Science (non) Fiction

A technology that is still very new is VR.  Which is interesting since it’s an idea that’s been around for ages.  Virtual reality as a concept has been around in science fiction for a long time and has even been tried multiple times.  It’s kind of like hoverboards or flying cars, but unlike those, VR is not only becoming reality but also accessible.  Some VR headsets being around 200$, the price of entry is constantly decreasing considering they started being $1000 as the lowest price.  So with VR becoming accessible, there being a demand for this technology, there must be some application for it.  Of course video games are a no brainer.  One of the best ways to immerse yourself in a video game is to get a first person view being in the space.  Some movies have even used this technology and given an experience of a movie goer being in the actual movie.  Now what about design?  

    Well there could be a lot of applications in different areas of design, but the most perfect application would be for 3D modeling.  Since 3D modeling is done on programs on a computer on a 2D screen, it can be tedious and difficult to efficiently make 3D models.  Because of this, 3D modelers become somewhat niche since you need specific training and experience with 3D programs to make good models.  But if you were able to make 3D modeling more accessible, then there would be a massive increase in modelers.  This is what the Google app “Blocks” does. 

    Blocks is a program you would use with your VR device and it would allow you to use tools and gives you a space to build 3D models in a 3D space.  You move the controllers around to sculpt and make whatever you want.  It gives you the freedom to sculpt the same way one would with real clay, but now moving it into a virtual space.  No longer will you sculpt tediously with a mouse and keys, now you can use your hands to create anything your mind can think of.  This is a huge step closer to the Sci Fi fantasies of the 20th century!  

    As I said earlier, Blocks would make the art of 3D modeling far more intuitive and therefore more accessible.  Since Blocks is also a free program, all you need is to own a VR headset and you are ready to create assets.  While there are open source programs like Blender, most industry standard programs like Maya can be over $1600 every year.  While the technology is still new and no where near being an industry standard, I can almost guarantee in the next decade all the major studios will be incorporating this technology.  I can invision giant VR rooms in studios where a team of modelers all wear their headsets and inhabit the room together creating assets in real time, in a real space. All the modelers are able to collaborate in a real space on the same model at the same time.  This would greatly increase speed of modeling, especially as the technology improves.  Since now the VR controllers you hold are somewhat clunky, I imagine in the future they evolve into thin gloves you would wear with the headset to have even greater control modeling by hand.  

    And while this is MY Sci Fi, futuristic vision of what this technology could become, with the way technology is accelerating it doesn’t seem that unrealistic.  In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if that technology was implemented to a degree in the next 5 years. And with programs like Blocks being made, it creates competition for programs like Maya and Blender – So i bet they will begin working on these kinds of VR modeling programs soon as an extension of their current programs.  

    Now, with accessibility, there would become a massive influx of 3D modelers.  Some might say this is bad since it would create an overpopulated field.  While that might be true for a short while, with all the new 3D modelers will come all new creatives to the industry.  While industry jobs at studios might become more competitive, with so many new modelers, people will start creating independent projects to rival the big studios.  This might even lead to brand new studios being created from the groupings of these new modelers.  With new studios comes new stories, new art, and competition for the big studios.  Everyone has to try harder, the big studios have to kick it into gear because now if they keep making vapid, lazy movies, these smaller studios will be more than happy to make passionate, heartfelt, genuine stories to take their place.  So with more modelers comes more competition in jobs and in art making.  Supply will meet demand.  And with so many creatives now able to break into 3D, the capabilities of 3D art in general will grow further than it is now.  

Disabled Design

One of the first designs that came to mind for disabled people is the bathroom rails in public bathrooms.  Very clearly, it is for people with physical disabilities that prevent them from walking.  Right away, I think that makes it an inherently good design to some degree.  It’s not confusing.  Any person could figure it out when they saw it which is important.  If something is designed for a disabled person and it isn’t exactly clear what it is or who it’s for, it can be misused or broken accidentally.  So the fact you can see it and acknowledge who it’s for and what the purpose is, it’s a good design.  It also satisfies the need for people who can’t use their own legs.  

I’m not quite sure if it fixes the person or fixes the problem… It more so allows someone who can’t walk and sit themselves down so they are able to use the toilet on their own without help.  So in that regard… I suppose it allows someone to be more self sufficient despite the disability so … that’s good.  I suppose you could say it attempts to fix the person since it just leaves the tools to use the toilet like normal, but you could also say it solves the problem since without the rails, they wouldn’t be able to sit themselves on the toilet on their own.  

I think it is the best use of resources since it’s so simple.  It just has the rails and not much else so it’s simplicity allows it to use only what it needs to function.  I have seen some that are on a hinge and can fold up against the wall so they don’t constantly jut out of the wall which is useful.  In terms of who it excludes I suppose blind people might hit their leg against it (unless it’s one of those foldy types I mentioned).  I think it also could exclude people without arms since the purpose of the rails is to hoist oneself with one’s arms.  Although… I think if you don’t have functioning arms or legs then you likely wouldn’t be in a wheelchair trying to use a toilet on your own.  Beyond super rare disabilities I don’t know about, it isn’t very exclusionary to many people.  It’s just there if you need it and if you don’t, you leave it be.  

Source 4

Article:“Here’s how ‘Overwatch’ designed each character to feel truly unique”

Author: Tim Mulkerin

Author summary:

Tim Mulkerin studied art history at the University of Arizona and works as a freelance writer at IGN, Kill Screen, Paste, and Business Insider.

Article summary:

    The article has a strong focus on shape language and movement in the context of Overwatch characters.  The game Overwatch has a ton of characters that are very easy to identify at a distance.  Mulkerin ties shape language and movement to the functionality of the game to inform character design.  Since Overwatch is a fighting game with a variety of characters, some small and nimble but weaker to attacks, some large, slow, but able to take a lot of hits.  So when designing the character the bigger tank characters would naturally need to be larger, maybe blockier, or rounder.  Then a fast precision character required a design that is tighter, smaller, thinner, etc.  These aspects of the design not only make sense on a story/personality level, but when a player sees one of these characters at a distance, they need to be able to quickly analyze what kind of character they are going up against and how to react.  SO the designs themselves are not only iconic, memorable, and fun, they are also needed to be functional in their designs based on the context of a video game.   

Citation:

Mulkerin, Tim. “Here’s How ‘Overwatch’ Designed Each Character to Feel Truly Unique.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 1 June 2016, www.businessinsider.com/secrets-of-overwatch-character-design-2016-6.

Source 3

Article:“Designing characters for animation”

Author: Fernanda Frick

Author summary:

Fernanda Frick is a Chilean animator, illustrator, and director who works extensively on indie short films and graphic novels.

Article summary:

    For animation, you need to think of character design as casting for live action productions.  The exception, of course, is you create everything about the actors from the start.  While in live action films, when you cast an actor, you get some traits off the bat of the natural person.  You go through a bunch of different people and see a ton of traits and choose the best traits that fit the character you cast for.  So this is a positive and negative of creating the character.  Id adds a lot more that one needs to think about when creating, but it gives you much more freedom to create the exact ideal image of the character you make.  On top of this, you need to think of the production pipeline as you design.  When designing for 3d, there will be differences to designing a 2D animation production.  For 3D, you would have to keep in mind that your designs would go to a modeler that has to translate that into a three dimensional figure, so that is limiting in some ways and impacts some draftsmanship techniques.  Versus a 2D production where it would go to a storyboard and then animating directly.  

Citation:

Frick, Fernanda. “Designing Characters for Animation.” Medium, Here’s the Plan - Blog, 1 Mar. 2017, medium.com/heres-the-plan-blog-eng/designing-characters-for-animation-660192a62de.

Source 2

Article:“Master Studies Character Design Tips- What Makes a Solid Drawing”

Author: Win Leerasanthanah

Author summary:

Win Leerasanthanah is a Tawanese animator from Bangkok credited with working in Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars Solo.  He is currently based in Los Angeles and graduated with an MFA in Animation at SCAD.

Article summary:

    The main part of the article I want to take away is the concept of the Line of Action.  Win talks about the concept of drawing a character and designing with line of action in mind.  Making sure the design itself will be able to communicate a certain amount of motion in how it is animated later on.  Win goes into detail explaining applying certain characteristics to a character’s design in order to work better with motion including silhouette, perspective, and shape language.  The characters design will impact how well it would realistically move and using things, like in the example given, like stripes on a character to more clearly communicate some kind of motion.  Additionally, Win talks about breaking up the character into simple or complex forms.  Breaking it up by simple and complex forms on a single character help build focus in desired areas of a character so that the personality of the character is stronger shown without having to be told what it is.  

Citation:

Leerasanthanah, Win, and Name *. “Master Studies Character Design Tips- What Makes a Solid Drawing: ASIFA-South.” ASIFA, 10 July 2019, www.asifa-south.com/2019/06/08/master-studies-character-design-tips-what-makes-a-solid-drawing/.

Source 1

Article:“How to design a compelling character that tells a story”

Author: Magdalina Dianova

Author summary:

Magdalina Dianova is a self taught, freelance artist currently working as a character designer at Dreamworks TV.

Article summary:

    They key takeaway from the article is having a strong focus on story and how that will help inform the design choices.  Dianova stresses the importance of understanding the character being designed.  The story and personality of a character will give direction on where to take their design and certain choices to make.  Since every choice has to be necessary, you have to think about what each aspect of the character says and ask if that choice properly reflects the character themselves.  It helps in research and where you find inspiration from to design the character.  In order for the character to seem more three dimensional, you need to treat their personality like that of a real person.  That includes thinking of the positive traits of the character, as well as the negative aspects.  This is a key process in merging writing with designing.  You need to make sure the design makes sense and will be able to follow the story of the animation. One other key part of achieving this is the color of the character on top of the appearance.  This shows the importance of color thumbnailing.  The colors are observed immediately while the costume takes a bit more time to look at and take in.  

Citation:

Dianova, Magdalina. “How to Design a Compelling Character That Tells a Story.” 3dtotal, 29 Aug. 2019, 3dtotal.com/tutorials/t/how-to-design-a-compelling-character-that-tells-a-story#article-5-final-line-drawing.

A Social Good Kerfuffle

I think this is a very interesting concept. “This” being the question of “what responsibility do i have to push ‘social good’?”  In my opinion, the answer depends.  It mostly depends on what I am.  If I end up becoming an animator, like I would like, then my first, second and third responsibility is to animate.  If I somehow become a musician, my responsibility would be to make good music people want to hear.  The end, right?  Well, of course, were there to be a cause I want to throw my weight behind, I may or may not mention it.  Even then, people wouldnt look at my animation or listen to my music in order to hear me be preachy.  More often than not, people come to artists/entertainers in order to escape the preachy, moral superiority complex of the rest of the world.  

I hear the argument that if you have a platform, you need to use it for “social good”.  And okay, cool, I understand that, but no.  No I don’t.    Naturally, you, the country, and the queen can all point at me and say “Nuh-uh, you gotta”.  And once again, very naturally I would reply “No I don’t.”  If I want to, I’ll use my platform as a way to create a space for people to escape everyone else forcing activism down their throats.  To me, THAT is a “social good”, so if that counts, then yes I’ll be more than happy to use my platform for social good – just don’t tell me what social good I’m supposed to push.  

Now, don’t get me wrong, if I choose to use my platform to get away from the moral authoritarianism, I think you should be able to play into that and push whatever the hell YOU want – it’s a free country.  I’m not here to yuck your yum, yah dig?  I just think if an artist chooses to stay in their lane and not preach a political point, they are well within their right to do so.  They are adults, they can make choices for themselves without the mob telling them what choices to make.  Thus is freedom. And hey, there may be some artists that push a different social good than you are thinking.  For example:  For someone on the right, “social good” may mean pushing a pro-life agenda.  For someone on the left, “Social good” may mean pushing a pro-choice agenda.  Who’s to say which one is the definitive “social good”?  Not me.  Probably not you.  Probably not the other.  God?  Maybe, but even then his track record isn’t perfect.  Need I remind you of the Great Flood fiasco that happened because God didn’t like the people he made?  I’m just saying, maybe it’s a little tougher to find an objective moral authority these days that people seem to think.  

So do i feel a responsibility to promote “social good”, I certainly wouldn’t word it that way, but sure.  I would say more I feel a responsibility to do whatever the hell I want and since I have my own morals, values, and principles it will naturally end up promoting SOME kind of social good.  I just don’t wanna hear any authoritarian tell me “NO! You’re not promoting MYYYYYYY idea of social good.”  because I might just start laughing.  At the end of the day, you can just say that’s the pesky thing about freedom: people will do what THEY, not you, want. 

Love Big Brother

Poster”BRAINWASHED” by Prague’s Museum of Communism

Propaganda is interesting.  You see all sorts of media pushing political beliefs that they want you to unquestioningly and blindly follow everywhere.  You see it in tv shows, you see it in movies, children cartoons, college lectures, commercials, and political speeches.  While you see it in all these places, it’s usually easy for someone who’s paying attention to sniff out when they are being indoctrinated.  However, when it comes to something like graphic design it can be hard to notice sometimes, which on the part of the designer is completely intentional.  Anyone can hear a professor or movie directly tell you one political side is good while the other is bad, but much of design is subconscious.  It’s oftentimes very brief, something you only look at for a short time and move on.  So through the design itself, it needs to be able to make an impact almost instantaneously without the viewer having to do much thinking – the perfect tool for propaganda intending to indoctrinate. 

I mean, you need only look at advertising for many food brands.  They almost have it down to a science what will work to make people crave that product upon seeing the advert.  If you see a can of beer in a movie enough – watching the main character walk out of an explosion, grab a can of beer from a scared extra on the side of the screen, down it, say “damn that’s good”, then proceed to fight a monster and save the planet – you might suddenly get the strange urge to stop at a store and buy some beer… huh, how random.  While one might see that kind of product placement in a movie and realize they are trying to be sold something, there are many who don’t notice it.  Even then, the person who did notice it is STILL likely to crave the product later on.  

We’ve all experienced it too.  I know I’ve seen a Dr Pepper advert on the side of a website and about an hour later I started having that taste memory sensation in my mouth where I could almost taste the sweet sugary goodness of the fizzy soda while being all too eager to drive down the road to the 7/11.  Now with something like fast food or sodas, often we understand how it works and it can be relatively harmless for most of us.  Now what about a political belief?

As we see from history, as well as very very current times, propaganda can be horribly destructive.  Personally, I feel propaganda as a whole, but especially that of design that is intended to subtly infect your mind with a certain political belief, is largely evil.  I’m one to believe in individual liberty, personal freedom, and I am of the mind that people should be able to make choices for themselves without the influence of manipulative activism.  Using propaganda, and thus design,  in this way acts only to show the true weakness of an ideology or idea.  To try to influence people’s subconscious minds to side with you and to use it to indoctrinate children into one side or the other makes you no better than communists or nazis. I find it disgusting when food brands do this, I find it inhumanly evil to do this with a political ideology.  In this collective effort by designers, it would unilaterally manipulate masses to love Big Brother.  

One may argue and say they would just be trying to fight for the right thing.  That they would use it to push for what they believe in.  How else would people know about these issues?  Points like these, I feel, prove my point at how insidious propaganda can be.  Naturally, YOU are good and fight for truth and justice and goodness for all.  So as long as YOU have that power and influence over people’s minds, things will be better.  So long as we all think what YOU say we should think, we will all live in a happier better society.  Who cares what dissenting opinions arise,  you are of course the arbiter of objective morality so long as you have the power over people’s minds… right?  What’s that phrase about what having absolute power does?  That influence design can have on people is dangerous because it completely takes away people’s freedom to think for themselves, but the true danger is that since it’s subconscious one might truly believe they did think it for themselves regardless.  

Ideas should be fought by winning the hearts and minds of people through rational discussion, not violence or mental manipulation.  Both of these are the main tools of the tyrannical to eliminate dissent.  In my opinion, those that would use the power of design for propagandistic purposes to push their political will onto others are the least deserving of any form of power.  The absolute worst thing that can happen to design is for a single political voice to dominate the entire industry… At that point everyone suffers.

The Fender Tradition

When we talk about guitars, I think there is an immediate association everyone has in their heads.  Some people think of 70’s classic rockers like Jimi Page of Led Zeppelin or Angus Young of AC/DC.  Some may think of soft folk/pop acoustic artists like Jack Johnson or Ed Sheeran.  Some may think of bedroom pop players like Rex Orange County or Boy Pablo.  The point is, the guitar as an instrument has many identities.  There’s no one size fits all since guitar is present in practically every genre.  Yet, despite certain guitar models being associated with certain genres – the twangy country tunes of a Telecaster, the solemn sliding solos of a Stratocaster, or the loud rock licks of a Les Paul- players across the world have shown that the true voice of any guitar is that of the person who holds it.  For the avid player, a guitar becomes more than a mere tool for making sounds.  It begins to take on a life of its own.  We need only look to the live performances of Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, BB King, and John Mayer to see the magic that’s created when a player and their guitar are in perfect harmony.  In many cases the guitar and vocalist become two voices engaging in a euphonic duet of the soul, showing the human spirit almost materializing, as the universal language of music is spoken to those willing to listen.  Naturally all of us who listen intently, chills running down our spines and hearts racing, are able to have the undefinable experience of being able to not only listen, but feel the music running through our very being. 

    As with any high, once it’s felt the brain only wants more.  And for the players, we seek to have that first hand experience of creating the music that moves millions.  We spend hours of our lives studying and practicing to experience it.  So it’s no wonder that for many players, guitars begin to become as personal as a family home.  Many times, guitars become family heirlooms passed down through generations of players.  I myself was given an electric guitar from my grandfather when he heard I was learning to play.  While individual guitars hold immense personal value, like I said earlier, guitar models in general hold special places in many players’ hearts as well.  So as I have been studying guitar and graphic design simultaneously, I became aware of the guitar brands themselves and how they are linked to the player.  

    Very naturally, as guitar players, people know the brand of a guitar before the actual instrument itself.  Whether it be Fender, Gibson, Taylor, Martin, or PRS, players know nearly every brand more than the brand’s guitars.  Old players who were around for these brands’ inceptions and young players new to the guitar world all know what each of these brands are best at.  Within the brands, there is a consistency that is seemingly unchanging.  Many young and new players, at some point or another, have the same criticism of the guitar models being too similar. Not between each other, but similar through time.  The same guitars that were around and most popular in the 60’s, are largely the same guitars popular now.  My first choice in guitar was a Fender Stratocaster which is a model invented in 1954 – and it’s still the coolest one if you ask me.  

    So, when tasked with critiquing a logo redesign, instead of going on about a brand I couldn’t care less about, I decided to see if Fender had any recent logo redesigns.  Much to my disappointment, they did not… in fact, none of the brands did.  Fender hasn’t had a logo change since the late 60’s.  Gibson hasn’t had a major change since the 40’s.  Hell, Martin Guitars has had the same exact logo since the company was started in 1833!  While I always loved guitar logos, this was something I never noticed before and found it strange that while every other brand is constantly revamping their logos, these companies have remained unchanged.  Then as I thought more, it all began to make sense.  

    Looking at the Fender logo, it was first made in 1946 when the company was founded by Leo Fender, the guy who designed practically all the electric guitars they still use today.  The logo itself is just his signature of his last name with the “F” inverted.  And, well… that’s it.  There isn’t a story of a group of designers working tirelessly on it.  It’s just the founder’s signature. While they had a brief period in the 60’s where they had what is called the “transition” logo, they changed it back soon after to the normal “Spaghetti” logo.  So with Fender keeping such a consistent brand identity, it can start to make sense that the products they make are just as consistent.  As I said, the guitar models have remained largely unchanged over the decades.  When I think about myself and those I know in this guitar community, it fills in the last piece: the customer.  

When I go into a guitar store I can talk to complete strangers for hours about certain guitars, our favorite guitarists, and different guitar makers.  Guitars, still to this day, remain one of the main ways I can connect with my own dad.  This is because of that consistency.  The guitars I dreamed of owning when I started out playing were the same exact guitars my dad dreamed of owning, were the same guitars even my grandfather dreamed of owning.  The same guitarists that inspired the older generations I talk to are the same guitarists that inspire me now.  The Fender brand I know now, is the same Fender brand they knew then.  So when new players join in and criticize the “boring” consistency of the guitars, what they miss is that it’s not monotony or stagnation, it’s tradition.  

    With the brand and products staying consistent for generations of customers, it creates a certain kind of tradition that is passed on.  It creates a sense of community that wouldn’t be there if the brand was constantly changing.  If Fender had a period in each decade of the 20th century where they completely changed their branding, products, and identity, then it would break that tradition.  Those who grew up with each iteration of Fender as it changed would eventually feel alienated or estranged from the brand when it inevitably revamped.  Thus leaving behind a trail of people who want THEIR Fender back.  In that way the brand would become like a vampire going from generation to generation conforming to their trends to win their dollars until there is a slight shift in culture in which they would then throw away whatever generation they were bleeding dry to move onto the next. But when we all grew up with the same Fender identity, we can look at everything that they are or have been and feel like it is OUR Fender.  

    In this modern time of constantly changing the identity of brands, consistency is ironically so refreshing and new.  In this respect, Fender’s logo succeeds in representing a legacy passed on through the ages.  They represent the music legends of the past and help amplify the new legends to come.  So amongst the many contemporary issues within design today, I feel this constantly changing branding identity is a major one.  Eventually the constant shift in identity will result in a lack of identity as opposed to brands like Fender who stay the same because they don’t need to convince us to perceive them in any specific way.  In this way, the brand becomes a blank canvas in which we paint our culture through the ages onto the brand.  The brand isn’t the one selling us on a grand idea of how we should see them, but instead WE are the ones who assign that identity to them purely through our interactions with their products.  Their consistency allows us all to be able to choose for ourselves who we are as a generation instead of the brand trying to define it for us.  In the end, all Fender does is make big chunks of wood with some small metal bits attached to it. They only sing when we, the players, give them our voice.  

The Wet-Dry Theorem

Found at: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/west/2020/02/28/559750.htm

Amongst my seemingly insane rambling throughout quarantine to my 3 roommates – me, myself, and I – I have thought through many ideas of art and mediums as a whole. One of the many ideas rattling in my head like a coin in a panhandling cup, was something similar to the ideas brought up by McLuhans but in a slightly different way. While McLuhan chose the terms “hot and cold” like a normal functioning human, the synesthesia in my brain dictated I use “wet and dry”.

The differences between my ideas and McLuhans are subtle, but do have a key difference in the fundamental comparison of mediums. McLuhan assigned hot or cold to the participation of the audience to a medium, usually in reference to the fidelity of the medium correlating to the engagement of the viewer. I, on the other hand, assigned wet and dry based on the depth of the art in the medium. Meaning, how far does one have to think to read between the lines.

Usually, in my head, I automatically assign wet and dry to nearly everything. Sometimes there are reasons to why something wet or dry to me, sometimes it is completely random. Now before you get the wrong idea and your mind slips into not school appropriate places, when I say “wet” the more accurate way of saying it is referring to hydration. Meaning when I am surrounded by blue light, am in the cold, or am looking at the number 20, I feel hydrated (regardless of how hydrated i really am). Verses when I am surrounded by red light, am in the state of Hawaii, or see the number 15, I feel dehydrated. So when i say something is wet or makes me feel wet, you know i mean hydrated (its easier to say something is wet than “hydrated” or “hydrating”).

So in reference to the ideas of mediums, I typically came to the assignment that mediums that require a lot of thought, reading of subtext, interpretation, and analysis, are usually dry. Verses mediums that require very little thinking, interpretation, or analysis end up being wet. For example something like a modern art sculpture would be a very dry medium, then a typical Rom-Com is very wet (no pun intended, but noted). Very generally movies are very wet to me considering they are very up front, you view it, it goes into your brain and you just accept it as what it is, less interpreting than modern art installations or poetry. Then again, within movies there are very dry movies like Pulp Fiction where if you lazily/passively watch it, you’ll end it not knowing what the hell is going on. Then something like The Lion King is more of a wet movie where you can understand everything from the movie in a vague first viewing.

Now, this is not to say being wet or dry is an indicator of if a medium or individual art is good or bad. It is more so just an indicator to me what thing requires more brain power. This helps when recommending things and so I know what is something I can have on in the background or if I need to turn everything off and give my full attention.

Now, comparing my wet and dry method to McLuhans hot and cold, I think my method takes into account the critique from the PBS video on the subject where it was pointed out McLuhan forgets the individual in how it effects the medium. My method of labeling things as wet and dry is more so dependent on how the viewer interacts with the medium directly instead of Mcluhan labeling mediums based on how the medium interacts with us.