Saturday, 31 October 2009

Ian Anderson Workshop

I have just completed a two day workshop with Ian Anderson of the Designers Republic. We got started on thursday with the the task of doing something pointless for an hour, and then presenting it in an interesting way on friday.

Good examples from previous workshops included one student who photographed every single tile of every single bathroom in the building they were working, from this he presented information regarding how many had been graffited or cracked in a slideshow. This task seemed pointless to the student as there was no real benefit in the end, however it might perhaps be useful to a maintenance worker as they could use the data for cleaning or repairs. Another example I quite liked was by another student in Quebec who created a campaign for red balloons - not to save red balloons, or to help fund the making of more red balloons, just simply 'red balloons'. The idea was an interesting and original one which was presented in an entertaining and humorous way, thus answering the task as prompted.

I think primarily I struggled with the simple idea of just jumping up and down on the spot or tapping my finger on the desk for a whole hour as a starting point. I had an agenda from the start of presenting my findings through info-graphics as I have been drawn in by the recent design community's interest in the area. I had some quite odd thoughts such as simply putting butter on my face, framing shots and then taking photos with the lens cap on or watching a film with ear plugs in and a blindfold on. I understand now why it was such a difficult task to settle on one idea as my agenda was for something quite mathematical and monitored but my ideas were abstracted, hence difficult to record in a way that satisfied my interest.

The idea I ran with was to weigh a sheet of paper, saturate it with water and then weigh it again. This seemed a strange and totally pointless task to me, even during discussion with the lab technician (thanks for the cup of tea Jean) who allowed me to use her set of scales, agreed it was indeed a pointless task as I was not performing it under true laboratory conditions.

I spent all day battling with how I was going to present this information, one of Ian's suggestions was that I write a story about a man in a laboratory who weighs paper, then wets it and weighs it again, the point being that the data collected from the pointless task does not need to be the information that entertains or informs during the presentation.

I found this a viable way of answering the brief but that I would not do myself any favors if I simply took his idea, instead I looked at some other angles I could come from such as making an artifact from the wet (now dry) paper or presenting the images I had taken.

I found nothing that I could honestly have confidence in presenting, so instead I thought I would write a song.
Where on earth could I come from, would I sing? would I play my guitar? would I program something? I ran some lyrics through my head, this seemed absurd.

I looked back at the data I had compiled from the laboratory, what if I could write a song using the numbers I had recorded?

I subtracted the weight of each individual piece of paper by its weight when wet, to work out the weight of water I had added in the saturation process. Then I used a software program to create frequencies using these numbers. It sounded pretty awful, I experimented with the time each frequency would play, whether I could replay and mix around the sounds to write a song and if I could layer them up in an audibly pleasing way.

What I eventually generated is an audio/visual info-graphics piece in which the frequency of sound corresponds to the volume of water that was added to the sheet of paper. You may also be aware that the sound resembles that of a dripping tap, a fantastic discovery when I was experimenting with different sound effects for the frequencies.

Audio Infographics from Arron Tierney on Vimeo.

The feedback from Ian was encouraging, he said it was a highly original idea, a fantastic way of presenting information and he liked that I made the audience sit through over three minutes of the uncomfortable repetitive sound, "the presentation of the film expressed the pointlessness of the idea".

Feedback for the class as a whole was that we struggled getting the point of the pointlessness, we could have been much more lateral in our thinking and seeing some people presenting extra special ideas meant that we could be much more confident and ambitious designers. We were drawn into the pointlessness too much, the brief was more about the presentation not the pointless task itself.

I think the fact that I had like most of the class not answered the brief totally right is not a bad thing, we were subjected to a strict learning curve in terms of truly understanding a brief and it will prove very useful in the future. It's very difficult as design students to answer commercial needs without an agenda of our own in place, especially in the boom of online networking and international awareness of creative individuals, we are constantly trying to break boundaries and innovate when really our role does not require us to do so.

"it's like me saying go out and buy twelve carrots and then you come back with eleven and an aubergine"

Ian says it is always good to do things that are seemingly pointless, it is a great task when you are experiencing creative block, and ultimately nothing is really pointless at all if we pull context into it or present it to someone who it is worth something to.

"if you get a shit brief, really listen to it and ask yourself what is it I have to come back with".

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Silence video experiment & amnesty brief

Today I decided to join Laura and Nia on the amnesty international brief as I felt I couldn't focus my creative ideas properly alone. We had a thinking session, where we worked out our target audience, the desired tonality of the campaign and began skamping ideas this evening. I'm quite happy with how this is going now as it makes much more sense to work on the commercial aspects together whilst being able to carry on experimenting with the open ended ideas from the first part alone. These continued experiments should feed into the amnesty campaign but also help me in my own graphic practice.

This evening I attempted an experiment with the post box format mask I had developed as a metaphor during the first part of the silence brief. I've used recycled footage from a 1995 film called dead man walking because I've been looking at amnestys campaigns, and one that had a strong effect on me was the plea to abolish the death penalty.

The length of the film is perhaps a little too long and there are minor discrepancies with the size of the mask (does this add an extra visual treat?) but I think from this initial experiment it's easy to tell that the graphic element adds a powerful element of intrigue and discomfort to the viewing experience, supported by the low frequency sound I attached. I wonder whether the revelation of the few frames of exposed footage at the end are neccessary though, it feels a little gimmicky to be honest, but could possibly work in the commercial arena?

I am also waiting upon four magic lantern slides from the early 1900s with images of early x-rays exposed onto them. Providing there is time I intend to do some scanning experiments, projections and photography with them when they arrive in the post. I had a little feedback with Hitch last night who said I should continue with the scanned imagery and photocopier manipulation and also see how far I can go with bringing letterpressed type and a narrative in without losing the strong silent sensibility.

Silence experiment from Arron Tierney on Vimeo.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Silence zine

Today I decided to experiment with some of the visuals I had made for the first part of the silence brief. Looking at the success I had with the one day project with John Walsh I figured it would be interesting to see the results of photocopy experiments with a more confined agenda, keeping the theme of silence in mind and all the metaphors associated with it. I had my first go at Japanese punch binding also, which was surprisingly simple to do yet helps the final artifact look nicely executed. A visit to the special collections in the library next week could be useful to inspire my future work in this area.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Eyewriter

Just found this amazing invention by a collaboration between the Graffiti research lab, openFrameworks and the Ebeling group. It is a device which allows paralysed graffiti artists to create artworks with only the movement of their eyes. I find it quite amazing considering we just watched the Diving Bell and Butterfly a few days ago, the Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique who suffered 'locked-in' syndrome wrote his book with a coded alphabet through blinking.

This new technology however tracks the movement of the eye through all axis without the need for a human to translate it for them, merely a camera on a pair of glasses. Meaning users can draw, write and even shade objects that are projected onto the street or elsewhere.

TEMPT + EYEWRITER August 12, 2009 from james powderly on Vimeo.

You can read more about the project here

Wander One Day Project

Just completed a fantastic one day workshop with John Walsh. We started off in a group of three with a map of a half square mile area that we could explore, taking photographs, doing quick sketches and collecting ephemera. I found this quite bizarre at first, going out without an agenda and trying not to think like a designer - just simply looking. I did some sketching work of lines and shapes that I found particularly interesting without looking at the drawing pad. The results probably look to some quite child like but I think through their creation they act as important observational recordings, and intriguing abstracted artifacts which I would like to display sometime perhaps or re-explore.

We were asked to then choose 30 images/and or found objects and do some experiments with them to create new composite images. I did a few experiments in photoshop but felt like I had too much imagery and not enough restrictions to create anything of any substantial value. I decided it would be a nice idea to experiment on the photocopier, I took my two found objects, a washer and a cable tie and scanned them, rescanned them and overlayed the printed image with the objects on the glass bed over and over again, tore some images and experimented with compositions.

We were then asked to pair up with a partner and then crash our experiments together to see what outcomes we could make. Suggestions included business cards, posters or zines. We decided to document our experiments in a zine format, to appreciate the beauty of the found objects, we inserted some pages of acetate we had coloured up on the colour photocopier also which added an extra tactile element to the publication.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Living Dead: Adam Curtis Documentary

I've just finished watching Adam Curtis' documentary on memory and psychology, it's a startling account of how governments have tried to manipulate the memory of individuals and nations for control.

The most shocking aspect was of the American CIA and Russian KGB
funding neuroscience experiments during the cold war in an attempt to change and implant memories in individuals. It's terrifying to think that this research actually happened and is not merely a work of political fiction. The original Rollerball movie touches upon a similar topic of mass control through the medium of sport instead of direct brainwashing. For me its message seemed to be dampened down by its dated look and lack of realism, however Adam Curtis' offering, seemed all the more threatening with it's first hand accounts by lab technicians and sometimes grim archive footage.

The fact that the scientists succeeded in wiping memories but failed to implant new ones is no consolation either. They surmised that the human brain was like a computer and as such the computer must be able to be programmed to store memories of its own. This led onto the development of military weapons that were able to directly target objectives and therefore contributed to the arms race of the cold war and the brutal military regime in the gulf during the 90s.

Aesthetically speaking I found the programme particularly engaging, it makes use of a vibrant catalogue of recycled library footage which helps the narrative along in a metaphorical way rather than totally direct reference.
Which reminds me of a video for the band God is an Astronaut which also makes good use of recycled library footage to illustrate a new idea.

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon

Or, 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' is a film based on the book of the same name by the late Elle magazine art director Jean-Dominique Bauby. He suffered a stroke which resulted in a condition called 'locked-in syndrome' leaving him paralysed from head to toe and only able to communicate via blinking with his one healthy eye. It's a sad story which at times made me feel a little tearful, my great grandmother had a stroke when I was young and I found it very difficult to visit her without getting upset, seeing her in that state and trying to communicate was very difficult too but for Jean-Do's situation it must have been so much more traumatic.

A device I found very strong in the film was near the beginning when Jean-Do appears to answer the doctors questions but it becomes apparent that they cannot hear him and we are drawn into his internal conversation, making his dialogue feel very lost and desperate, along with the uneasy camera angles and struggling focus we atune to how uncomfortable he must be feeling.

There were unexpeded turns to the story too which were quite refreshing such as when the telephone installation men came in and were uncomfortable by the sight of Jean-Do and openly joke about his condition, the atmosphere in the lecture theater was a little tense as we expected him to get upset but instead he laughs loudly inside and comments on the therapists poor sense of humour.

Another device which worked in my opinion was the shots of Jean-Do in a diving suit floating aimlessly in the deep sea, its a simple metaphor which describes brilliantly at appropriate intervals the isolation he is going through, stuck in a shell within a vacuum and screaming inside.

On a more positive note, being a creative student I found the idea of being closed off from the outside world an inspiring notion, his imagination allowing him to go anywhere and do anything is a very romantic prospect and I suppose we could all learn a little something from losing our ability to speak, or to see for example.

And what an amazing title sequence, so low-fi yet delicately considered, still and silent setting the scene perfectly.

Water Sound Images

Friday, 16 October 2009

Sony Soundville - Seyðisfjörður

Kino4 Arthouse Film Posters

During the summer we were set a brief by the tutors at university to design posters for a weekly arthouse film club called KINO4. My responses were based on the idea of encouraging debate, as I understand these films tend to voice a strong social or political statement. Because the screenings are aimed at design students I surmised that an interative way of sparking debate and interest around the film topics could be through the act of drawing, providing a slightly different angle on the traditional poster. The atmosphere in the studio during the group pinup session was very exciting, people were engaging with the pieces as I had hoped, the tutors and even some of the third year illustration students made contributions.

The feedback I got back from tutors was not as strong as I had expected, they said the idea seemed to be trying hard to be innovative and came across as gimmicky. They also commented on the fact that some responses were quite adolescent and should probably require some kind of mediation before any publication could occur. I don't think I totally agree with this, I believe in free speech for everybody and the main purpose of the sketching discussions on the posters was to show the variety and depth of opinions around the themes. I suggested that a further development that could solve this would be to pull in global twitter feeds and display the information on the posters to illustrate a more democratic opinion pool on the respective topics.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Stan Brakhage

For me the absence of sound in Stans work pushes emphasis toward the intricate beauty of the visual content, the illustrative manual practice of painting onto film and experimental shooting become much more intense and prominent without the corruption of a sound element.

The piece 'Window Water Baby Moving' was shot in 1959 and features his wife giving birth, it caused widespread outrage at the time and is still extremely shocking by todays standards. Something which would normally be considered as distressing and messy suddenly becomes beautiful, intimate and above all encapsulating due to the lack of audio. See it at the link below.

Jonny Hardstaff Lecture 6/10

Sponsored by Sony, the brief was to make the playstation fierce. There was a huge irony as sony could not show it due to its extreme content but they knew that the designers would spread it themselves providing them with publicity whilst keeping their corporate identity and ‘integrity’. Johnny wanted to get across an anti-corporate message in something that is essentially exactly the opposite. The visual style came about from a mass of sketchbooks which is evident by its collaged, handcrafted sensibility.

In the client-designer relationship situation he insists that there is no such thing as a master, only a collaboration existing between the two parties.

His favourite part is the glob of spit at the end, he sees the screen as an irritant which can be bent and broken in its restrictions and audience expectations, even down to manipulating body copy in end credits. Apparently this is the only way to work now, competition is strife.

Very safe advert, very clean, conservative with the added reassurance of the scottish voiceover. Results came back that showed it was very successful amongst the middle aged demographic, it helped them zone out, be wowed, be manipulated.

Absence of a message, Johnny is a big fan of Geoff Koons who really influenced this particular execution. This product is not owned by a small scottish company anymore but by international Diago, so the ambiguous application seems sort of fitting.

Thom Yorke allowed Johnny to cut up and experiment with the sound on the production of this video. The first half was designed to help cleanse the viewers visual palette after being overloaded with so imagery on MTV where it was shown. Johnny says it is important to get a message across but also equally as important to ensure it is visually appealing.

This is the only piece Johnny actually quite likes. He says ‘graphic’ is the sound of the trucks on the skates in Rollerball, it is a set of sensations.

We design things that direct people.
Returning the right to dissent.
Graphic design as a weapon. John Heartfield.
Graphic design is art, how do you separate the two?
TV is dead, branded content is the future.

READ Norman Klein; A History of Special Effects

Silence Brief

The device above is called the Xenon100, buried over 3000 metres under an italian mountain to protect it from cosmic rays. It's purpose is to help scientists detect and prove the existence of dark matter. Dark matter is proposed to be the force that holds the universe together but it doesn't produce light, sound or radiation meaning it can only be detected by it's effect on matter that can be perceived.

The above image is an invention by Hungarian Mechanic Gábor Domokos
called a Gömböc. It is a three dimensional shape that has only one stable point of equilibrium meaning that it will always return to the same position and rotation, however way it is moved. It works upon similar principles that allow shelled creatures like turtles and beetles to self right their position. It is these seemingly 'silent' forces that intrigue me.

This is a portrait of John Locke, the founder of Empiricism. The philosophy of Empiricism is based upon subjectivity and our relationship with the 'outside' world. What one person sees as red may not necessarily be the same experience that another person may have, which goes for physical, shape, feeling, sense of gravity, smell, taste and all other senses. This is quite an eerie prospect and makes me wonder whether all that there actually is is silence and our experiences are just idiosyncratic mental chatter.

The moon or other astral bodies such as stars I consider as silent, you would expect these immense and sometimes destructive formations to have stupendous volume but due to their distance from us and the vacuum of space between we do not and can not hope to physically hear them, they are essentially silent.

My final response is a personal one, the image above is on the Saddleworth moor in Lancashire, England where I go walking on a regular basis. I find it a very odd and charming place to relax and unwind, part of its beauty is that you are never too far away from civilisation, you can see the towns of Greenfield and Uppermill as you walk and Holmfirth road which is always heavy with traffic, yet the wind and the distance somehow takes the volume away from all of these things, you cannot hear the lorries or the cars any more, but you can still see them.

Interpretation Spreads

This brief was to create two A3 magazine spread responses to the quote ‘To betray you must first belong’. I looked into several themes I associated with betrayal, I even considered the way we can sometimes betray ourselves by being lazy or even selfless.

The first spread is based around seduction and debauchery, there is a mystery surrounding the woman on the couch, is she dead? has she broken down from her guilt? The lettering is laid around the image like the marking of a crime scene to encourage the viewer to explore and speculate about what has happened.

The second spread is about double-edged meanings, what people sometimes say can mean something completely different to what they are actually feeling, in this instance a partner in a relationship claims to love the other when in reality they rely on them financially.

Art Direction Spreads

The brief for this project was to create art directed magazine spreads to the word Restriction. We were only permitted to use Helvetica for text and had to ha ve a consistent colour scheme for consistency.

The first spread came about from looking at the obvious ways of physically restricting something, although not the strongest page in a conceptual sense it does have a nice aesthetic. The door is fit to the right hand page so that when you turn it, it appears as though you are closing the fridge door.

The second spread is a culmination of several responses to the brief word. One of them being the exclamation mark revealing the fridge image beneath as a mask, and the other in the appearance of a loose page masking the story of Alice in Wonderland so that the reader can only access certain sections of the story.

The third spread is by far the most personal to me, one of the themes I thought most important was restriction in a social sense, I was brought up in the town of Oldham in Northwest England which is renowned for its high number of unemployed residents and poor council services. I believe that your area of upbringing should not stunt your ambitions but instead encourage you to do better, I found a quote from millionaire Duncan Bannantyne, stating that he came from a poor town but didn’t allow it to get him down.

The final spread is a purely visual response based on an article I read in the news, a trans-gender student at Manchester University had appealed for the establishment to implement mixed gender toilets as it caused tension with other students. I find it quite amusing that in the 21st century we still consider gender differentiation necessary when it is such a trivial affair. Looking at images in the research stages I discovered that the urinal looked very similar to the female sex symbol upside down, so I figured that parodying the issue using these icons would be effective. The sex symbol was created using the helvetica t and O.

D&AD Student Awards 2008

This was my response to one of the 2009 D&AD briefs to design covers using typography for the Film series in the Faber & Faber collection. I could not dismiss the fact that the series would be printed using the print on demand service, previously utilised in the award winning work Michael Place did for the Faber finds collection. Instead of using generative coding to create unique covers I found that individuals handwriting can be just as beautiful and intriguing, and it suggests back to a time when we used to label everything from video cassettes to audio tapes and the like. Keeping this in mind I generated visuals for a possible online service allowing customers to choose the colour of their book sleeve and the opportunity to write personal messages on the cover, ideal for sending as a gift or to organise the books by personal preference such as genre.

The book covers themselves are set in a simple template layout, much like a school workbook allowing them to be bought instore and customised by hand. The thing I love about this concept is how it challenges the user to be less protective over purchased goods and be a little more involved in the design process, by colour choice and label copy writing.

Following on from the online service, the user would be able to save their designs in an online bookshelf (see the second image), here they can see how the books will look together at home on their real bookshelves.

Futureshock Book Covers

This image shows some of my responses to a brief for a set of books in the Dystopian Fiction genre called Futureshock. I was very much influenced by public information booklets and posters from Britain during the early 20th century as the societies are very similar in their totalitarian-like positions. I explored several illustrative ideas and format changes such as a woolly cover for the Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? book but I eventually surmised that to summarise the agenda of all the books into a singular iconic style, type set copy written text would be the strongest solution.

The text is set in Futura.