For this year’s Innovation Issue, the artist Tom Gauld conjured a cover that nods to the possibilities of the future. Thankfully, that future isn’t dystopian; dog-walking is just a little different. Gauld, who lives in London and draws weekly for the Guardian and New Scientist, recently talked to us about the image.
You’re not new to drawing robots. What about them appeals to you?
I do seem to draw robots quite often, and I think that there’s possibly some deep, psychological reason that could come out through extensive therapy. A more practical reason is that I am often looking for ways to present everyday things in a funny, interesting, or unexpected way, and substituting people for robots can be good for this. I think it's funny and slightly tragic that robots are in this middle ground, where they have some qualities of living creatures, but at the same time are machines that can be dismantled or discarded like a broken microwave. Also, robots are easier to draw than people.
A few of Gauld’s early sketches for the cover.
The humor in your image rests on its composition. Did you have other images in mind —by you or other artists—where composition plays as crucial a role?
I wasn't thinking of other specific images, but composition is always important in my work. Obviously, the drawings and text in my cartoons are important, but the way they are laid out on the page can make a huge difference to how the idea or story comes across to the reader. I usually spend a lot of time making small sketches, just to work out composition before I start the real thing, though in this case it came together very quickly. I am a huge fan of Edward Gorey’s work and I’ve always been impressed and influenced by his composition and page design.
Are there sci-fi artists or authors who inspire you?
I’ve loved sci-fi since I first saw “Star Wars” as a boy. The idea of inventing a whole new world (or universe) appeals to me as an artist, and my graphic novel “Mooncop” was a sort of love letter to the sci-fi worlds I enjoyed as a child. But my tastes are quite varied; I like to read William Gibson’s clever, thoughtful books, but can also enjoy a big, silly space opera. I particularly love Kurt Vonnegut’s mixture of sci-fi and humor.
Gauld’s take on the Turing Test originally appeared in New Scientist magazine.
This is the Innovation Issue. What recent innovations have you enjoyed?
One of the things that inspired this image was an app that a friend showed me. It connects people who have dogs but not enough time to walk them with people who don’t have dogs but want to take one for a walk. I don’t have a dog, or the desire to walk someone else’s, but it seems like a great innovation; a simple idea that results in happier people and happier dogs.
See below for more Innovation Issue covers:
“Man’s Best Friend,” by Dan Clowes
“The Cloud,” by Bob Staake
“Smart Design,” by Joost Swarte