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Perfection is boring

April 1, 2010

I suffer from a pretty chronic obsession with visual instructions and infographics. It subsided a little bit a few years ago when it became cool and all those instruction and How to do everything-books flooded the market and I no longer had to sneakily go through the kitchen cupboards and medicine cabinets of people I visited to try and find new and unusual ones.

But even when I got a bit weary with the influx of vector-perfection, what has never ever bored me are their less perfect cousins; hand drawn ads and community information; I just LOVE them. There is often something very human and kind of touching about them – maybe it’s simply that the people have facial expressions and little imperfections.

Top is a drawing from a folder warning/informing about SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), that I got given when I had my first baby; below is an ad for a local massage parlour.

Here is a nice hair cutting saloon and below a school wall, both photographed in Tanzania. The picture of the boy brushing his teeth is a part of a larger information mural, promoting mouth hygiene (Usafi wa meno) and among other things also pinpointing the location of the village on a map – an example of the other thing that excites me about infographics: their potential to convey important information to illiterate or partly literate rural communities.

Imagine if all the visuals around us would be less perfect, less boring, less photoshopped, more hand drawn, more creative and celebratory of imperfections….wouldn’t that be wonderful? Kind of liberating? Imagine fostering a culture where sameness doesn’t equal greatness! In a richer visual culture, wouldn’t we all be richer?

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