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Visual Aesthetics

This category contains 15 posts

Logical Distrubutions

A response to Michael Beirut’s 79  Short Essays on Design

 

I love fiction storytelling when its text truly resonates with its reader. What’s behind this has always interested me: what makes stories relatable, how do humans empathize with fiction characters, what makes a good story. Lately, I have become interested in how the framework of stories effects its effectiveness to tell the intended story.

I just turned in a research paper on transmeida storytelling. Its simple definition is storytelling which involves multiple platforms to tell one story. Hypertext, on the other hand, was a precursor to transmedia storytelling involving references to other texts which are accessible. This is usually executed using hyperlinks. I find am fascinated by how the redistribution of stories can enhance the way stories are told.

Michael Bieuret discusses Vladamir Nabokov’s 1962 Pale Fire, and it’s relevance to design. To me, this vocalizes how I look at design as a manifestation of storytelling. In order to effectively tell his story, Nabokov titles the separate sections of his book being by different fictional authors, even though they are all written by himself. The sections all refer to lines in other sections, creating a cohesive world for the reader. Working with this framework would not be ideal for every story, but it was groundbreaking in creating new framework which others, such as ARGs and transmedia storytelling, derived from.

Design is storytelling, because the designer always has to logically plan how they will best tell their story. Its those willing to think outside of the box, like Nabokov, that make way for future innovation.

A Layout to Make Content King

A response to Edward Tufte’s iPhone Interface Design

 

The other day, my boyfriend told me he couldn’t remember a time before my iPhone was my constant companion. Initially I didn’t want to acknowledge the dependency I’ve developed on my handheld device, but his statement made me think how much has changed in the past couple of months.

Before last summer, I didn’t have internet access on my cell phone nor was I active on Twitter. I didn’t have any phone apps, and the pictures my friends sent in text messages usually were unable to be received on my good ol’, pink Pantech Impact. My friends spent idle time on their new iPhones, and I didn’t understand why the birds on their phone screens were so very angry.

I also noticed many of my friends spending time on mobile Twitter, as opposed to Facebooking, to procrastinate. The dialogue was altered from “I posted it on your wall” to “Did you see my tweet?” At this time, my perception of Twitter was not a positive one. I told my friends that they were giving in to the very worst of Facebook’s feature, manifested into one, narcissistic network. Why did I want to join a social network comprised entirely of the equivalent of Facebook updates?

But I upgraded to an iPhone in June, and my perceptions all changed. While I still tune in to my favorite news programs, I no longer browse the internet for news. Every top headline this Fall, ranging from political to entertainment, I’ve learned about from Twitter. I found out that most don’t use Twitter as merely updating the world on their mundane activities, although some of my friends still do include a rundown of their day’s activities, but people use Twitter to share real news and to network. 95% of my Twitter use is on my iPhone, and it capitalizes on its ability to allow users to “retweet” news as soon as it happens.

Not a fan of digital reading in the past, I didn’t think I’d use my iPhone to read as much as I do. The screen is not particularly large, but the design of many iPhone apps and of the iPhone itself is brilliant. Edward Tufte offers both praise and criticism of the iPhone interface desgn. However, he hones in on the most critical aspect of its success: “the content is the interface, the information is the interface.” Apple has done a good job thus far at effectively laying out design for the iPhone to show as much content in its screen as possible without clutter. The admin features disappear when users are interacting on sites, and sliding allows users to easily understand navigation.

Apple designed the iPhone and created dependent users, like me, with its clean, effective display of information. Social media sites have capitalized on this, and Twitter has become a main forum for political, entertainment, and job networking discourse.

Create Story

Pete Docter’s segment entitled “Storytime” intrigues me, because it is told as a story. As a viewer, I entered this video in a point of tension. The first shot features Pete Docter standing on the edge of a tall building’s roof. The camera is shooting from a low-angle, and it is a wide shot. This gives the illusion of that Docter may actually fall to the point of the camera, producing tension for the viewer as well as drawing in initial attention.

I love the definition Docter offers that applies to both design and story. He states, “Design is the purposeful arrangement of elements to produce an intended reaction in the viewer. Well, that just tends to describe story very well.” Docter thought out this segment well, and his physical and verbal explanations coalesce. If someone were to tell a story with tension, a situation with a character in a dangerous situation, such as Docter in this segment, works. However, design can also tell this story by placing Docter in a particular place on the roof, using particular lighting, etc. A photograph of this opening frame would evoke tension.

Docter’s “Up” Animation, 2009

Although I could never dream to animate something close to the quality Docter produces, I appreciate his perspective. I also believe all creative production is a story, and this is something that should be remembered. Animation is nothing without appealing to human emotion. And human beings are drawn to stories.

Create Story

Pete Docter’s segment entitled “Storytime” intrigues me, because it is told as a story. As a viewer, I entered this video in a point of tension. The first shot features Pete Docter standing on the edge of a tall building’s roof. The camera is shooting from a low-angle, and it is a wide shot. This gives the illusion of that Docter may actually fall to the point of the camera, producing tension for the viewer as well as drawing in initial attention.

I love the definition Docter offers that applies to both design and story. He states, “Design is the purposeful arrangement of elements to produce an intended reaction in the viewer. Well, that just tends to describe story very well.” Docter thought out this segment well, and his physical and verbal explanations coalesce. If someone were to tell a story with tension, a situation with a character in a dangerous situation, such as Docter in this segment, works. However, design can also tell this story by placing Docter in a particular place on the roof, using particular lighting, etc. A photograph of this opening frame would evoke tension.

 

Strategy, Design: Creative Process

Listening to employees of Troika Design Group describe their creative process reiterated the message my classmates and I have been learning all semester: The execution of design is about taking the time for strategy and breaking down the process. The employers of Troika are described as designers or animators, the designers taking on the intellectual process I just described and the animators being the masters of technological tools. Its insightful to hear from employers of a company that are “paid for process”. With clients as well known as Starz, its comforting to hear employers of Troika still find their creative tasks as intimidating.

In order to accomplish such large tasks, such as branding for Starz, it’s helpful to hear these employers focused on “breaking down a creative challenge into manageable pieces.” Although blank pages, or the start of a project, may appear daunting, small tasks are always easier to accomplish.  I also found it interesting to hear how much a company like Troika cares about the culture of their company. The employees spoke of “cross-training”, where employees would cultivate their creativity by learning new programs and skill sets that may be outside of their particular field.

Finally, I was struck by the strategy Troika emphasized in its branding. In regards to Starz, Troika set out to produce an emotional attachment between people and Starz as a brand, similar to how people have emotional attachments to particular movies. It’s important to hold on to the strategy behind creation and remember technology is merely a “pen or pencil”.

High Precedence for a Film Flop

A Response to http://www.watchthetitles.com/

Analyzing title sequences on Forget the Film, Watch the Titles made me stop and think of all the people, job titles, programs, and skills involved in producing a short film sequence that sets precedence for the rest of the film. Looking through the title sequences receiving praise on this site, I was amazed how many films I didn’t recognize. Some of these films may not have been huge hits in the box office, but I could see the days spent on storyboards, Final Cut-like software, and After Effects just to produce three minutes of film capable of grabbing the attention of a film’s audience.

An example of this is the movie Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore released last year. The subtitle below the title sequence video reads that the film, “…left most critics unimpressed (METACRITIC) score 30/100, which could explain why the title sequence, made by Imaginary Forces, undeservedly slipped past everyone’s radar. Well, almost…” Although I’d never heard of the film, and it clearly did not have great reviews, the title sequence is well done for a children’s film.

The 3-D animation is grabbing, and the visuals often directly correlate with the lyrics in the song playing “Get This Party Started”. High energy jumps from the graphics and the music, and I can see how this would appeal to the target audience of the movie. Although the movie may have been a flop in the eyes of critics, it’s interesting to examine the title sequence as a separate art, worthy of critique.

Personification and Tension

A Response to Marc Craste’s Pica Towers

Marc Craste’s Pica Towers trilogy demonstrates good use of personification and chilling tension. Watching “The Good News” and “Hounds of Flesh”, I was struck by one human quality the robotic characters of the films lacked: human communication or identifiable language. The human qualities of these creatures are emphasized throughout the films. Features resembling eyes are shown in a close-up opening shot of The Good News before the shot pans out to show a robotic character. In Hound of Flesh another robotic character is featured walking a dog-like robotic character. This character demonstrates attributes of a blind human being.

The human characteristics of the characters in these three short films evoked empathy from me when they were put in violent or compromising situations. I like the tension that was created between the personification of the characters and their lack of human-like communication. This lack of verbal communication allowed the music and actions of the characters to be dominant, and I was kept guessing why the Pica Towers was a violent place. The point of tension reached its climax for me in Pizza Sangre. One of the robotic characters gets out of a vehicle, delivering a pizza. Slow, soothing, country-like music plays from the delivery truck, and the shot pans out showing the delivery man as miniscule in comparison to the vast, windy black and white background. This tranquil image is interrupted, however, when the delivery man is suddenly shot down from the tower.

The tension created between the cartoon-like robotic characters and the violence of the black and white short films is chilling. These films are well made, and I’m left wanting more from the story.

Human Constructions

A Response to a Hillman Curtis short film, Blow Up.

 

I’m in awe of the thought Blow Up provokes in 8 minutes and 21 seconds. The conscious choices in this short film evoke an intimacy between the two characters, and I’m drawn to the universality of questions raised.

Aesthetically, I like that the film is shot in black and white. It creates contrast between the two characters and their background, and it adds to their universal appeal. Both characters are wearing black. The film begins with a shot of a white photography backdrop, and it pans to the two characters wearing black. As the film goes on, we learn that the photographer, Nick, is embarking on a project based on the apocalypse. He describes various things inferring he is searching for purpose, and he states he wants his creation to be about “uncovering”. The white on the backdrop may represent the purity of what is to be uncovered in the universe. This symbolism came to mind again when the two characters are shown with the windows in the background. Light is pouring in from the windows, and the black and white film emphasizes contrast. This, again, may represent the purity of the metaphysical world Nick is setting out to uncover.

The dialogue is clever, because there is enough given to speculate without giving the character’s entire stories away. The female character, to me, represents human constructs. Describing his project, Nick describes his biologist father’s world perspective that human beings are less intelligent than animals. He says, “We’re not smart enough to learn to live in this world, so we change it.” He goes on to say, “The deeper he looked into things the clearer the face of God became.”  There is a clear correlation between these beliefs and what Nick is attempting with his project.

The female character is skeptical and defensive. She thinks it’s odd for a biologist to have religious beliefs, and she makes a joke about God having to be referred to as a “goddess” because they are in San Francisco. Also, she is defensive when interacting with Nick although she is willing to help him.

I like how the camera pans from Nick’s hands to his faces, demonstrating Nick’s uncertainty or insecurity when explaining his project. Also, a raw tension is felt when shots are alternated between the wide shot of Nick in a dominating position over the female character and a close up of the female’s face. The female character looks scared at the end of the film, or at least intensely in thought. The soft, indie-styled music gets louder building more tension. I like how the Female puts her hand behind her hand as she asks, “Nick, what are you trying to uncover?” She seems to be stepping out of human constructs, engaging with the intimate thoughts of another human being and I think this is an appropriate ending.

 

Theory Behind the Story

A Response to Journalism in the Age of Data

Watching Journalism in the Age of Data reminded me of the universality of the skills my classmates and I are learning in our iMedia classes this ear. The documentary commented on data visualization, and its emerging importance in our world. IBM researcher Fernanda Viegas spoke to its relevance stating, “Half of our brain is hardwired for vision.” Human beings may analyze information better when seen visually, and effective data visualization has conscious intent behind why information is displayed in a particular way.

However, it’s all about the story.

Good aesthetics of data visualization is insignificant if information is lacking or not displayed properly. Also, good information can go unnoticed if it is not presented in an innovative way. In this documentary Martin Wattenberg says, “I think the best way for people to learn about visualizations is to make it.” This describes exactly what my iMedia classmates and I are doing. We’re diving right in and using tools we have no prior experience in. While figuring out the technicalities, it’s important to be cognizant of the intent behind our creations. What story are we going to tell? How is this best visually represented? The topics discussed in Journalism of Data are relevant in a variety of ways in the Interactive Media field, and this documentary raised good points worthy to remember when creating media.

“It’s easy to get angry, but it’s time we got smart.”

I like how Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff Project offers information through simple graphics. The black and white graphics in her videos do not distract the audience from her content. There are admirable qualities of this series, but I also have some points of contention.

On the Story of Stuff Project homepage I wanted to see information about the source. Who is Annie Leonard, and why should I listen to her social/political beliefs? There is an “About” page, but I think it is important to identify Annie as a voice of authority easily before she is featured in the series videos.

Aesthetically, like I stated, I like the simplicity of the graphics. I also love how icons appear below the screen as information is offered. This enhances usability, as scrollover supplies more information  on specific topics. I’m not fond of how Leonard makes herself a part of the videos. I would prefer a voiceover, because I think her presence could come across as condescending. She is presenting herself as a voice of authority, and she is presenting her opinions as facts. I think she should let her opinions speak through her visuals.

I love how Leonard is promoting social awareness, and it is true that most Americans are still unaware of the reality of consumerism. I watched her segment on cosmetics, and I agree that Americans apathetic in informing themselves of daily used products. This can be said for industries other than cosmetics such as meat, dairy, clothes etc. However, I believe Leonard over simplifies the issue by pointing fingers at our government.

It is true that democracy is based on the voice of the people, and our government has become a problem with greed, apathy, etc. However, I think the biggest problem has been the apathy of the average American citizens. These changes can be made if people take on more responsibility and a smaller government evolves. I agree with Leonard when she says, “It’s easy to get angry, but it’s time we got smart.” If change is to be made, finger pointing has to stop and Americans need to take responsibility for their consumerist behavior.