The rise of the influencer artists

Here is a review of a exhibition by an artist who has gained fame on TikTok. It made me think of all of those instagram designers posting hot renders.

The reviewer suggests that the art isn’t really that good or interesting. At least not as interesting as the story portrayed in the artist’s Tiktok videos. As the IG designers are probably the most visible part of Industrial Design today, it made me think about how that may shape perceptions of our industry. I don’t have any conclusions yet, but any thoughts?

The platforms of facebook and instagram are driven by carefully scripted narratives. Nothing is what it appears to be as the images and people associated with them are part of a larger platform of data collection algorithms built on the perception of the power to influence.

The ‘art’ used to drive the influencer’s rise to power is no different than a Banksy on a alley wall paired with traditional media of the 20th century.

“The reviewer suggests that the art isn’t really that good or interesting.” Compared to what? IG thrives on displacing human agency in favor of feeding the beast, so the quality of the content does not matter relative to history’s established standards. The broader point I’m making is that "little sara is not getting rewarded for the D in her art class, but she is now getting rewarded for the mere ‘effort’ to get the D. Therein lies IG’s killer western civilization killing app.

In the words of Zuck himself. “These users are dumb fucks.”

This is great. Thanks for sharing. I hate influencer culture and “content”…

I need to get my thoughts together on this and get back here when I have a moment.

Since you are asking for my .02. I am of the firm belief that I, and no one on this board, gets to define art. I don’t know the author of the article, but I suspect they are not a part of those who define art. It is only a few hundred art critics in NYC to make that call, then in gets documented/confirmed by historians. Not you not me.

You can interact with art. You can point to something and call it art only because someone defined before long before you. Don’t believe it? Substitute the word medicine for the word art in the first two sentences. Same truth.

So if a bunch of NYC critics wants to call this art, you don’t have a choice about it. I’m fine with that.

As for the influencer portion. It is a part of the culture. You don’t have to like it, but that does not negate it. Just like the “troubled artist” trope being around, peaking with Van Gogh. Telling people to get off your lawn won’t make it less credible. And even if it is 100% manipulation, tell me what tech over the last 1000 years wasn’t.

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You are cynical about being cynical, @iab ?

The art world is all BS. I could care less. I do care however about the impact of influencer culture on design and the enshitification of our society in general.

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  1. The critic states that he is the first critic to discuss this guy’s art. Apparently, he has had a lot of interviews and profiles, but none has focused on what the guy actually paints.

  2. I agree with Richard, art is BS. I also agree with iab, art is not going to be defined by us.

  3. I have sympathy for influencers. The vast majority spend nearly every waking moment on getting attention and then get flushed into the abyss to never be heard from again.

The question I have is what if design starts getting understood as hot IG renders as that is probably the most public display of what we do.

It doesn’t matter what people think design is.

…. Or if an influencer has 30,000 followers. Or is selling a book. Or on TV. Or is a YouTuber.

Good design is good design and has concrete results. For users. For business.

Seeing the BS influencers put out is frustrating but I think anyone hiring an influencer designer will do so only once after they are disappointed in the results or was never looking for real design in the first place.

That’s the problem with the whole influencer/content model. There’s no substance or results. It’s just a never ending cycle of shit.

I don’t think design will be defined as hot IG renders. First, what do they have, 8 followers? :wink: But in reality it is no different that the example in the OP does not define all art, and I’m not sure it is art. So if you think the dude in the OP and hot IG renders are congruent, then no, there is no worry it will define design.

You have heard this from me before, good design is defined by the customer, not us. Real or perceived, doesn’t matter. Kim K has a thriving billion dollar business. Like it or not, that’s good design. Influencers are a form of marketing here to stay. No different from the printing press, radio or television. Again, telling people to get off your lawn doesn’t help.

And for the record, I love art. It is most definitely not BS.


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@iab I feel sorry for you if you are in a position where the client is defining your work and your value and what is good design. That is like saying that an average person gets to define what is good medicine instead of a doctor. If they feel crystals cure cancer then so be it. We are the experts.

I’ve actually had clients come to me after hiring one of those “hot sketches” designers from IG after it doesn’t work out…

Just because it exists, doesn’t mean it’s good or we should support it as individuals, professionals or an industry. There’s all sorts of marketing out there. Lot of people shill shit on infomercials on TV. There’s an infinite amount of knock off junk and crap swag with logos on it that is made for marketing . I’m sure there’s money to be made. I don’t want to be a part of that.

@slippyfish Nick has some good perspectives on things. What he is saying here is true. I’m not sure it’s meant to be positive though?

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I think he has it backwards, which is not surprising being primarily an IG designer. IG designers equate ‘great’ and ‘successful’ with ‘noticing the product’.

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I hate to break it to you, but that’s what 90%+ of the world already thinks design is. I hate that it’s like that, but in my experience - even with other designers - that’s the truth.

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The article about the tiktok artist was really good, thanks.

The reflection on social media consumption and it’s overlap into the art world is interesting. The capitalism supporting this artists tiktok popularity to sell… Cheetos or whatever seems normal.

However, is his increased relevance in the art world deserved out side of social media? The critic is asking this question and wow did this artist react like a dullard.

I personally agree with the art critics point. It’s a strange social media phenomenon. Kudos to peoples marketing skills, but it seems like they target the uninformed. I don’t think if your really interested in a subject you rely on influencer culture to be informed. Maybe it’s positive as a starting point.

I would rather be an educated consumer. Isn’t that who designer should want to design for?

Most of my jobs have been fixing bad design. I hope that Richard and I are the exceptions and not the rule. I’d hate to think that every client new to design has to hire sub-standard designers to learn what to look for.

The critic wrote a follow up. He actually said that he thinks all artists should take notice of the power of social media to get their art seen. Maybe designers should do the same thing.

I don’t know how much traffic and attention Ditullo gets/got from his sketching videos, but that seems to be a good start. Luckily, Ditullo is also a great designer, so I’m glad he’s the name that comes to my mind for this.

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Hate* to admit that I think this is actually true. Galleries and the shitty art review world only go so far for eyeballs these days.

*“Hate” bc I don’t do well with SM, so C77 and a bit of LinkedIn is all I can take.

Good medicine is defined by outcomes. And as far as I am concerned, good design is also defined by outcomes. And for business, that is money. No money, no business, just that simple. If you want your design to elevate your soul, or some sort of bullshit to that extent, then you have no clue. So unless you have a magic money machine, you define nothing.

And I feel sorry for your sanctimony.

90% of the people who hire me? I don’t think so. As for the other people not involved with the business, why in the world would I care?

So now I am curious, and I’m sorry Ray to go off topic. Why do you influencer haters out there consider it a less-legitimate form of marketing? How is it different than Patrick Mahomes selling insurance?

Only focusing on making money isn’t design. It’s business.

Design services business. But it’s not just business

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Without business, you getting paid for design doesn’t exist. Your clients decide if your work was a success and hire you again, or don’t. You decide nothing.