Brain Pickings

The Creative (Re)Touch

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Aliens, the real Iron Man, and what an orangutan has to say about your electric bill.

A common booby trap that befalls design rookies is the tendency to get all giddy and excited over the various tools and filters of visual editing software, spitting out visual atrocities each more garish and over-the-top Photoshoppy than the next. But, like Spiderman’s aunt likes to say, with great power comes great responsibility — the mark of an exceptional designer is the gift of conceptual vision, the mastery of technical skill, and the wisdom of restraint.

Here are three such creative visionaries, who use the tools of image manipulation to craft sophisticated visuals that capture compelling concepts  or, at the very least, tickle our curiosity and our visceral appetite.

CHRIS SCARBOROUGH

Chris Scarborough makes photographic caricatures, in a good way. He takes ordinary subjects’ existing features and exaggerates them to a dehumanized extent, creating an air of unearthly eeriness about the images.

In some, the manipulation is so subtle you can barely detect it, yet you can’t help feeling the haunting alienness oozing from the image.

ERIC JOHANSSON

23-year-old Swedish interaction designer Eric Johansson has a rare eye for capturing that elusive quantum intersection of reality and the surreal. He takes ordinary landscapes and subjects, transforming them into sometimes slightly creep, often amusing, and always fascinating what-if’s.

Johansson’s work is part Alice in Wonderland, part Tim Burton, part the slapstick visual puns we all make in the privacy of our own creatively restless minds.

Explore the rest of Johansson’s portfolio for a whimsical journey to all the places your mind has always dreamt of going.

CHRISTOPHE HUET

Professional photo whiz Christophe Huet, a.k.a. “The French (Re)Touch,” is a modern-day illusionist. He works with the world’s best creative teams to craft an alternate reality of delightfully surreal images.

His work is an elaborate production that involves entire armies of art directors, makeup artists, actors, extras, creative directors, photographers, fashion stylists, set directors, assistants — you get the picture. And the picture happens to be exceptionally striking, both visually and conceptually — like the brilliant campaign Huet created for French anti-AIDS organization AIDES.

What we find most compelling about Christophe’s brand of creativity is that it is vocally visceral, but it does more than to merely amuse — it uses that visceral element to create visual metaphors that illuminate culturally relevant and socially important issues.

Like this brilliantly simple yet brilliantly powerful illustration of the link between our daily habits and the living beings they affect — a crisp reminder that “the environment” isn’t just some abstract concept we donate to at the Whole Foods checkout aisle.

See Huet’s entire portfolio for images that make your eyes pop while drawing them a little bit closer to your brain.

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