The Daily Heller: Mimi, the Queen and I

Posted inThe Daily Heller

WePresent magazine, published by the essential online content delivery service WeTransfer, is a “crazy experiment in the power of graphic design”—likely the reason it was selected as magazine of the month by the indie publication curation/subscription service Stack. The most recent issue, “Where Do You Live?” was created in three separate versions by three different sets of designers from three countries. The designers are Pentagram’s Paula Scher in New York, Turbo in Amman, and Hort in Berlin. All were given the same articles, and as Stack’s Steven Watson says, this is “a crazy way to make a magazine, clearly increasing the cost of printing it and tripling the amount of work involved in laying out, editing and proofing three totally different editions.”

The lead story for each edition, “Is Creativity Over?”, addresses a disquieting buzz in the creative universe around the widespread introduction of AI. The rest of WePresent in all its forms is worth the time spent reading, but I’m focused on one feature in particular from Scher’s version on the intersection between place and creation, life and creativity.

That ain’t just any drooling K9. She’s Mimi the wonder dog (Scher’s pride-winning Australian shepherd), who through the digital sorcery of DALL-E (and illustration/manipulation by Bruno Begallo) has become a bone-a-fido cover star. In the magazine Scher and her team deploy AI to document her beloved tricolor Aussie’s morning walk.

Mimi’s daily routine from 6th Avenue to Madison Park and back and forth and back and forth.

During COVID, the introduction of DALL-E by Open AI gave designers something more to do than wash all those vegetables and groceries delivered by Fresh Direct. Members of Scher’s Pentagram design team took the opportunity to discover how well DALL-E could morph the already precocious Mimi into many exacting DOGG-E iterations. Fortuitously, the variegated results fit the theme that WePresent had planned.

It was also the first time I was introduced to the much-touted image conscription system, which would cause such consternation in the illustration and art education communities. But being in a COVID fog I was less concerned about the implication of all the ultimately important intellectual property breaches and more interested to know how Mimi felt about being the subject of DALL-E. The following is a brief (for reasons you’ll understand) interview with Mimi about her many iterations. (Of course, a dog whisperer translation program was employed to aid in this process.)

Heller: How did you like being DALL-Efied?

Mimi: (laying on her back, feet in the air) Woofff wooof (translation: Scratch my tummy).

Heller: Good girl! Now please respond to the question.

Mimi: WOOooooof (whine). Wooof (translation: Just keep scratching, and how about a treat while you’re at it).

Heller: Here’s your treat. Now sit! No more treats. Sit and answer my question …

Mimi: (Chomp, chew, chew, salivate) (no translation necessary)

Heller: So …?

Mimi: (Snort, huff, yawn) Woof woof … (translation: I’ve gotta pee).

Realizing I was getting nowhere with Queen Mimi, I turned my gaze to her lady in waiting.

Heller: Paula, throw me a bone … and please tell me, did Mimi have any response to seeing her portraits on this wonderful cover?

Scher: She thought the pictures made her look fat.