The white male venture capitalist, the overpaid programming intern, the corporate social responsibility specialist: if you work at a corporate or tech startup job, you probably know these people. What you probably don’t know is what these people would look like as Richard Scarry-inspired illustrated animals.
Tony Ruth, a creative director at a Chicago design firm, has provided us with that vision in BusinessTown, a parody Tumblr of today’s workforce (with an emphasis on Silicon Valley stereotypes) described as “An ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry.”
Ruth got the idea for the series while working at his day job, where he at one point found himself helping a client come up with a funding pitch. He kept a cheat sheet of all the new job titles he was learning about. At night, he’d go home to his two year-old toddlers, who spent a lot of time with Richard Scarry books.
Ruth was particularly inspired by a blog post musing on the ways that Scarry’s world of careers, in books like What Do People Do All Day?, is separated from modern life. In Scarry’s illustrations, jobs are tangible. People have tools that tell the stories of what they do. But today, the digital tools we use are indistinguishable from one another. Instead of tools, we’re defined by status markers, objects we carry–little things that signal who we are. That’s what we see in BusinessTown: stereotypical trappings of success for serious and silly jobs.
For the last three or four years, Ruth has been making design and business cartoons on the side. He did some work for a business magazine illustrating odd jobs, but it never went to print.
“It never worked out illustrating human jobs, so I ended up illustrating animal jobs instead,” he says. “People don’t have strong opinions about hedgehogs.”