Realism, as the word suggests, is a graphic style that looks realistic and that simulates the real world. But when a visual depiction moves away from realism, it can be described as stylised. In his book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, American cartoonist Scott McCloud explains that “(w)hen we abstract an image … we’re not so much eliminating details as we are focusing on specific details. By stripping down an image … an artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t”.
As you can see in the images above, stylised imagery breaks away from the conventions of realism and offers room to simplify or exaggerate line work and shapes, so that objects can be portrayed in new and different ways. Stylisation focuses on essential features, and recognisable aspects can be changed to elicit a certain message.
Plus, it turns out that humans are anyway more inclined to stylised imagery; the uncanny valley is a concept that suggests the more photorealistic a representation becomes, the more critical we become of its performance.
Just think of the app MetaHuman Creator by Epic Games: They’ve made it easier than ever to create a photorealistic digital human, however, if you look at the way these digital humans move, it is clear that a realistic human performance is still a big challenge (unless you have a Hollywood budget).
When a character’s performance is just not convincing, it distracts from the message. But with a stylised avatar, there is room for play – to highlight the message – making it more engaging and inviting to the audience.
At Brand Avatar, we have found the right balance between photorealism, abstraction, and character performance to produce the right level of realism in terms of aesthetics and performance without the burden of being photorealistic.