Designing Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is becoming a huge technology in the design and art world. Initially virtual reality is thought to be strictly a gaming device, yet its capabilities are far greater than an immersive game. To begin, virtual reality is more than a bulky headset that individuals are able to wear. It’s any technology that is able to connect a digital aspect to reality.. So.. y’know, virtual reality. Initially augmented reality was a huge step for this market, as it allowed digital assets to be projected into the physical world. For example, Pokémon Go was a huge supporter and user of augmented reality. Projecting Pokémon into the users surroundings to be seen upon a handheld device. Virtual reality completely immerses an individual into this visual plane. Again, by a headset. This allows the user to interact with the digital world with physical movements; such as moving one’s head, or interacting with objects using controllers or gestures.

Example of advertisements from Ready Player One (2018)

With the creation of an entirely new world (essentially) comes with design opportunities. Literally any design application in reality can be transferred into virtual reality. Digital print could be designed, advertisements, characters and interior design. Instead of having a physical presence, it’s all digital. The movie Ready Player One is a huge example of the capabilities of virtual reality in the design industry. The antagonist is attempting to display paid advertisements upon the viewable area of each player’s screen. Not that I think virtual reality will get to that point, but it certainly is applicable enough to make a movie about it. With advertisements come consumerism. Where there’s consumerism, there’s things that need to be designed. Both products and brands. I can imagine a virtual mall where individuals are able to roam around, “walk” into a store, find an item, and purchase said item to have it show up in real life. Every aspect of that experience would need to be designed visually for ease of access and functionality, let alone aesthetic reasons. There are already applications where an individual can scan their physical room, and place objects into the room digitally to visualize how these objects would look and fit.

Image from the Ikea Place App

Virtual reality has only recently made its big breakthrough. There are countless companies currently creating different platforms and games for individuals to experience. As time progresses and more elements are honed and individuals are able to experiment with virtual reality more, it’s only going to grow exponentially. The advancements are not limited to the headsets too. Displays could be projected upon different surfaces. Such displays would also need to be designed.


A design that I’ve found is the TypeCase, case for a smartphone. This design allows an individual to utilize one hand and five buttons (four on the left and one on the right) to type in a textbox instead of using the onscreen keyboard. This case is genius, to say the least. It’s intended audience is for those who are visually impaired or are an amputee, given it only needs one hand to utilize the case, and is also physical, unlike the visual keys on a standard smartphone keyboard. This case was designed by Dougie Mann, who is a product design engineer.

The case can be configured to any smartphone, given it’s physical attributes are 3D printed. Therefore it’s customizable for the placement of the buttons, the type of phone, and the size of the buttons. To me, it seems as though the design is similar to a braille format, because each button (or button combination) equates to a particular letter or symbol. So the physical aspect is significant for visually impaired individuals. That being said, it’s not in-line with the braille format, so the user must learn what each button combination puts out to be able to use the case. So it comes with a learning curve for functionality. Further, Mann is also planning on implementing haptic feedback to each button, allowing visually impaired individuals to read with the case, if their fingers are placed upon each button. Each letter would be spelled out using the button combinations, creating the full word. The case itself has its own Bluetooth that the phone is able to connect to, maintaining the sleek profile of many smartphones. 

The case can be utilized by anyone with enough time to learn the different button combinations. Frankly, I could see myself using it. It removes the necessity to utilize both hands to type anything longer than “kk,” and also allows a user to be focusing on their surroundings, because you don’t need to see which letter you’re pressing upon the digital keyboard. I imagine for amputee individuals, the buttons could be oriented in any specific way, to make it accessible for both left handed and right handed individuals. But if an amputee does not possess all five fingers upon one hand or the other, I can see some difficulties arising. That is, being able to press all five of the buttons in their specific orientation to specify an individual letter.

My Design Responsibility

Not that I’m not a fan of environmental good, I am, but I feel as though I personally would have more of a connection with social good. Considering where I see myself in the future in my design career. I’ll do my part in reducing my emissions and being environmentally conscious of course, but I can’t particularly see myself working in the field that directly correlates with any large scale movements. Now that the foundation is down, let me elaborate a bit.

In my near future, I would like to work as a designer for a craft brewery. Maybe designing labels for their different selections of brews, or advertisements, or just about anything within that world. Because that line of work interests me. That being said, there are many avenues in the brewing industry to incorporate both environmentally friendly habits, and social good. A few that comes to mind for the environmental aspect are labels made with recycled paper and glued on with an organic substance, switching from aluminum to glass bottles (like it was decades ago) as glass bottles hold up longer and are able to be reused for many different applications, providing the brewery in question with advertising that supports the environment, and many more that I’ve thought about previously but are not coming to mind. That being said, as beer tends to be a rather social thing throughout time, I find it easier to connect that industry with social good. Therefore I find it would be more beneficial to my design process to focus on social issues more, with where I see myself going in the future. 

I find my responsibility to be like anyone else’s when it comes to design or just life as it is. Now, I understand that design has a very significant influence over individuals, I do. However, I don’t particularly agree with the idea that my significance (being a designer) is any more than someone else’s, being whoever they are. Not that I’m going to go out and submit to some corporation, promoting the benefits of burning oil and chopping down the rainforest. But naturally I’m going to try to work for places that I agree with. So hopefully from there I shouldn’t have any concerns about their design requests and such. But if I do, I’ll attempt to make an argument against their potentially ignorant or harmful request. Depending on what it is, I may just have to go through with the design unfortunately. But if it’s something particularly horrid (I hope not, again, only work for a company I agree with) then I’ll just quit on the spot. That being said, I cannot imagine a scenario that could ever reasonably occur. What do I know though, I’m not in the official field quite yet.

Design, Politics, and the CIA?

Sometime around Christmas of 2020, I was browsing the different Linkedin graphic design listings, as one does. I was scrolling through the different product design positions and the positions that require far too many years of experience for my college student self, when I happened upon a CIA graphic design offer. I hesitated, thinking that once I click the link, I’ll be on some sort of watchlist. Well luckily enough my nightcap of scotch -with a single ice cube- and curiosity took over and I opened up the listing to find that it was really the CIA. I had first thought that it was weird to see such a large yet secretive organization post a job in the civilian market. Then I looked further into what their job specifications were. To sum them up: designing data related graphics, providing well formatted PowerPoints, flow diagrams, publication designs, posters, logos, and brochures. So pretty standard graphic design related work. But for, y’know, the CIA. 

I brought up my new discovery to my father, who is currently in the Air Force, roughly 36 years and counting. His eyes lit up a bit, as he’s quite the fan of our country, and government related positions. He had gone on to lecture about how such a position could open countless doors for me in my design career. Given they require background checks and they’re quite recognizable in any market, local or abroad. I can’t disagree, it does sound like a rather sweet gig. Even then, something didn’t sit right with me, knowing that I’d be working for the government directly. Not that I have any issues with our government, (hopefully my blog doesn’t get flagged now that I’ve mentioned the CIA so many times) but I just can’t see myself working within such strict guidelines as an artist. Politics and enforcement seem like the antithesis of an artist. Think graffiti artists and the police, or the entirety of the 70’s. But even then, the government needs artists to provide them a face for the people they’re serving. As campaigns need a logo or brochures, and the CIA needs a new logo that looks like an indie house band album cover. As designers, we must provide for a market. 

CIA former logo: left; CIA current logo: right

The CIA has used graphic designers for decades to promote an agenda. More specifically, producing magazines for the Cold War. Which, by now, we know that the Cold War was a marketing and image beast of society. That is, who likes the color red or not, right? Nonetheless, magazines were being funded (most of the time unknowingly) by the CIA through the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Where many copies were printed and distributed to European countries. For example, Peter Matthiessen’s magazine in which he co-founded, the Paris Review. He was an environmental activist, wilderness writer, he won the National Book Award, was a Zen teacher, and oh, right, he was also a CIA officer. The magazine played a part in his cover story for being in Europe at the time. 

Paris Review covers (left to right): 1953, 1958, 1959, 1964

Design offers an image. Even potentially a façade that an individual or company could hide behind. Politics are not an outlier to this statement. Where there is a need, people will rise to the occasion to meet it. The same goes for designers. I personally understand this, and will do what is necessary to make a comfortable living for myself and my future family. But I can’t say that it would be an enjoyable experience for me if it comes down to working in politics. That just sounds ghastly; working for an agenda with corrupt politicians (because really, most politicians are corrupt in some way) where your name and efforts are directly attached to what thousands of people are seeing. Half of which probably don’t agree with the message. I’m not paranoid, but hell, give me a New York steak and let me run through a vegan convention. I think my social standing would hold up better in that scenario than working in politics.

(On a similar note, the designer has yet to be named for the CIA’s new logo. Given the ridicule it has received on social media and the likes. Hilarious, but a real issue.)

Prost Brewing Co. Logo Analysis

Prost Brewing Co. current logo

The logo I will be analyzing is from Prost Brewing Companies redesign from 2019. Some necessary information about Prost is that they are a German style brewing company. That is to say, they brew only German style beers such as: altbier, weissbier, pilsner, marzen and so many more. These are all fundamental beer styles throughout Germany’s history, given they are all very hop heavy brews, and Germany is within the hop growing belt of the world. Considering “prost” means “cheers” in German, the connection between the company name and what they produce is a given. But the redesign gives this connection much more meaning than Prost’s prior logo. 

Prost’s former logo could be loosely described as an early 1940’s art deco style design. With an arbitrary typeface and inexplicable vector lines. Their logo had no connection to the history they are obviously trying to emulate with their choice of brews. They relied heavily on their former typeface, which lacked depth and visual cohesiveness with the overall designs of the bottles and packaging. Now onto the beauty that is Prost’s current logo.

Prost Brewing Co. former logo

I am obsessed. The research and skill behind Prost’s current logo is unprecedented. Let me explain. The typeface behind their logo could be considered a blackletter style, but custom for their company. With this in mind, think Johannes Gutenberg; both in German roots and history. The new logo ties in the German heritage of the brews that Prost creates, as well as their name and the history of Germany. As Johannes Gutenberg is German, and was the creator of the printing press, you’d hope that a predominantly German company would have a strong typeface to present on the front of their labels. Prost also utilizes the traditional law of the Reinheitsgebot (meaning they only use hops, yeast, water, and malted barley within their beer), and imports only German grains and hops. That all said, the goal of the logo was to reach towards something that stands out to be truly German. Clean crisp lines that could only be described as sexy, with high contrast to the remaining negative space. The previous embellishments were unnecessary as the custom type of their wordmark was powerful enough to captivate attention. The gaudy “traditional” German designs previously used would not stand up to the craft beer market we see today. Therefore Prost needed to modernize their design and lean against what they have going for them; which is the hundreds of years of damn good beer and culture that their name emits. 

Looking closer, the redesign of Prost’s logo shows detail oriented work and acknowledgement to the potential application of the asset (see image below). The alignment of negative space between the top curve of the “s” and the left branch of the “t” is ridiculously satisfying. Heightened by the consistent angles and weight throughout the custom type. In the new logo, the “p” and “t” break the baseline and act as descenders for the “brewing co.” to comfortably nestle within the space provided. This draws the eyes into the wordmark through the reflected angles of the descenders. With such clean and consistent lines, no distracting embellishments are needed to leave a lasting impression of fine craftsmanship. Hopefully the same could be said for the beer within, as I’m going to attempt to order some of their brews after seeing this logo. It just goes to show how significant a well designed logo is for displaying a beer in such a competitive market of craft beer and flashy or overwhelming design. Simple is sexy.

Prost Brewing Co. current logo with annotations

Consumer Compromise

The idea of Marshall McLuhan’s hot and cold mediums stems from consumer interaction. As a society, we have become rather accustomed to sitting back and witnessing everything that goes around us. Such as movies, television, and even the advertisement placed upon the side of a bus. Passively participating in the media that we experience is considered “hot”. Actively participating is considered “cold”. The question for me is, does one impact a viewer more than the other? Its rather common knowledge that actively participating in something establishes more of a connection than passively participating. Such as tying your shoes at an early age. You can be told and shown hundreds of times how to tie your shoes, but you’ll never quite get it until you try yourself, and practice. I find the same goes for McLuhan’s concept of hot and cold. How we obtain information is key to how much we retain such information. As individuals of the modern era, we are bombarded with advertisements and information essentially 24/7. From when we wake up and see the morning news, to when we walk to work or class and see a poster or advertisement. We’ve grown so accustomed to seeing these companies, that we can essentially block them out like they don’t even exist. Or so we think. We still subconsciously witness and experience these (sometimes) targeted ads, and are influenced by them. Companies pay millions if not more for this reason exactly. Take the super bowl for example. The average price of a 30 second super bowl ad was 5.2 million dollars. Because they work, whether we like it or not. Ads are capable of targeting consumers for who they are. Do you run? No? Well then you probably wont see many running shoes ads, but you’ll probably see many Netflix ads. The same goes for just about any other hobby, niche, or activity. This issue is further discussed in the social dilemma on Netflix… oh the irony. How we have not become humans any more; but simply consumers of a product.

Image from Netflix

Understanding how media is able to impact a society, allows us as designers to reduce the amount of influence we have over a particular individual. Design has an overwhelming impact upon each individual, from every background. As designers, our purpose is to reach as large of an audience as possible. But there must be a compromise to how much we impact an audience. Businesses produce for consumers to consume, but when does it become unreasonable, and potentially detrimental?

A post about me

Hello there! My name is Dasan Bankston. I am a third year graphic design student at Oregon State University, with a minor in photography. It may sound a bit odd, but I am interested in beer. From the creation of it, to how small variables are able to create such different beverages. That being said, I am also interested in how these different drinks are marketed to an audience. How does a designer determine a final design that is able to communicate the flavors of a beer and can convince a consumer to purchase the product? From this question, I see myself as a designer with an interest in packaging and label making. I aspire to work for a craft brewery, creating different designs for each different beverage they create. Overall creating their brand image, that is both cohesive and experimental. With the utmost respect to the product, for many to enjoy.