SAD ANIMAL FACTS, AN ADORABLE WAY TO RUIN YOUR CHILDHOOD
WNW Member Brooke Barker is a writer, illustrator and animal enthusiast living in Portland, Oregon. She’s also the creator of Sad Animal Facts and a former copywriter at Wieden+Kennedy. She has a dog who can never eat chocolate and three guppies who can't take naps because they don't have eyelids.
Sad Animal Facts has gained a massive following as a Tumblr page and Instagram account, but will soon be available in book form on September 6th. Head here to pre-order a copy now. It's "a delightful and quirky compendium of the Animal Kingdom’s more unfortunate truths, with over 150 hand-drawn illustrations." It's great for adults who have grown disillusioned over the years, and for kids to share at their next show-and-tell. In addition to being funny, Sad Animal Facts is pretty informative. And unlike Snapple facts, they're actually true. Did you know that giraffe babies fall six feet to the ground when they're born? Or that chickens can be startled to death? Or that sheep have no upper front teeth? Now go win some mystery shots at bar trivia.
We interviewed Brooke to find out how Sad Animal Facts started, how she's honed her illustration skills on the fly, and whether she has come across any animal facts so sad that she's skipped over them out of pity. The short answer is no.
But first, a message from Brooke Barker...
Tell us about about your creative background. Who is Brooke and how did she get here?
I studied Medieval French History and Visual Arts in college and things have gone really well, considering. For the last four years I’ve been a copywriter at Wieden+Kennedy Portland, and now I’ve switched to freelance copywriting and get to spend even more time working on bizarre side projects like Sad Animal Facts.
When did you first come up with the idea for Sad Animal Facts? Were you surprised by the overwhelming response on Instagram?
I’ve been an animal enthusiast ever since I was the age when all of us were animal enthusiasts. And it’s more fun to tell people about the sad facts, because we’re bombarded with the happy facts when we’re growing up. We all know cats have nine lives, but that’s not even true, so it’s a lot more interesting that adult cats can’t recognize their mothers, and that their tongues can’t taste sweet things, and that they can get zits. Those are the things I’m interested in drawing.
Sad Animal Facts started on Instagram and Tumblr, and people were so supportive and friendly! It’s exciting to look at my phone and see all these sweet messages, instead of people saying “All right Brooke, you’ve told us enough about snow monkeys” the way they do in real life.
What are 3-5 of your favorite sad animal facts?
I’m really interested in facts that came out of bizarre studies: like the fact that lab rats enjoy mating more when wearing vests, and that sheep can only recognize 50 faces, and cow’s produce the most milk while listening to R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.”
One fact that came out of a bizarre study is the fact that rats are worse at solving mazes if humans nearby expect them to do a bad job. I take that fact very seriously. It’s the fact that I sometimes end up thinking about at night. Am I a rat, and which sort of rat do people expect me to be, and how long are these mazes, how complicated are we talking?
Have you come across any animal facts so sad that you’ve skipped over them out of pity?
I’m pretty ruthless at this point - the darker a fact is, the more excited I get. I’m more likely to skip over a fact because it’s way too confusing.
Sometimes I feel a bit too much empathy for female animals. It can be sort of a bummer to be a female predator, and there are a lot of sad facts about female lions, female baboons, and other female predators that I’ve skipped over.
How have you seen your illustration skills evolve with this project? What animals have been hardest for you to draw?
I’m probably not going to be my generation’s great artistic savant, but illustration is really fun because it’s another way to express ideas besides writing, vandalism, or shouting.
I still have the worst time with reptiles, birds with an obnoxious number of colors, and manatees. I can tell you what animals would have looked like if I had been the one to design animals - they would all be sort of bag-shaped, with lots of fur, an easy-to-draw tail, a pretty basic pattern, and interesting ears. There would have been several dozen versions of the raccoon, basically.
What are you working on now?
My husband WNW Member Boaz Frankel and I make a daily desk calendar called the It’s Different Every Day calendar. Instead of a year-long theme (sudoku, waterfalls, jokes about dogs) every single day has a different theme. We’re working on the fourth edition of it right now.
Who are some other WNW Members whose work you admire, and why?
I love everything Tuesday Bassen does. Her work makes being a girl feel like being a fan of a sports team that always wins.