Phenomenology to Photoshop

Here is a quick outline of a design process I developed in the late 90’s a VJ, a time when I was constantly creating motion graphic environments. With this process I take a basic graphic design composition and translate it to a three dimensional space. Most often I worked from posters and created temporary walk through experiences using projectors, displays and lighting. There were some basic ideas that ignited this process for me, primarily from my studies in the Phenomenology of Perception, inspiration from personal cinematic experiences, and a notion that grew out of descriptions about the London Arts Collective ‘exploded cinema’.

Outline: 2D graphics – 3D walk through environment

– Collect/ choose/ create the 2D artwork, usually a poster or a piece of graphic design that includes images, colour, line, and form, composed together in a traditional way.

– Spend some time looking at it and thinking about the impression it makes on you; think about where your eye starts, travels and ends up. What kind of aesthetic impression do you get? Visually is there a message? Does it cue other collective memory, or signify anything in our (our audience’s) collective imaginary? … Make mental notes.

– Look at the space where you will manifest the 3D version, where you will stage what I call the ‘translation’ of the 2D piece.

– Equate the entry point of the eye on the poster to the main entry and exit point in the space, think about where the audience will travel in the space and where your eye travels on the poster. This will give you a hierarchy of the visuals and information, especially important when it comes to allocating your scarce resources, (equipment, practical factors, and time).

– Think again about how the poster ‘unfolds’ to your eye, how it delineates information, and the aesthetic impression it makes. Take a mental snap-shot of this.

– In Phenomenology of perception we study a ‘threshold’ point. A threshold is where something strikes us, the entry or beginning of a phenomenon. Often a point of entry to a space provides such an opportunity, where the ‘atmosphere’ of the exhibit has a chance to make an impression.

– In this process, you should try to equate the impression the two dimensional poster makes (the mental snapshot above) to the impression that happens at the threshold point of the exhibit.

walk through visuals installation at shine nightclub

With Urbanvisuals I designed literally hundreds of  walk through moving graphic environments in this way. 90% of the time they were staged for electronica events and performances. These environments we created would also transform over a period of hours and incorporate several 2D  – 3D translations. It was inspiring and a lot of fun: the environments were actually still a presentation of 2D artwork in two dimensions, but the composition was within a three dimensional space.

walk through graphic environment

There is a whole process to actually remixing and preparing all the graphics for display on projectors and lighting; the cannibalistic ways of the VJ made all this possible. I may elaborate on this later. As well, after perfecting this approach in clubs and other spaces, I took the very same approach to Television set design (2000-2006), and now to architectural spaces and collaborations with architects.


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