Keep the Apocalypse Confined
to Your Idling Computer
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
Your Mac screensaver features pristine images of mountaintops, golden fields, ocean life, and polar bears. It's intended to show the world's beauty. But it could quickly become an obsolete and depressing reminder of how the world used to look. Your screensaver would suddenly take on new meaning if the polar bear became extinct. WNW Members Lauren Race and Carl Jannerfeldt and fellow creatives Beth Kushner and Nancy Black discussed this issue and Earthsaver is the result. The project is a collection of the 17 Mac screensaver images retouched to show the effects of climate change. In our interview below, Lauren shares the creative challenges of bringing this project to life, how impressed she is with what retouchers are capable of, and how Working Not Working came in handy for a student building a team without agency resources.
Get Earthsaver here. It may seem like the most depressing screensaver ever, but it's a useful reminder to get involved. Besides, it's better to keep the terror confined to your idling computer.
Tell us a bit about your creative background. Who is Lauren Race and how did she get here?
I did the whole angsty art student thing at Pratt in the mid-aughts before working as an art director for 10 years. I really needed to change it up, so now I’m a grad student at NYU ITP where I’m learning how important it is to breathe when your code breaks.
How would you describe your creative style? Do you recognize a signature style that links your projects?
I love a good self-edit, so I try to keep my ideas stupidly simple. I usually call up my dad, a retired commercial real estate developer, and get his gut reaction. If someone with an outside perspective gets it right away, I know I’m in a good spot. When producing projects, I prefer when the tech takes a backseat to the idea. That way, the viewer reacts more to the meaning behind the project and less to the medium that powers it.
What is Earthsaver and how did you come up with the concept?
Earthsaver is a collection of the 17 Mac screensaver images retouched to show the effects of climate change. The default Mac images are almost unrealistically pristine. With the way things are headed, it’s like the screensaver of the future would need updated images that reflect the actual world outside. It was created with creatives Carl Jannerfeldt, Beth Kushner, and Nancy Black after a discussion on how the Mac polar bear image would become obsolete if the species becomes extinct.
What were some of the challenges and breakthroughs that came with bringing this project to life?
Project. Management. It’s my Achilles heel! There was a minor breakthrough when I realized it was a chance to work on being assertive and setting deadlines. I had to call in a lot of favors, but was amazed at how the WNW community rose to the occasion.
How did Working Not Working help in making Earthsaver a reality?
Since I’m in school, I don’t have agency resources right at my fingertips anymore. Sourcing 17 expert creative retouchers was much easier than expected because, with WNW, I had direct access to top talent.
What’s something you learned about retouching that you didn’t know before Earthsaver?
Retouchers often make rough sketches, to communicate their initial idea, that are better than what I could produce after days of work. They are ninjas.
Is there often a cause-focused nature to your work? What do you see as the responsibility of creatives in using their skills for initiatives that matter to them?
I’m hoping to do more cause-based work in the future. I spent the larger part of a career identity crisis wondering why I was doing the work I was doing. The only times I felt like I was on the right track was when I was channeling my energy into initiatives that mattered to me. And I believe that, as a creative, you gotta do what feels right to you.
Is environmentalism something you’re especially passionate about, or are there other causes you’d like to support creatively?
Nowadays there are so many causes that need help, it’s hard to focus on one. I’m eager to help out on any cause that I believe in and can get my hands on. I’d like to creatively support the assistive technology community more. I’m currently working on building a social media platform from the ground up for users with low vision.
What’s the best advice you’ve heard or received that all creatives should hear?
That you’re only going to please people 50% of the time, so you might as well do what you want. I wish I had known this years ago and it’s a particularly good mantra to repeat when the self-doubt starts creeping in.
What do you do when Not Working?
I’ve been getting into experimenting with Arduino and a range of input sensors and learning how to build an https server from scratch. When I’m not bewildered by code, I’m dreaming about where I’ll travel to next.
What’s your favorite thing on the internet this week?
I wouldn’t call it a “favorite” but I’ve been closely following the appropriation of Emma Gonzalez by 2nd Amendment supporters. The video still of her tearing up a shooting target was retouched to portray her ripping up the Constitution. I’m fascinated by how we project our ideals onto digital images, without the subject’s permission, and use online communities to disseminate them.
Who's another WNW member whose work you admire and why?
Marianna Nash. She is a writer first and foremost. She lets the passion for her personal work guide her professional work, which inspires me. I’ve worked with her on several projects and she always elevates the language to the next level. That standard of polish feels very refreshing and she makes me want to be a better designer.