Exterminate All Rational T-Shirts

Spam-erican Apparel

There is an entirely different order of product being developed here, far beyond the outer reaches of irony. I first started seeing them in Google Image searches; the most random queries were returning pictures of t-shirts, trucker hats, and especially ties that were truly uncanny. One could not, by looking at them, decipher how they had come about, what possible thought process lay behind them, who they were for, or why anyone would want them. They had something akin to the lost-in-translation weirdness of Chinese Shanzhai culture, but what was being lost was in a language far more distant than Chinese; one got the impression the "designers" of these pieces were speaking strictly in ones and zeros. I had visions of design-bots, data mining for user patterns, instantaneously designing products based on trending search queries, generating t-shirts like predictive text and graphics through some kind of visual auto-tune. Amazingly, it turns out I am not totally wrong.

Here arises a mutant breed of Zazzler -- representing a tiny minority of its members but a disproportionately large number of products -- marrying the production line and the bottom line with the command line and developing programs that to varying degrees automate their design process, producing tens of thousands of products with little or no human oversight or labor.

LifeSphere currently offers more than 90,000 unique products and is more than likely run by one person in a suburban bungalow in Phoenix. As far as I can gather their process consists of ALPHABETICALLY(!) applying every single image in the Public Domain photography archive to every object Zazzle offers. Amazingly almost everything they make is amazing. From doggy clothes featuring macrophotography of Chex Mix, to "Thanksgiving Shrimp" skateboard decks, LifeSphere proves 90,000 times over that rigorous process-based design yields infallibly fresh results.

ShroudedLake is unique in that its vendor description accurately describes what is in the store; ShroudedLake DEFINITELY takes the mundane to a new level. Like a corporate stock photographer on a meth binge, ShroudedLake basically arranges miniature versions of a fairly limited number of everyday objects in a seemingly endless number of combinations: square of grass with a tiny shoe on it, square of grass with a golf tee on it, square of grass with a golf ball on a golf tee on it, square of grass with a golf ball next to a golf tee on it, etc. The high quality of the photography and consistency of aesthetics would make the deadpan inanity of ShroudedLake seem almost self-conscious and ironic if it weren't for the sheer scale of their inventory (40,000 items!). FIA? MoMA? Costume Institute? It's time for a retrospective!

believe_in pairs the words "I believe in" with a picture of a thing. Its only redeeming quality is in the quantity and insipidness of its designs in contradiction to the inspirational implication of its theme. Bizarrely, believe_in has forgone the great variety of nominal concepts that would seem proper to "belief" (love, hate, fear, truth, justice, freedom, doubt) for a din of completely random and innocuous household objects: I believe in Nails, I believe in Nail Polish, etc. Without a doubt this was done because the collection of copyright-free clipart they are basing their process on had a lot of pictures of things that go on desks and in drawers than things anyone might ever actually believe in.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

"No purchase necessary, enter as often as you want, so I am. I should win 32.6% of the prizes, including the car."

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9 Responses:

  1. Dan Moore says:

    Always happy to see a Real Genius reference.

  2. John Bloom says:

    A perverse corner of my brain is now totally enthralled with the idea of taking the output from webcollage and piping it directly into Zazzle's shirt designer web-service-thing. The really twisted part wants to limit the search to site:zazzle.com...

  3. gths says:

    That guy in the bottom picture could not possibly get any whiter.

  4. Is this the New Aesthetic?

  5. The net finds its own uses for things, indeed. Perhaps even "the net finds all possible uses for all possible things."