Archive for July, 2008|Monthly archive page

Feeding a Young Cyber Lion

Brazilians Fabiano de Queiroz Silva and Marcelo Mariano Dias recently nabbed the Cannes Young Lions Cyber Gold for this refreshing MPU (no interaction, sorry – but sign up at the site and have a play).

You’ll have noticed Brazilian names on these lists before. So what’s the trick to Brazilian digital design? Where does this eye come from?

Taschen have just put out a mouth-watering anthology of Latin American Graphic Design. I’ve been browsing fervently. The only Brazilian names I’d heard before were Alexandre Wollner and, ahem, architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Ok – so Niemeyer wasn’t a designer as such. And he doesn’t feature in the book. But information architecture? No? I’m building on flimsy foundations here, aren’t I… Seriously, though – if you read more about Niemeyer you’ll see how hugely educational he has been to the Brazilian design eye.

“What attracts me is the curve, free and sensual, the curve I find in the mountains of my country, in the winding course of its rivers, in the waves of the sea, in the body of the beloved woman.
The universe is made out of curves – the curved universe of Einstein.”

Some further stars, past, present and future (below L-R): Guto Lacaz, 6D Estúdio, Kiko Farkas, Alexandre Wollner and Ruben Martins.

Previously: Brazilian designer remixes big brand logos.

Elsewhere: A Design for Loving, my full article on Taschen’s Latin American Graphic Design for Jungle Drums magazine.

The Future Was IBM

It’s the distant future. The year 2008. The World Wide Web is a black market, awash with pornographers and mercenary hamsters. Cats have invented their own language. Good people have nowhere to hide under the new statutes of Facebook.

But you can persuade a client to go online. Oh yes. With this powerful 5-point presentation.

A glimpse into the IBM crypt, these slides were from a presentation in 1975. Remixed for your supremely modern success.

And that’s right. Bolder starts now. So don’t forget to put your home computer online TODAY!

Scene of a Holiday Crime

It’s a hot one here in London today. Maybe the hottest day of the year. If so, I’ll have to desist from the claim “I spent the hottest day of the year in court”.

NOT GUILTY anymore, says the Daily Mail – a rare bout of leniency? Still, it was a hot day when we shot the dynamic video for a new sun- and crime-baked microsite.

Under much duress but in sane mind, an upstanding team delivered the site live last week. You can check out now, if you like.

And if you want to pass judgment – post a comment. I’m all for mob rule…

**Disclaimer** Think Demux in no way represents the views of my company, or


Not nearly new enough, you say? OK, so in internet terms I came to this one about 1.2 gigayears late. But a good meal’s worth the wait.

(Thanks James for the link).

I’m not sure which piece made PES the cult star he’s become.

RoofSex is well worth watching if you haven’t already seen it. He’s been tapped up for work by Diesel, Bacardi, Nike and Orange, to name just a few money men. Michel Gondry gushes over him.

Drooling yet?

Previously: The beat goes on – Stop-Motion Graphic Equalizer.

How to VJ #4

I took a hiatus from this series to tighten it up. Then I noticed something crucial was missing – I’d never made any attempt to provide a map, any co-ordinates, for what I’m talking about.

So here it is: a short breakdown of key types of VJing, as it stands.

1. The AV Geek

Obviously most VJs are AV geeks. But when you track back to the early works by people like Coldcut and Hexstatic, you see where it all came from.

The AV geek likes to sample. Loves to sample, in fact. Because they’re hooked on video. The more directly, and literally, the video can relate to the sound – the better.

The results have a strong element of pastiche and pop-post-modern. Two of the best contemporaries in this mould are Eclectic Method and Addictive TV.

The laziest AV geeks loop samples from Fear and Loathing and the Kubrick archive with zero editing and little live manipulation. Watch you don’t fall into that trap.

2. The Mo-Graphic Designer

No less important in the history and development of VJing. On a bad day, this is the kind of performer you’d describe as a Screensaver VJ because their style is more closely aligned with computer than film.

At the one extreme, you’ll see the High Concept Electrician – tinkerers so deep in the machine they can produce sets through the visualisation of feedback/ distortion/ channels from old analogue equipment.

At the other, you’ll see beautiful, bespoke 3-D motion graphic design and a high-level of MIDI synchronisation. Dispensing with film allows a much more accurate and minimalist representation of sound. See below.

3. The Animator

I haven’t seen this too often in clubs and it tends to be less live. The first example that came to mind was Mr Scruff. As he illustrates his albums with line drawings, it makes perfect sense to animate them for performance.

If anyone’s got a better or more developed example, please share. VJing could be a rich terrain for the old-fashioned animator but it tends not to be how it’s done. Perhaps the live editing is too challenging.

4. The Director

I’ve picked out Ben Strebel here because he’s a huge talent and a good friend.

This kind of VJ is a director first and foremost – VJing provides an opportunity to test out their original material in front of a large audience. It’s like live showreeling, to an extent.

Ben does a lot more than that, and his performances involve motion graphics and animation too. But his work in music video and short film directs and characterises what he does live on a night.

Here’s one of his latest music videos for the Stereo MCs.

5. The Light Artist

Artists like Simian Mobile Disco and many other big name headliners perform with LED shows. They strip back to light and light alone.

The very best in this field, however, work more along the lines of installation. They aren’t shackled by a single screen. Their projections are multiple and the results are breathtaking.

Massive Attack have moved into this area in the last few years, but my favourites remain The Light Surgeons for their constant boundary-pushing and absolute focus on creating 3D-lit moving habitats wrapped right around their audience.

It’ll be back to business with How to VJ #5. But if anyone wants to challenge these loose categories – add, amend or expand – go for it. Post a comment.

Previously: #3 Keep it in time; Up next: #5 Layers upon layers.

Mom! My Body’s Gone Video

It’s some weird science. But it must be as popular as happy-slapping these days.

Improv Everywhere have been zapping reality with orchestrated human video effects – slow motion, freeze frame – and watching their latest work it clicked. That’s 3. A trend?

I’d say Michel Gondry has something to do with it. Be Kind Rewind aired the idea feature-length for the mainstream, and music videos – beyond Gondry’s – were making up the rules before.

Manipulating reality to mimic a video effect now requires more skill and effort than making a film. Orchestrating a “cinematic moment” live, and generating the precision of an edited film spontaneously… Well that technique’s alive in the commercial world after Honda’s Difficult is Worth Doing TV spot.

There’s a few key characteristics to this as a trend, if you could call it that:

1. Liveness

2. Real people

3. A real context

4. Mass participation

5. Precise results

I much prefer Improv Everywhere to its commercial progeny, and you should peep their excellent blog for the full range of their playful anarchy. It’s more compelling because of point (3) – it has a real context.

The participants are larger in number (see point 4). But it’s more important that they’re volunteers. They choose to be there because they want to be there. And as long as you’re paying people to do something, and controlling the environment, it’s not a real context.

Gondry? That’s art. That isn’t live or real – but it more than makes up for it with its inventiveness and dedication to point (5) – blissful, beautiful precision.

What’s your take on this as a trend? Do you agree with these characteristics, or have I left my lens cap on here?

Big Screen in Tiny Atoms

I like sitting in the dark watching pictures move. Is that a crime?

It was a perfectly acceptable pastime until it became more modish to watch things on a tiny screen. To cut things together yourself and anatomise the image on Photoshop.

Here are two projects that might excite the old-fashioned film fan with a digital eye.

The Art of the Title Sequence is a wealthy resource and lets you unpick those dense intros. Often the best or most memorable bit of a feature film. I’ve been watching a few intact. You pick up a lot fast, because the best ones are so tight.

Brendan Davies’ Cinema Redux takes it in the opposite direction. Each of his painstaking works captures an entire film in evenly spaced screengrabs. I found this just as enriching. You can tell so much by a glance at one image.

By training the eye to deconstruct moving pictures, you learn how to build them better. Or it’s just an excuse to peer in close at expertly good cinema. Either way – get these sites up on your little screen and enjoy.

Who Let the Clowns Out?

I don’t know where you live. But I live in London. And I’m seeing more colour on the city walls every day.

Street artists are embracing happytalism (no need for a dictionary, just click it). We’re getting Space Invaders and 8-bit written bright. Decayed pillars restructured with Lego bricks. Buildings transformed into cartoon monsters.

It’s happening globally, which is the most exciting thing about it. I’m sure Os Gemeos must have set much of the paint in motion. But bucketloads of what’s happening now is new and transformative – going well beyond “graffiti” and exploring all the senses. Using every material to hand. Even balloons.

These pictures come from Washington D.C. and are the work of D.BILLY. I’m massively impressed.

Puts a whole new, and knowing, spin on a huge visual trend. Are we kids again? Or clowns?

For more on D.BILLY, posts at Designboom, And I Am Not Lying and PSFK.

Plus check out D.BILLY’s Flickr photostream.

And if you’re feeling the artier side of this new wave of street art, Ian Tait’s written a nice post about sculptural graffiti in Brighton.

Incidentals on Being Back Home

But what’s beneath the well-upholstered face of Cheshire?

One porcupine (hedgehog?). Dead. Roadkill. Did not puncture car tyre? Cartoons may be inaccurate.

Small boy said “thank you”. I stepped to curb to let him pass on scooter. Astonishment.

OUTRAGE. Coca-Cola at £1.15 per bottle? Emo cashier speechless when I handed him £1 coin. Although that may just be his “look”.

Best tombstone in graveyard? For couple who died two centuries ago. Their dates don’t match. But thoroughly modern stonework. Pimp my ancestry?

NORTHERN MEN. Cropped hair. Blunt tone. Constant threat of warmth. Tends to strike around the sixth pint.

Leather-skinned hags with silver bags. Jackets to match. What’s the catch? Internal organs. Poisoned by cocktails and bile.

So what’s the punchline, and can I get it with chips? There’s no conclusion to this miscellany. But I re-read T.E. Hulme’s Notes on Language and Style this weekend. And he was responsible for how I saw these incidentals.

All emotion depends on real solid vision or sound. It is physical.

A man cannot write without seeing at the same time a visual signification before his eyes. It is the image which precedes the writing and makes it firm.

All 3 from Henry

The three poems Henry Stead performed at the launch night for London Poetry Systems.

In order, they are:

– The Love of Phlebas

– A Visionary’s Visionary Vision

– An Ancient Process

Thanks to Kaara for her design work on Phlebas. All three visual scores were outputted through an Edirol V4 mixer, performed with motion dive .tokyo, and pre-produced in Adobe Premier and Adobe After Effects.

You can watch all of the poets on our Vimeo group site.