The art of cliché

There are many times we are asked to use concepts that have been 'around the block' a few times. Despite our best arguments for uniqueness and ownership of the idea, there are times when you have to 'bite the bullet' and 'put lipstick on the pig'. How's that for back-to-back-to-back clichés?

Needless to say, even the most uninspired designer hates to develop an idea that has been passed down from generation to generation. Newbie creatives fear the cliché, but the old and weathered tackle it head-on; like the Marlboro man breaking a wild mustang without even losing his cigarette.

Recently, I embraced the opportunity to serve a client in a similar situation. From the very beginning of the project, I knew he was genuinely excited about using origami money to illustrate a financial services brochure.

I presented two unique concepts - along with the origami concept.  As imagined, my personal favorite was quickly discarded because it took too many risks for the conservative industry I was designing for. When it came down to the last two, the decision process was intense.

Finally, the order from above came to go with the origami, but as a conciliatory measure I was told to keep the other concept for a future project. In cliché terms, this is known as the 'kiss of death.'

I believe that one is never too old to experience an excercise in character building, so I approached the assignment like a white belt martial artist and despite thousands of stock photos, I begun the journey of creating the overused illustrations from the beginning.

What was I thinking?

I quickly realized that I was not an origami artist. Not even close. In fact, after looking at several amazing pieces of origami by artists touched by the right hand of God, humility settled in and I began to reflect on what I've become as an artist. But that's another story.

After shaking 20 years of dust off, I decided Im still an illustration major so I defaulted to creating 3-D paper animal creations. Even though the final art was going to be executed with computer software, the therapy of creating something with my hands again was liberating in so many ways. My appreciation for the art was restored.

Despite being enslaved to a concept that I could not show (with a clear conscious) in a portfolio, I came out of it with something I can build on once again:   A reminder of why I love what I do.


After creating my own bull and bear, it was digitally photographed.

In Photoshop, a money texture was folded into the shapes and an original illustration was born.

A mama and her baby before the transformation...

Now they're clothed in currency.

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