Thursday, September 25, 2008

OBJECT & SYSTEM :: A Transmedia Design Project (in progress)

Here is a work in progress for my Transmedia Design class.
Assignment: Communicate the meaning of the words "Object" and "System" using print as a medium and only typography as a method.

In my research on the topic I found this summary of Ferdinand de Saussure's words on written language: "The sign has no life apart from the system or 'structure' that frames it." This made me th
ink of the relationship between an object and a system, and how one cannot be defined without referencing the other. In a sense, every object is made up of a system of objects interacting with each other, and every system is described by the objects that are a part of it. This led me to think of the idea of how the letter, as an arbitrary object, gains meaning as a part of the alphabet and subsequently as part of a word. I decided to take the concept of letter(object) and the alphabet(system) and explore ways of communicating this in print form.

I came up with the following ideas:
1- Stack all the letters of the alphabet on top of each other at 20% opacity and see what "ghost form" emerges.

2- Using two posters juxtapose the bump to the braille system on two posters.

3- Use type as line to create a flatpack object that can be assembled by reading the lines.

4- Compose a large halftone letterform where each dot is an individual letter.

5- Arrange text in an illusion that represents 3D-cubes and spells out the word "system".

6- Create a word illusion with the words "object" and "system" by combining them into a single form.

After receiving feedback on these ideas I decided to proceed with the braille idea and the flatpack idea. I then made rough comps.

Moving forward, I did some research on de Sausser's writings about written letters and systems, and looked at for inspiration on flatpack toys. After finding the content I needed I decided to research braille printing technology and found that it is very difficult to achieve in large format. I spoke with one of the MDP(Media Design Program) instructors who did a thesis on braille. He recommended using the campus laser cutter and creating a mold on which I could place a sheet of paper and rub to create the bumps.

With that I aimed to create a sample that I could experiment with and therefore spent an afternoon in the laser cutting lab. Using the window as a light board and that backside of a Sharpie as a mezzotint tool, I rubbed the paper on top of where the holes were located on the laser-cut acrylic. I tried a variety of paper weights and with 2 ply bristol it yielded a favorable result.

I also spent a night designing the flatpack toy based on a template by The tiny text used to create the lines was the directions for assembling the piece, for example, "1. Cut along this line using an x-acto blade and a straight ruler," or "score fold score fold score fold."

Lastly, I presented both these ideas in a more finalized comp form to the class for feedback. The next step is to move forward with the actual production of these ideas until they reach presentation quality. I will post again at that point. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Holy Art Center!

Sure Pasadena is great, our apartment is unique, and my trip to Emerald Bay on Catalina Island was memorable, but my first week at Art Center College of Design was amazing. After a week of typical orientations we started an event that the Media Design department calls the Charrette and Dialectical Bus Tour.

On Friday we started with a tour of the Warner Brothers' Studio backlots. Instructors from the Media Design Department (MDP) commented on the history of hollywood and related theories in media design like, inherited fabricated reality. This is the theory that our perception of how a place should look is effected by how it is depicted to mass audiences through media like the movies. Eventually these perceptions emerge in realistic forms of architecture and art. For example, a person who has never been to Paris may only recognize the Eiffel Tower and the look of cobble stone streets as depicted through a movie set. Overtime this becomes a dominant perception even though most of Paris may actually look differently. This phenomenon has been known to effect how city planners might redesign streets to be more "Parisian." In actuality they want the design to be more "Homogenized Hollywood depiction of Paris." While at the WB studios we visited the set of E.R.(currently shooting), Pushing Daisies, Chuck, Friends, and a other historically significant backlots. I also saw the costumes and props from The Dark Knight, which arrived this month, a bunch of Harry Potter stuff and old historical stuff.(photography was prohibited)

The second part of the tour took us to the Americana, an all-in-one shopping and living experience. This was an exam
ple of how Hollywood has shaped fabricated reality into actual structures. The mall unsettlingly similar to the backlots we had just visited. The scenery, lighting, uniforms, and facades were picturesque from any angle, creating an experience as if you were the star actor walking through your own movie. We talked about the planning and design that went into the Americana to make it a medium for the perfect purchasing experience. We were separated into groups and received our assignment to design a city as a medium that communicates an idea. We were given two large pieces of foam core and any other tools we might need and had to be ready for part two of the assignment and critique on Sunday.

Saturday morning we met and planned the design for the structure of the city. Out of several ideas, I presented an idea that used a tria
ngular structure for the buildings that allowed for two screen surfaces when viewed from a distance. I thought it should be built in an angled ravine to allow for four viewing positions. This eventually became a ravine angled at 45 degrees with structures jutting out of the side at 90 degrees. This design created three different screen surfaces, including one from the top as seen from a plane or Google earth. We spent the day building the structure and began talking about the narrative of the city. With the structure having two sides facing inward it seemed logical to make this the city of competition. We decided to reveal the annual income of each of it's inhabitants with an icon depicted on the screens. As one side look at the other they naturally compare themselves. As the two sides compete to display a higher income we can assume that the average income of the city would increase. This income would be depicted on the top screen and in a way enticing any neighboring cities to competition. Do you get it?

On Sunday we started bright ant early on the Dialectical Bus Tour. We drove
and walked through L.A., mainly downtown, and talked about the history and theory involved. Downtown L.A. is so peculiar. There are basically four layers of history: vacant victorian high rises, 60's and 70's patchwork refurbishing, 90's steel sky scrapers, and the present inhabitation of cheap mexican retail. What's interesting is that it seems that the city keeps trying to make a Manhattan out of downtown even though the model of the wide open west resists vertical expansion. These projects fail over and over leading to a mess of abandoned buildings with cheap street level occupants. Some buildings make more money as a permanent Hollywood set than by real estate.

(Architectural layers on Broadway: 1920's victorian, present day fast food store, 1960-70's latin influence)

(Cheap Mexican retail space in foreground, expensive
skyscrapers in the back)

(Here a small business has begun to build a facade over the abandoned 1970's high rise)

(The inside of the Bradbury Bldg. one of the last used high rises of the victorian era and star of Bladerunner and several other films)

(An example of the cheap Mexican merchandise sold exclusively on the street level)

(Ironic photo #1: "Not in Use" sign on abandoned high rise)

(Ironic photo #2: Modern "L.A. Vision" signage on 1920's Victorian building.
What vision they had for their building and for downtown)

I was intrigued and disgusted at the same time. Most interesting was the commentary by MDP instructors, an LA Historian, Historical Architect, and Design Theorist. Needless to say, my mind was full at the end of the tour.

Sunday night we received part two of the assignment: using what we observed of L.A., turn our city into a new version of L.A. I quickly landed on an idea that worked great. Our city was just another layer to add to the many architectural layers of the past. We would heap up earth on the abandoned downtown L.A. and use it as a foundation for our new city. After we decided this we had about two and a half hours to prepare for our crit. We divided up the assignments and started cranking. I helped take photos of our structure, photoshopped a cross section of the city and compiled all the work in Final Cut to create a video. Keep in mind that the design was meant to communicate, not necessarily look pretty. Lastly we prepared for our presentation. As I worked I occasionally felt the tendency to check on the work of my teammates but then I would remember that everyone is a pro at this stuff. It was cool to be in that kind of situation with a completely competent team.

All went superbly well. The critics(MDP Faculty), loved the idea and were inspired to develop more scenarios besides annual income, to which they encouraged us to explore. I felt my ability to present and answer questions was also superb and that made me happy. All in all this first week was crazy and amazing. I am impressed with everything about Art Center, the campus and equipment, the faculty, the student body, and the experience.

Video Description:
1. Side view of structure and overlay of icons
2. Display of screens side and top
3. Displaying how competition is built into the structure with two sides facing.
4. City cross-section showing how the new urban layer is built on the old.
5. Simple representation of social space in the middle, the only safe zone.
6. Animation of moving icons
7. Close-up on moving icons
8. Overhead view of city displaying top screen projection of average income.