Does my cartoon look big in this?

If a cartoon is visual communication, legibility is key to every image that needs to use words. But technology can be disruptive, of course. And so, to The Guardian website for some proof:

Cartoon: Digital display of cartoon clip
Digital display of cartoon clip at The Guardian. Screengrab image is at 1:1

Reader reaction: I need a bigger cartoon for legibility

In a similar vein: What’s the point in employing a great cartoonist … ?

Reader reaction: Leave the cartoon off the digital version of the paper

Cartoonist responds: In detail

Why is this happening?

When the internet was young, pictures used to be displayed in very small shapes. This was usually to keep bandwidth demands low so that your dial-up modem could cope. You could compare this technique to the great expense of paper at the start of the age of print.

Now, the bandwidth that enables digital communication is much bigger, with broadband, and picture sizes have grown as a result. And not just in the physical dimensions of width and height. This also applies to the amount, or weight, if you prefer, of information inside each image you see. This applies to image display on the web, on your mobile phone or perhaps now on your tablet PC.

Detail, commonly stored as picture resolution, or dots (of data) per inch has increased massively and this potentially allows download of print quality imagery direct from the web. Of course, this is both a marvellous opportunity (Big cartoons, yay!) and a problem (Easier to nick, boo!)

Cartoonists might think about their own behaviour, if they distribute images by web, by noting how each third-party provider they use deals with image resolution. Of course, the simplest way to do this is to manage the resolution at the traditional 72 dots per inch before you supply to any other production house.

Downloading of artwork is an old problem that we have written about before. There are tools you can use to control unbidden usage of your work. And we have a short series of posts on some of these tools coming up.

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