Wed 26 Apr
I’m going to make it a two-fer week for comics fans here: I never got around to writing about the Adrian Tomine-illustrated advertising campaign for Perry Ellis that kicked off earlier in the year, so following on my post about Seth’s wonderful “Wimbeldon Green,” I thought I would. It’s a fairly striking creative strategy for a fashion label that completely eschews photography for hand-drawn illustrations from the author and artist of the indie comic book “Optic Nerve.” Tomine uses his self-consciously mild drawing style to recount quiet moments of modest poignancy in the lives of apparently attractive, Perry Ellis-garbed young singles. He tells three short stories in comic strip form with the same attention to detail and deft draughtsmanship that you’ll find in his normal comic work. None of them are of any particular consequence, but reading each of them at PerryEllis.com, they come off as reasonably successful impressions for the brand.
Excusing its strong under-current of banality put in service to superficial goods (it’s hard to describe the stories as anything more than laughably shallow), I have to say I really like this campaign. It’s a novel, eye-catching use of a talented independent comic book artist, and I have to applaud Perry Ellis’ advertising agency at least for possessing the cultural acuity and taste to choose Tomine; pairing his work with the Perry Ellis brand is completely unexpected. Someone over there has taste, clearly, and it bears out especially well in the print ads; they’re single-panel excerpts from the short comic stories, and they have an intriguing artfulness that echoes Roy Lichtenstein while avoiding the cloying, overbearing irony to which most uses of comic book conventions inevitably succumb.
Most of all, I like the use of illustration in the campaign, especially the willingness to apply at least some user experience savvy to the comic book panels as they appear online. The Flash viewer actually makes it easy and enjoyable to move from panel to panel; it’s not a groundbreaking instance of comics moving online, but it’s quite nice. It’s pleasing to me that they carried the unorthodox thinking they used to actually select Tomine throughout the various incarnations of the campaign. It’s a happy instance of the kind of freedom that drawings from human hands can impart on a design problem. Though I’m not particularly anxious for more luxury brands to co-opt the inventiveness of independent comics, I’d be more than happy to see more designers use more illustration online.