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Microsoft Kills Clip Art: Artist Recounts Creation, Spread of the Form

By    |   Thursday, 04 December 2014 08:10 AM

Microsoft killed its classic Clip Art library this week, replacing it with Bing Image Search. Rest in peace, little stick figures.

"The Office.com Clip Art and image library has closed shop," wrote a member of the Microsoft Office team on the company blog.

The rep went on to explain that in its stead, Bing Image Search will find "images that have been tagged with Creative Commons licenses" from across the web. This gives users an almost infinitely bigger selection of images to use in Word documents and Power Point presentations.

Not explained, however, is why this means they had to kill off Clip Art. Couldn't Clip Art and Bing Image Search live side-by-side in peace and harmony? We've been forced into an either/or world when what we truly want is pluralism. Perhaps that notoriously unhelpful Clippy character is to blame.

NPR spoke with Cathy Belleville, one of the primary artists behind Microsoft's Clip Art catalog on Tuesday, bringing the pre-Internet computing era to a complete close.

"I grew up my whole life knowing that I wanted to be an artist," she said. "And then my senior year of college it kind of hit me . . . oh, my God, I have to get a job."

Belleville is the progenitor of "Screen Beans," the little black stick figures with rounded bodies and heads. You've likely seen one of them clicking its heels mid-jump or coming up with a great idea — indicated by a light bulb over its head.

"I've been to Africa and seen them on a menu," she said, explaining how ubiquitous they've become. "I've been to Singapore and seen them. I've been sitting on planes and seen people walk by me with them on T-shirts and with them on baseball caps."

For hardcore fans of clip art — yes, they're out there — there are still a number of places to get a good fix, albeit you'll have to settle for non-Microsoft, non-Bellevillian clip art.

The consistency of underground clip art found at, say, OpenClipArt.org, is varied from image to image compared to the standard established by Microsoft, but there you might find that one diamond in the rough — a happy, purple octopus with cartoon eyes that represents effective multitasking, for example — that can make all the difference at your next big presentation.

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Microsoft killed its classic Clip Art library this week, replacing it with Bing Image Search. Rest in peace, little stick figures.
microsoft, kills, clip art
Thursday, 04 December 2014 08:10 AM
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