingredients here and there to make it look more appealing, all the while using tools like tweezers and paint brushes to make things look perfect.

Is this a depiction of reality? Hell, no. Is it even possible to open a box of the food, prepare and heat it according to the package instructions, and have it look even close to that photo on the front of the carton? Sure, maybe in one chance out of a million. But probably never.

Let’s examine the packages above. The lasagna on that plate at left is probably very carefully cooked in pieces, noodles apart from the sauce, then assembled spooning the mozzarella on top, all the while leaving not a speck of food around it. Note the small size of the plate enhancing the portion of the serving.

In the center we have chocolate satin pie, which according to the box is “made from scratch”. Sure it is—by a machine. Chances are the pie shown is a composite of several dozen supplied by the food company to the photographer’s studio, which when cut open, will reveal different consistencies in the texture of the chiffon-like filling. (Design-wise, that strong vertical left by the slicing barely sidesteps lining up with the green panels, but that’s a subject for another column.)

In the package at right, the wrapping of the fork is the styling here, more than likely pinned together beneath and shot from above separately. The sauce near the bottom left on the fork was also probably assembled and enhanced “post-op” in Photoshop. That and almost assuredly they toned up the greens and reds in both shots while they were at it.

I can remember one shoot I was on once where the photographer had a few of us on set ready to drop in Alka-Seltzer tablets into a glass along with another who was pouring Coca-Cola. The idea was to have a prolonged fizz take place while getting in as many shots as possible. And it worked very well, because with all the ice in the glass, the tablets were indistinguishable.

All for appearance, all for the sell. As much as I hate it, I still love it.

 

 

Design & Readability

One of the things I see in contemporary design is a departure from the norm of having a pleasing layout (placement of design elements) combined with readability. I’m speaking of print design specifically.

It’s normal—I suppose—in looking at cooking instructions on an 8-ounce can of sauce, and having difficulty reading that in what appears to be 4-point condensed type. Food companies feel like they have to cram information like that onto labels to be explicit in detail. Problem for them is that government institutions and consumer protection agencies have encroached on the labels’ real estate to where only about 15% of the label is available these days for the information you really need to prepare the food in question.

But in other areas of print, we don’t have that kind of restriction. Printed magazines—if they’re perfect-bound (single pages tipped into a center binding with glue)—have the least restriction with regard to fitting ads and article copy within the confines of the publication. Unlike saddle-stitched binding, there are no multiples of signatures to adhere to, and if the need is to add an additional page to complete the run, all the better for paragraph and type spacing. Readability won’t have to suffer.

Above are two pages from Wired Magazine, a publication to which I’ve recently subscribed. The magazine is a normal size for most that you might see among those sold in newsstands or bookstores at around 8″ x 11″. One of the reasons I decided to subscribe is the kind of articles they have in the mag, most notably dealing with science and technology, computers and communications, and maybe some environmental and political concerns. Very up-to-date articles for anyone who may want to be made aware of the world in which we now live.

Sounds cool, right? And the mag excels in those areas. But it is not—I repeat not—designed well. It suffers from what I might call timid or regressive layout, almost as though the designer has put down rules by which he or she has to squeeze the copy into tiny areas left over after dicing up the space for no apparent reason. The above examples are from the current issue, but what I’ve noticed is that the type used in the articles changes in point size from issue to issue, apparently due to some kind of self-imposed space restrictions, forced by graphic elements such as the black panel at the top of these pages. And those space restrictions are not about the number of pages, but instead about the so-called grid system they use—and even that changes with each issue.

Whichever way they decide to dice up the layout, they have what appears to be an 8-point condensed text font for most of the magazine. In the example at left, the “features” page near the front of the issue (common among many magazines instead of just the contents page) exhibits the worst kind of non-readability: a thin sans-serif font at about 7- or 8-point, reversed out of a number 3 warm grey background. I couldn’t read this without a magnifying glass while wearing a pair of readers. There is no reason to design anything like this. Plus, placing the subject of the photo dead center leaves a minimal amount of space for copy—if you don’t want the type to touch the subject—but notice that the copy does so anyway and overlaps it slightly near the bottom. Notice the position of the small word “features” at the top, the way it butts up against the edge of the black. There’s no consistency, almost as if there are no rules no matter where you look.

Then in the example at right, the designer has pushed the larger shot left and puts the shots of contributing writers into circles, which is OK, but then squeezes the info about each into narrow columns, forcing the copy down to what appears to be 5-point type. Notice the white gutter running down the near middle of the page, the small title of the page (Do-It-Yourself) floundering in a relatively large space, and the ultra-condensed serif drop-cap “F”: each item living in its own space with no relation to each other.

I could show you many more pages from the previous issue that exhibit further irrational design curiosities, one spread of which has an entire full-length sidebar using 4-point type.

I like the articles, which are very informative. Good writing all around. I’m just glad I get the digital version of these articles on my iPad, where I don’t have to use a magnifying glass to read them. And I’m also glad that whoever they’ve hired to design the digital articles is not the same idiot who does the print version of the magazine.

 

Design & Readability

One of the things I see in contemporary design is a departure from the norm of having a pleasing layout (placement of design elements) combined with readability. I’m speaking of print design specifically.

It’s normal—I suppose—in looking at cooking instructions on an 8-ounce can of sauce, and having difficulty reading that in what appears to be 4-point condensed type. Food companies feel like they have to cram information like that onto labels to be explicit in detail. Problem for them is that government institutions and consumer protection agencies have encroached on the labels’ real estate to where only about 15% of the label is available these days for the information you really need to prepare the food in question.

But in other areas of print, we don’t have that kind of restriction. Printed magazines—if they’re perfect-bound (single pages tipped into a center binding with glue)—have the least restriction with regard to fitting ads and article copy within the confines of the publication. Unlike saddle-stitched binding, there are no multiples of signatures to adhere to, and if the need is to add an additional page to complete the run, all the better for paragraph and type spacing. Readability won’t have to suffer.

Above are two pages from Wired Magazine, a publication to which I’ve recently subscribed. The magazine is a normal size for most that you might see among those sold in newsstands or bookstores at around 8″ x 11″. One of the reasons I decided to subscribe is the kind of articles they have in the mag, most notably dealing with science and technology, computers and communications, and timely issues such as environmental and political concerns. Very up-to-date articles for anyone who may want to be made aware of the world in which we now live.

Sounds cool, right? And the mag excels in those areas. But it is not—I repeat not—designed well. It suffers from what I might call timid or regressive layout, almost as though the designer has put down rules by which he or she has to squeeze the copy into tiny areas left over after dicing up the space for no apparent reason. The above examples are from the current issue, but what I’ve noticed is that the type used in the articles changes in point size from issue to issue, apparently due to some kind of self-imposed space restrictions, forced by graphic elements such as the black panel at the top of these pages. And those space restrictions are not about the number of pages, but instead about the so-called grid system they use—and even that changes with each issue.

Whatever which way they decide to dice up the layout, they have what appears to be an 8-point condensed text font for most of the magazine. In the example at left, the “features” page near the front of the issue (common among many magazines instead of just the contents page) exhibits the worst kind of non-readability: a thin sans-serif font at about 7- or 8-point, reversed out of a number 3 warm grey background. I couldn’t read this without a magnifying glass while wearing a pair of readers. There is no reason to design anything like this. Placing the subject of the photo dead center leaves a minimal amount of space for copy—if you don’t want the type to touch the subject, but notice that the copy does so anyway and overlaps it slightly near the bottom. Notice the position of the small word “features” at the top, the way it butts up against the edge of the black. There’s no consistency, almost as if there are no rules no matter where you look.

Then in the example at right, the designer has pushed the larger shot left and put the insets of contributing writers into circles, which is OK, but then squeezes the copy about each into narrow columns, forcing the copy down to what appears to be 5-point type. Notice the white gutter running down the near middle of the page, the small title of the page (Do-It-Yourself) floundering in a relatively large space, and the ultra-condensed serif drop-cap “F”: each item living in its own space with no relation to each other.

I could show you many more pages from the previous issue that exhibit further irrational design curiosities, one spread of which has an entire full-length sidebar using 4-point type.

I like the articles, which are very informative. Good writing all around. I’m just glad I get the digital version of these articles on my iPad, where I don’t have to use a magnifying glass to read them. And I’m also glad that whoever they’ve hired to design the digital articles is not the same idiot who does the print version of the magazine.

Quirky Type Design on Labels

Ever since I became aware of type design in art school, I couldn’t remain unaware of it. We were taught to look for it wherever we could, and sometimes we could find mistakes in those examples, if not just oddities. We could find them in magazines or book covers, or as in this lesson, on packages.

It still rankles when I walk through a Walmart or Walgreens or any store for that matter, as to why these happen. Sometimes the oddities are coupled with strange design elements.

I came across a hand soap my wife had purchased some weeks ago, a Klar & Danver product. Klar & Danver is a label distributed by Greenbrier International, out of Chesapeake, Virginia, but actually manufactured by a firm in Mexico known as 4E. 4E is a family concern that has developed a large market for beauty and anti-bacterial items in our southern neighbor and is a major contributor to sales in Walmart Mexico. I don’t know exactly where the name “Klar & Danver” comes from, but that’s not my issue with their label designs.

Type justification, as most designers know, is flushing type both left and right. The type design in this particular label comes close to that standard and misses it by a few degrees on both ends, but in looking at it, why would they try it? With only four characters—K L A R &—on the top line, the spacing as a result looks and feels awkward when stacked atop DANVER. The rest of the label works well in clarity and readability, even graphically with the water swoosh framing the bottom two-thirds of it, which makes the quirky brand name layout all the more obvious. All of the Klar & Danver labels have the same type design.

The next label is on a bottle of shampoo, that of the L’Oréal line. This label has both good and strange things happening on it, but among the strange is the way a couple lines of type line up: Extraordinary and OIL. Aside from a center-on-center overall layout, the designer decided to line up the uppercase I in the bottom line with the lowercase i in the top line, offsetting those two lines. I’ve even taught classes on this kind of type design (using type forms as shapes), but seldom with just two lines and never combining upper- and lowercase that has emphasis on just one of the words. Here the oddity of it makes it look like a design flaw. The singularity of it points up an idiosyncratic mindset on the part of the designer, possibly a sophomoric effort to be different for the sake of being different.

Also on this label is a graphic element that is strange. The metallic filigree in the center of the label is an element that is used on all L’Oréal shampoo labels, but what’s strange here is the rectangular arm coming off it toward the left and then down, ending in two bullet points citing two features of the shampoo inside. The coupling of that thick rectilinear element with the fine curvilinear shapes of the filigree does not work here (framing the larger rectangle with a thinner line and using two smaller squares for the bullet points does). This also comes off as an endeavor by a young designer trying to do different things without knowing what works well.

Aside from those flaws, the rest of the label looks and feels what most marketing departments call “premium”. The cosmetic industry relies on this appearance to drive customers into thinking they’re purchasing higher-end products merely because they have metallic and lenticular printing on the labels and outer packaging. That’s what keeps most of the prices for these products higher at the cash register.

Last, we have another liquid hand soap, that of a Bath & Body Works product. This particular SKU is “Peach Bellini”, named after a cocktail drink. This line of hand soaps has a tight design based on a grid. A grid (sometimes referred to as a “Swiss grid”) is used primarily in magazine layout to unify page-after-page sequencing and overall continuity. The pattern became popular in the early 1960s. Here, the package designer uses that graphic thinking to allow for placement of type and pictorial elements that will align each and every time throughout the product line, no matter what the flavor (or scent) SKU is. This is a very good method for a line of any product by a manufacturer, especially on labels of a smaller size that need to maximize the typography and graphics to be descriptive and informative.

This same exact grid—on a label, bottle or box—could easily be used for a soft drink, a line of men’s slacks, or even disposal trash bags. Good thinking by the designer.

You don’t have to use a grid to have a good design on a label or package. But organization of type and/or graphic elements (a basic tenet of any good design) is paramount.

When is Design Not Art?

Hello, 2019.

All art is design, as I’ve written before, but the obverse is not the case. All design is definitely not art, in fact very little of it is even artistic. Especially in this digital world we now live in.

Because we live in this digital world propagated by personal computers, all the information we get and see and digest and infuse into our daily lives has a mechanical aspect to it. It has to have that. Computers are designed to give mechanical results. That aspect shows up in the most visual ways in print magazines and television commercials and digital animated movies. And it shows up in the most minimal ways in email, emoji, attachments to email blasts, and in notifications you may get through things like Facebook and Twitter.

In the art world, geometric forms started taking hold in the late 1950s through the 1960s. Painters like Josef Albers (top left) were challenging the critics with movements into chart-like forms and color, and Frank Stella with his Protractor Series (top right) in his paintings and print making took things further. These are examples of design as fine art, but apart from other fine art, they convey no emotion from such techniques as broad brushwork or splashes of color. They are very controlled pieces with precise definition and form. Thought-provoking, yes. But being emotionless, they impart little in the way the artist communicates.

I’m certain that back in the ’50s and ’60s, the Albers and Stellas were not projecting—or had any real vision—toward the advent of computer-generated communication of the ’90s and beyond, but in looking at their artwork, millennials may wonder just how viable their work was—and is—as fine art today. Certainly their work was a precursor or harbinger of the phenomenon of digital art and design, but only in form. The fact that any or all of that work could easily be duplicated on home computers nowadays tends to minimize the fact that these artists were groundbreaking in their own time.

If this article appears to be another of my assaults on computer-generated art, I really don’t intend that here. What I do intend, though, is to show how far our culture has come in its detachment from artful thinking. What Albers and Stella did in their time was not to deter their audiences from seeing beautiful art, but rather to have them rethink what art can be.

And that is what I wish we as designers could accomplish in this era of digital art. It doesn’t matter where you do your artwork: be it in package design, magazine design, website design, what have you. Use artful thinking in your designs.

So much of website design deals with selling and communicating. Navigation through the site is paramount, we know this. But the sterile check list web page (bottom left) could at least be as minimally artful as a catalog page (bottom right). The addition of a pictorial element goes a long way in achieving visual interest. These pages are definitely not art, but they could be more like art.

When I was in college, I would get an occasional letter from one of my favorite relatives, my Uncle Paul. His penmanship was just the best, his handwriting so beautiful and flowing. These days, handwriting is no longer taught in grade schools because our communication no longer demands it. I myself use handwriting only to sign an occasional check or greeting card. But that’s just one example of long lost art: if one had nice handwriting, you noticed it. It was art in itself.

Then several years ago, my wife’s family came across a treasure: a short pile of postcards sent from her father to his parents during World War II while he was in France. What made the postcards so interesting was not the salutations handwritten on the cards, but the fact that the cards were handmade with original watercolors on them, artwork of roses on each. Unique and precious in their own way, all made by an old family friend back in the ’40s.

You could hardly duplicate them today, but it made me think that a touch of art goes a long way to make a big difference.

Imagination and Seeing

(This article originally ran in December of last year. Dan Blanchette is taking December off. New articles will appear in January 2019.)

I’ve written before about interior design. A few weeks ago, the subject involved decorating and staging rooms in renovated homes on a television show called “Nashville Flipped”.

With that show, the interior designer had apparently left the production after several successful episodes, and the subsequent homes’ interiors suffered because of her departure.

Today, I’m writing about interior design from a different perspective: what you and I and everyone has, and that’s a living space that we control. We control how it looks and functions, allowing us to use it as we see fit. We all have this canvas that we can paint to our liking, furnish to our visual satisfaction.

We can make changes to our spaces. Some people can visualize the changes more easily than others, but by and large, even design-minded people will get inspiration from looking at interior design magazines. That may spark ideas.

And where do ideas come from? They come from one place: your mind. It’s all about imagination and seeing. A designer uses his/her open mind to see what can be accomplished. The way I like to explain it is this: imagination is a door to an open mind, and seeing is a compass pointing the open mind in different directions to arrive at design possibilities. Seeing is a function of imagination.

But you have to have an open mind to get to those ideas, to see if they will apply to your visual sensitivities. If you see a photo of an interior space that impresses you, there’s no reason why you can’t apply the thinking behind that design to your own space.

The materials that made that room in the photo look impressive may be out of your reach, money-wise. But you can still come close to the feel of that room by taking away some visual cues.

In looking at the two images above, it’s easy to see the impact of one room over the other. I selected two photos of living rooms, both with fireplaces centered on the end wall and a bank of windows on the flanking wall.

What makes the room on the right work so well visually is the way the designer put it all together. We may not know for certain just what the interior designer was thinking, but by taking visual cues, we can probably determine that the light coming from the windows was the impetus to create the lines accentuating it: the beams on the ceiling and the shelves on the end wall on either side of the fireplace. The built-ins add visual interest on that end wall, and the dark shelves are an echo of the dark forms of the ceiling beams, which are an extension of the lines of the windows.

Can the owner of the space on the left take ideas from the room on the right? Of course. It just takes imagination to see them.

Not Real Photography

(This article originally ran in February of this past year. Dan Blanchette is taking December off. New articles will appear in January 2019.)

When iPhones first came out, I remember listening to a radio program where I lived near Chicago at the time about advances in technology, which was the focus of the show. The moderator was talking to a tech rep about the new item from Apple, and the discussion eventually came to the numerous apps the iPhone had. The moderator said at the time about how he wanted just a phone the way his flip phone was, being merely a calling and receiving instrument. And the tech rep went on to say why he wanted his phone to do everything.

That conversation has stayed on my mind all these years. I also tend not to forget the computers we had years ago and how far we’ve come since, what we have now in the ways technology has taken us. We can do a lot of things just with our mobile devices.

Of course, not everything we can do with them is first rate as far as some things go. One of the things I have an issue with is the camera. To be sure, the lens on these devices is good, especially for being such a tiny lens. Kodak would’ve loved to have such quality with their Brownie when it was introduced back in February of 1900, believe it or not: 118 years ago, Eastman Kodak came out with a consumer camera, making it the first mass-marketed picture-taking machine.

That camera, finished in what they then referred to as “leatherette”—a texture heat-pressed into the cardboard body and painted black—cost buyers $1. Of course it merely took pictures, called “snapshots”, also a new word. But it did pretty well as a camera.

Thing is, nobody thought of it as something to replace real photography. The same thing about Polaroid cameras when they were introduced in the late 1940s. Snapshots.

And now we have mobile phones that have cameras. Ditto.

I think what the public does is gravitate to equipment that can 1) do multiple tasks, and 2) have instant results. That’s just what these miracle mobile devices can do: supply us with almost anything we need to have and do it all in a matter of seconds. That kind of value is under appreciated, in my mind. Once we have it, there’s almost not enough time to appreciate and use everything the phones can do before the next version comes out. Every year. There’s almost no end to the competition from manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, Google, LG, etc., to bring out the newest and most versatile.

But make no mistake: they are not first-rate photographic machines. They are merely snapshot taking gadgets. Yes, they process the photo right now. Yes, you can send it to your family and friends, right now. You can print it and enlarge it (somewhat) and frame it if you want. But can you enlarge the image to what is referred to as poster-size? No.

They will not ever displace a full-fledged camera, such as a Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony, or Olympus. Not a Hasselblad or Leica, for certain. Those cameras, in conjunction with such fine tuning things like light meters and remote triggers, strobes, and items like scrims and light diffusion boxes, all make art. It is still an art to make photographs. Directly making the lighting just right, the angles, the shadows in studio photography.

Even outdoor nature and landscape photography, without all the peripherals I just mentioned, is still art. Waiting for the light to be just right for the kind of shot you want, the wind against the leaves in that tree, the birds overhead, the deer in the glen.

You might be able to do it once in a great while—to a small degree—with that iPhone. But you can’t control it. And you can’t repeat it.

Don’t get me wrong: Apple and the other tech companies have nifty phones that can indeed take decent pictures. But please don’t say that these mobile phones take outstanding ones. TV commercials to that effect are very misleading.

Selfies. Huh.