Lesson from a Pixel

“I’m your density… I mean, your destiny.”

My HD TV temporarily scrambled into a pixelated nightmare. Hurts your eyes doesn’t it?!

The Backstory

That moment when you’re watching your favorite show on TV and this happens… the signal goes out. %#(*&!^. What the…

We’ve all been there, and it just pokes at your last nerve. The internet going down is awful… I know — first world problem, but it’s real. Businesses and jobs rely on the service to be working with at least six sigma up-time.

This time, however, when the signal broke, the screen didn’t just go off, display snow, or become scrambled… it pixelated… trades folks would probably say “tiled.” What? Now that made me think differently about what I was watching. Those little objects multiplied by the millions are our window to everything we interact with through our devices.

The Object

I zoomed in for a photo of this one. Too bad my focus wasn’t better.

Pixel. Underestimated. It is the “smallest element of an image that can be individually processed in a video display system” (Dictionary.com)… or the smallest controllable element of the window to your virtual world.

Without them, the world as we know it would turn upside down… our digital personas and quick escapes wouldn’t exist. We would have to look up and see real reality… yea, that’s a thing.

“I’m your density… I mean, your destiny.” (George McFly, BTTF)

For those of us that crave symmetry and patterns, evaluating pixels is mesmerizing. It’s amazing the density that exists in perfect alignment… you don’t even see the pixels that you’re looking at, because the they are so squished together.

Tiny pixels perfectly arranged

This is also known as the display resolution, as measured by PPI or pixels per inch. Quick facts about a television’s or monitor’s resolution:

  • 2,005,056 pixels = 1080p 1920 x 1080 ,HD
  • 8,300,000 pixels = 3840 x 2160 or varying to 4096 x 2160, Ultra HD or 4K

4K monitors and TV are unbelievably better than high definition (way easier on the eyes). As a result, it’s hard for me to look at pixelated images. I’ve spent countless hours cleaning up low-resolution images for websites, and I’ve put in my gaming time when 8- and 16-bit games were on top in the 1980s and 1990s, which is why I don’t like to play them anymore. They were cool back then…

Popular 8-bit characters… Mega Man, Mario, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Image courtesy of Jaytendo’s Blog.

…but not in 2016. Today, I prefer HD resolution minimum — it’s like playing in a movie (thank you Assassin’s Creed for spoiling me first). I don’t understand why people play brand new games with pixelated graphics, when display resolutions today are so high. Nostalgia, I suppose, or maybe the folks that like it never experienced the original; either way, the window into those worlds requires pixels — BIG PIXELS.

The Lesson

When it comes down to it, you don’t see or pay attention to the elements that make experiences happen. You don’t see the preparation that went into your restaurant meal; you don’t see how an email from the other side of the world arrives in your inbox; you don’t see the pixels that are used to create the window to your friend on the other side of a video conference call.

Not seeing the “how” and focusing on the experience that was created is what it means to have done something right. To be a professional. Things just work, and you don’t have to worry about what went into making your experience happen.

Pixels… you see through them, literally.

The Take-aways:

  • Experts are humble with their work often going unnoticed.
  • The difference between a professional and an amateur is one pixel.
  • Sometimes you need to focus on what you’re not seeing.
  • Quality is a matter of perspective and preference.

Pixels make the difference in the perception of people and organizations. How will you judge someone or something the next time you interact with them through your window of pixels?

You’re looking at a pixel right now. And, it’s looking back at you.

The “tiling” effect. Watching my world unravel.

Written by Shaun Holloway.