Open Sesame (Street)

One of the things I love about creative conferences is that there are so many really creative people around. You never know where you're going to find something interesting that totally captivates you, like maybe someone from Sesame Workshop.

Nancy Stevenson from the Sesame Street Sesame Workshop spent a morning showing off how her crew creates art -- digital assets, for those in the know -- for the drawn and cartoon versions of Jim Henson's world famous muppets at the MOGO media InDesign conference in Miami. Muppets on their own are pretty cool, but seeing how the artists behind the scenes do their magic flat out rocks.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they rely heavily on Adobe Illustrator and Wacom graphic tablets. Vector-based graphics are scalable, so you won't lose any image quality as you size up or size down. That makes it easy to repurpose the art for different types of children's books, art project kits, Web content, promotional materials, or whatever else they want to toss a muppet face on. Illustrator is the right tool for that.

The Sesame Workshop gang totally has this art thing down. They get how to make individual components for the characters they create so they can mix and match parts to build new scenes, show different actions, and put different characters together. Sure, that makes sense, but watching how much works goes into a drawing's preparation really give you a sense of how much attention goes into the little details.

The cool thing is seeing that what they are creating really is art, and not just a collection of mechanical objects slapped together to simulate a muppet. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that Illustrator users aren't artists. They most certainly are. I'm just saying that the Sesame team has their own special style, and it shows.

It turns out that Sesame Street doesn't limit how the muppet characters are interpreted. Along with the flat cartoon-style characters, they also have a whole cut-out paper style, manga, x-sport style, and localized styles for different regions around the world.

I love creativity for creativity's sake, but the Sesame Workshop people have something special going on. Not only do they get to freely express themselves through the Sesame characters, but they also get to be part of something that's much bigger: expanding the minds of children all over the world.

As icing on the cake, Nancy gave her presentation on her MacBook Pro in Keynote '08. Yeah, the Sesame Workshop people are Mac heads.

On a side note, Disney's Web site blocks OmniWeb and recommends I download Internet Explorer or Firefox. No thanks, I'll stick with my trusty OmniWeb and go visit a different Web site. OK, I'll launch Safari. Why is The Man always bringing me down?