Shitty Thumbnails on Gallery Sites

Shitty Thumbnails on Gallery Sites

Postby CAP » Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:42 am

I know I've complained about this before but it's worth restating. On this occasion I'm irked by a visit to the NYC gallery Fredericks & Freiser.... researching painter David Humphrey.

Tiny and completely misrepresentative thumbnails of an artist's work are really doing a disservice to the gallery and the artist. But it's the web designer that needs a short sharp reminder of priorities here, preferably from the tip of a steel-capped boot.

The problem is gallery sites typically assign a page to each artist to show available work and the designer, looking for a quick and easy solution trots out a tiny grid onto which thumbnails, perhaps 2cm square, are arrayed, as links to larger versions. But this obsession with a grid means the thumbnails must remain square, even though works are typically rectangular. So there is a distortion right there. But even worse, rather than simply resizing a large JPG (around 20-22cm high fits in most browsers) and shrinking the whole picture down to say 2cm high, the designer simply finds a central segment of the work, 2cm square, that arbitrarily 'represents' the larger work. Mostly such thumbnails bear only a tangential resemblance to the work - are pointless as an indication - which is what they're actually designed to do! No one seems to mind because no-one takes the trouble to look at the options.

Firstly there's no need to shrink the thumbnails down to such a tiny size - usually they provide a cramped little cluster, about 10cm square on the web page, drowning in wasted space. Secondly there's no need to insist on a uniform square for each thumbnail, apart from laziness on the part of the designer. God these people charge enough as it is! The least they could do is exercise a bit of respect for the product they are, after all ,being asked to accurately and attractively display.

What's getting in the way here I think, are really the designer's own prejudices. Designer's have an ingrained, mostly subconscious hostility to fine art and so are at pains to try and allay their tacit inferiority through design control over illustrations - shrinking them down and surrounding them with excessive 'design' space is their way of literally diminishing the importance of fine art in the face of graphic design. I've noticed this in catalogue design as well - to my cost. This is the reason even when you click on the thumbnail for an enlargement, often it's not much more than a pissy 10-12cm high in one of those annoying little Pop-up windows, again wasting the space available in the browser window. Giving the viewer a decent size JPG to judge a work by is just too much of a threat to the web designer's pathetic standards for a web page, their precious little domain. If grids are too much of a problem for irregular sized examples what's wrong with a vertical scroll bar? Oooh no, scrolling is so uncool...

If we were talking standard market goods - TVs, phones or kitchen appliances - you can bet they wouldn't be stinting on size - the client would pretty soon remind them what the point of the site was - but with gallery sites a misguided sense of pretension creeps in, and dealers let designers get precious about 'their space' and texts. Frankly I think more dealers need to surf their own sites and others and try and imagine prospective clients' responses. Clients won't have patience for a lot of self-indulgent discretion - they're saving that for the art. From the design they want efficiency.

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