A few weeks ago, I came across a stash of slides of my student work that I had always intended to transfer to digital storage before their emulsion deteriorated and I lost them forever. Since starting an archiving project didn’t seem like a particularly fun way to spend my weekend when I last had them out, I stuffed them back in their box and let them sit on a closet shelf for a couple (or five) more years instead.
Unfortunately, during that last stretch of neglect, some unofficial expiry date passed and they literally, and almost comically, devolved to the final stages of a complete film meltdown. This time around, I would either have to transfer them immediately to my computer or take a final look and toss them in the trash. I decided to give preservation a try.
Luckily for me, there were enough duplicates of each slide that I was able to scrape together a good representation of the work and send them through the scanner before exposure to light and air did them in completely. I felt a bit like Howard Carter must have while handling Tutankhamun’s knickknacks, but these artifacts were neither particularly earth shattering or especially old. In the end, I was able to scan about seventy-five slides, or what amounted to a quarter of the portfolio.
THE POWER OF NARRATIVE IMAGERY A book’s cover is always created after the book has been written – and its design is what attracts eyeballs, piques interest, and helps sell copies to readers. However, having trudged through a good number of books with more memorable covers than content, I’ve decided to reverse that order for this post.
Below are six covers for imaginary books.
A Dilemma For Señor Magalhães
Several years ago on a trip to Madrid, I spent an afternoon at a used book shop, flipping through an endless stash of dusty exhibit catalogs from the Prado Museum. I was specifically looking for images of Spanish art that I could incorporate into a future project. But, having devoted the previous day to the actual Prado, the shop’s moldering and faded reproductions of Velázquez and Goya just weren’t what I’d hoped for.
At the front counter on my way out, I picked up a business card that featured a simple line drawing of a very serious looking gentleman – possibly another shop owner. The bottom of the card reads “collection of T. Magalhães” – and contains little other information.
The shop also specialized in mystery and crime novels. This sketch, with its aquiline profile and pencil mustache, comes to mind when I think of vintage cloak and dagger – Madrid style.
Travel souvenirs and trinkets are items we collect and hold on to – not because they have monetary value or practical use, but because they remind us of places we’ve visited and experiences we want to continue to relive and enjoy. Without that personal connection though, cheap architectural models, logo mugs, key chains and display spoons are unlikely to inspire anything other than an urge to de-clutter.
Years ago I had a roommate that kept her collection of doodads and tchotchkes on a shelf in our living room. The keepsakes were mostly kitsch and, individually, not that interesting. Viewed as a group, however, they were elevated in my opinion, and somehow managed to be the focus of much contemplation on my part.
I recently received an email from this old roommate – now reconnected friend – to which she had attached the five photographs below. At some point during our time in the apartment together, I mounted all of the individual objects to an empty wall and added my own imagined recollections and meaning via notes and sketches.
We moved away – and years passed. She kept the sketches and the trinkets.
Looking at them for the first time since then, I was reminded of why we hold on to mementos. I still have no idea what PoMo Potato Head is or why its limbs are so contorted – but seeing this Eiffel Tower, Monticello, change purse and plate brought back another lifetime and (now) genuine personal memories that were, until recently, many layers deep and all but forgotten.
This is the sixth curious anonymous story – it’s about collecting, assigning & storing memories – the passing of time – and PoMo Potato Head.
© Markus Horak, 2011
INSPIRATION / TACTILE DESIGN
As a follow-up to my last post on creating story boards without using software, I thought I’d post these architecture models by Japanese designer Naoki Terada.
Each of Terada’s miniature model kits depicts a generic setting in 1/100 scale – which, despite their lack of detailed features, still manage to convey a world of emotion and narrative.
Sure, we’ve seen countless variations on animated cut paper objects, but the colors and variety in the people and settings depicted here would make for a welcome re-take.
STORY BOARDING / BROADCAST DESIGN & ANIMATION / NO SOFTWARE
Exclusively using software to create storyboards is now so commonly practiced that it seems mandated by some imaginary law – most designers wouldn’t consider illustrating their concepts any other way.
Software makes the process easier after all – everything’s in one place, there’s nothing messy or toxic on your desk and all those filters and 3D tools help us figure out what shapes look like in perspective or as translucent or reflective objects – or all three combined. However, being tied to a computer, regardless of your technical prowess, is a self-imposed limitation.
There are times when speed and spontaneity take precedence and more traditional skills come into play. To produce boards that aren’t reliant on Adobe, Autodesk or (insert software company here…) for structure, content and polish – you have to get down to basics and let your concept and ingenuity take the lead. It may be ten times harder to generate a frame, but it’s also more creative and directly dependent on your imagination.
The best reason to give software an occasional rest is that it’s impossible not to design to the limits of technology – the more you utilize it to realize your vision, the more you limit yourself to its – and your – capabilities.
Here are examples of board frames (and research for boards) that, because of their fantastical, experimental or embryonic nature, were best generated with paper models, pens, markers and object photography.
Also read: Is Design Software Killing Creativity?
© Markus Horak, 2011
INSPIRATION / INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPES / WINTER
The first day of Spring is March 20th – but on this rainy and dreary NYC Sunday, it seems fairly clear that Winter isn’t going anywhere soon… A few hours spent digging up reference materials for a new project has turned into a semi-focused diversion on a photographer, a director, an illustrator and no colors at all.
Black & white photos, movies and illustrations, from my perspective, are an art, design and entertainment equivalent to the winter blahs. The bleak aesthetic can, obviously, also be used to great effect – which is why it’s one of my favorite sources of inspiration as well.
Here are three examples from David Plowden (circa 1985), Jim Jarmusch (1984) and Charles Burns (various) that have me thinking it would be refreshing to see a trending uptick in black & white title sequences, show opens and motion graphics (not just for movies based on graphic novels) – everything’s cyclical right?
I have always been drawn to images of industrial landscapes and these Plowden photos of Chicago are the epitome of the urban mid-west.
CREATIVITY / BRAINSTORMING AND GROUP DYNAMICS
A brainstorm is a meeting of minds where everyone involved understands what must be accomplished (or invented, modified, designed) – and they each also agree that they can’t solve the problem at hand on their own. Participants share and discuss as many original ideas as possible, and the team uses this process of collective effort to transform the contributions of individual members into a stronger and more innovative bull’s-eye solution.
For designers, more specifically, the brainstorming process is an indispensable tool that enables creative improvisation. Unique visual ideation is developed through the free association of images, colors, shapes, textures, patterns, words, techniques, experiences and thoughts and is done in conjunction with the development of a written concept – NOT as a secondary accompaniment to it.
A design brainstorm, if properly conducted, is the plugged-in, deluxe, surround-sound, Technicolor and wide-screen counterpart to the acoustic, words-only, “business” variety. And, because it is unique in this way, it can have its own limitations and require equally dimensional solutions for maintaining effectiveness and momentum.