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|| News Item: Posted 2003-04-21

The Art of the Member Icon: A Critical Analysis
The fifty-pixel canvas of unlimited creativity.

By Grover Sanschagrin

The cute (or scary) baby. The adorable (or ferocious) pet. The stunning landscape. The dramatic silhouette. The hand-drawn stick figure. The "I can't tell what the hell that thing is."

The member icon is a highly-crafted work of art, worthy of hours and hours of intense study by Art History students in respected colleges the World over.

What do these 50-by-50 pixels of screen real estate say about their creator? Glimpses into their childhood upbringing? Their present mental state? Their "continued and well-documented problems dealing with authority figures?" We can only speculate.

With that in mind, I thought I would talk about my ten all-time favorite member icons. Each of these icons has affected me in some way. Some serve as refreshingly inspirational reminders. Some tap right into compelling statements of global importance. Some make me stare, squint, throw my eyes out of focus, and throw my head horizontal in an attempt to discover what I suspect might be subliminal messages from the artist.

What follows is a list of my personal Top Ten member icons. Please help me pick a favorite by voting in the new poll.

Photo by
Al Bello
Al comes through with a big message for having insurance of some kind. Dental, mostly. But also, the helmet that this person is wearing is a kind of safety-insuring device. (Most people miss that.) There are also theories out there that this is more about mental health insurance, but I dispute that claim. You have to ask yourself: Would Al, in his icon-creation mode, get close enough to a person with these kinds of insurance needs? I think not.

Photo by
Brian Nicholson
I can't sleep. This icon haunts me at night. And I think that's exactly Brian's intension. To me, this icon says: "Don't sleep. Keep working." And it is highly effective. Much work has been accomplished in the middle of the night, with this icon burned permanently into my brain's visual cortex.

Photo by
Chris Faytok
Are you upset with your dead-end job? Maybe you're tired of working for the establishment? This is the icon for you. Chris' message here is one of boundless inspiration. "Tear through with force" and "Break free in a violent yet non-threatening way." When I need to overcome a significant obstacle, I rush to Chris' member page and take a long slow bong-like hit on his icon. Ahhhh.

Photo by
Chris Williams
This icon reminds me of some incredibly tender moments from my childhood. Moments shared with my dear father, who always wanted me to enjoy my youth while I had it. He was constantly encouraging my sister and I to play, especially in traffic. We always lived on very busy streets for a reason – so that my sister and I would have plenty of play space. Chris' icon brings back warm memories of my youth – and I could care less when my therapist says I am in denial.

Photo by
Jamie Squire
This is amazing. Jamie was actually able to come up with real photographic evidence proving the statement "If you make a funny face, your face could freeze that way." This icon should be printed on school lunch milk containers for that very reason. Just think how many innocent funny-face-making children would be spared the traumatic effects of this evil freezing. If only I had seen this icon before I made the "bald guy" face in the cafeteria during lunch at exactly 10:13am on May 2, 1974.

Photo by
John O'Boyle
Quite frankly, I am blow away. It is impressive: the amount of detail and complexity within John's icon. I cannot even begin to think how long this must have taken to complete. And through it all, it speaks to me: "Be happy." But there's some hidden, ironic, contrast here. Did you notice that the predominant color is BLUE? And 'being blue' generally means that someone is SAD! So which is it? Happy? Sad? Sometimes I think about this at night when I am trying to run and hide from Brian Nicholson's icon.

Photo by
John Tofu Surprise Kim
Well, if you surprise a kid with tofu, what kind of reaction would you expect? I think John Tofu Surprise Kim's icon deals well with this very important subject. Surprising children with tofu can provide some great knee-slapping fun times, but you really need to be prepared for what comes after that first bite. I surprised Gruber with tofu once. Once. I won't be doing THAT again.

Photo by
Niko Kallianiotis
I've always wondered what it would be like to spend a day in full clown gear. Show up at the office in clown makeup. Walk down the street with big floppy shoes. Randomly, and without warning, break out noise-makers throughout the day. Eating your lunch wearing a red spongy nose – trying your best to keep it out of your soup and soaking it all up. Just think if the "Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau" was changed to the "Sports Shooter Workshop & Circus." I think Niko is onto something here. The world would be a much better place if we all dressed in clown.

Photo by
Nina Zhito
In her latest work of iconographic art, Nina has chosen to deal with two of the world's rarely analyzed popular sayings: "Oh, he's just a pup," and "His bark is worse than his bite." This icon begs the question: "Dare you take a chance?" You can either trust this puppy's owner and try to pet it, or back away slowly and without any sudden movements, empty the raw meat from your pockets and try not to make direct eye contact. I'm pretty sure that's the meaning of this icon – a hidden metaphor for sure. Either that, or she just doesn't want anyone to mess with her on the message board.

Photo by
Scott Audette
This is yet another well-done work of art by Mr. Audette. As plainly evident by his use of the text "The Man" above his head, he is expressing the common frustration one feels when being "held down by THE MAN." Never able to rise to the top of the icon, the innocent (as evident by the hallo-glow behind him) Scott is somehow able to keep his head just above water. Then again, he might have just copped it too tight, cutting out most of the original lettering: "READ THE MANUAL."

So there you have it - my personal Top Ten favorite member icons as of right now (Easter Sunday, 2003.) All are brilliant, each in their own special way. Who says your best creative work needs to run double-truck / 6-columns? Fifty pixels is all you need.

See the results of the poll:

Related Links:
Vote for your favorite icon
Grover's Member Page

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