Smell My Type

Consider FORM, MOTION, LIGHTING, TEXTURE, SCREEN, 3D/ENVIRONMENTS and FLAT PRINTED SURFACES within typography, to create a clear expression upon the college site.

Initial Ideas:

Images of interesting text collected in one afternoon.

  • Overheard Conversation: Choose an area of the college and leave a voice recorder there over the course of the day. Keep a frequency chart of the words picked up by the recorder and the time they were used at, (as if they were trending). Have the word change according the time of day, e.g the word ‘Bus’ may be the most frequently used word at 10am, but it may change to ‘Lunch’ at 1pm. This could be live and interactive with the correct programming, however I do not think this is something I could achieve in the 2 weeks. I also think if I were using the paper graph method, I would have to record a number of days for the results to be fair, which would be very time consuming and the end product would probably not reflect the amount of time spent on it.
  • Location: I started thinking about areas of the college that people HAVE to visit everyday, this way, if I created my statement there, they would not be able to miss it. My initial ideas were: The lifts, Swipe card barriers, doors, clothing and footsteps. The more I think about the issue of location the more I realise quite how vital it is and how important it is to get it right!
  • Student Debt: I thought that a good way to get people interested is to chose something that people can relate to. And with the majority of the people at university being students, almost all of them can relate to student debt. As the tuition fees now being £9000 a year, money is now even more of the problem for students, many choosing not to continue into higher education to avoid the enormous debt. So I thought it could perhaps use the average amount of debt as my statement, and use it as a shadow looming down over students.

Rainfall: I remember hearing that 2012 was one of the wettest years ever recorded for the UK, it certainly felt like it! So I thought that I could create something that was based around that, perhaps plastic containers in the shape of text, that would be placed outside, filled with the rainfall for that year. I could then create a 2013 one, where people could predict the rainfall for this year by filling it with water.

Developing Ideas

I decided to develop and investigate into making my student debt idea happen, as it was the one that I was the most excited about and seemed to be the most practical.

(Creative Review)

There was an advertisement on TV a few years ago where it showed a student, troubled by their debt, being followed by a raven or crow (symbolising grief, death and bad luck). And this is along the lines of what I want to achieve. The idea that we are paying huge sums of money to study here, and it does not matter how much we try to ignore it, the fact that we will finish our degree owing massive amounts of money, no matter how well we have done, is still going to follow us around for probably the rest of our lives. I started doing some research and found this link, estimating that the average student who started their 3 year degree course in 2012, will have to pay £53,330. It also claims that a student studying in London will need to pay £65,504, which is a shockingly large amount of money. It is statements like that which students will not want to think about, and will surely think that what they are getting from their course is not worth that kind of money, this is why I decided on using £65,504 as my statement.

My original idea was to place a cut out of the figure, in front of a high up light source somewhere around the college. The point of it being high up was so that it would be looming down on the passers by. At first I had wanted to place it over a natural light source, however After thinking this through I was fairly certain that it will create a very weak shadow, if one at all.

The only way I would really know was to start prototyping.

I started with simply cutting £65,504 out of a paper plate and moving it back and forth from a desk lamp, watching how the light shining through varied. The further the stencil was to the light source, the clearer the statement read, and the more defined the edges were. This did not seem like it was going to work, especially as it was casting light, rather than a shadow.  It was also very unfocused, but perhaps it would work better with larger cut outs.

Prototype 1

I then made a frame with ‘£65’ suspended in the middle using white thread. Each character was a different size to see how size affects the shadow. I felt this worked better than the previous prototype, simply because it created the ghostly shadow that I had wanted. Using a frame with thread worked well too, it was simple, reasonably quick and the thread was barely noticeable in the shadow. It was clear that the larger the figures, the more legible the result. I did want my outcome to be more focused though.

After learning that the shadow works better when it is larger, I wanted to see if this applied to the cut out method I tried before. I did not have much luck with this, the shadow was just a large blur. I then wanted to see if I could colour the light shining through the stencil, which was also not very effective. I tried this with a red transparent folder and a black bin liner, which produced simply a large red blur, or nothing at all.

At this point I was fairly certain that I was going to work in the direction of using cut out figures which have been suspended, (prototype 2), rather than the stencil method. So out of curiosity I wanted to see if I could create a formula that could calculate the size of the shadow according to how close the figure was to the light source. Using a cut out of a ‘4’, which measured 30 cm tall, I recorded that when it was held 40cm away from the light source, the shadow measured 55cm. I then took another set of results of when it was held 60cm away, creating a shadow measuring 37cm. Using this information I was able to calculate an equation for this stencil to be y=-0.9+91. Meaning that when the stencil is 0cm from the light, the shadow is 91. Although this isn’t prototyping it is nice to know that I can calculate this if I needed to.

Getting the shadow to be focused was rapidly becoming my biggest problem. My statement would not be effective if it was illegible. I began thinking about way of solving this and remembered overhead projectors like the one below.

I knew that these worked up shining a light up through a sheet of acetate, which that passed through a lens, and was directed using a mirror. You could adjust the focus of the projected content using a knob at the side, which altered the distance of the lens from the acetate. Originally I wanted access to an overhead projector, but they are very large and heavy and I was not able to locate one on the university site. So I thought I would attempt to make my own, I had access to acetate, a light source, and a mirror; all I needed was the lens. The lens used in overhead projectors is called a fresnel lens, and it is used to collimate light.

“A Fresnel lens can capture more oblique light from a light source, thus allowing the light from a lighthouse equipped with one to be visible over greater distances.”

“Collimated light is light whose rays are parallel, and therefore will spread slowly as it propagates.”

So I ordered what I thought was a fresnel lens, but when it arrived turned out to be a mirror. Initially I was gutted as I had been stupid enough not to thoroughly read the description, and hadn’t planned to work with a mirror. However once I started playing around with it it seemed it might have worked out for the best. Using a powerful torch, I directed light into the mirror which was placed at an angle, then placed my suspended figures in front. This produced, as I had hoped, a reasonably sharp shadow. However the advantage of having a mirror as opposed to a lens now, was that I could move the mirror to move the shadow, rather than having to move the light, which is heavy and awkward.

I made two frames of different sizes, each with the suspended price in the centre. I took the larger frame into uni with me on the last day before we exhibited our pieces. My plan was that if I could set up my spotlight and shadow to work in the atrium in daylight then that would be great, and I could exhibit it that way, by using the spotlight to follow people around. And if the atrium was too bright and the spotlight did not show, I would have to wait until around 5pm, when it got dark, film it happening and present that.  I dragged all of my materials into university that day, to find that when I set my project up, the atrium was too bright, as I had feared. The method did work, of placing my fresnel lens in the beam of light made by the touch and placing my suspended figure in the redirected beam, but only for short distances due to the bright surroundings.

This meant that I would have to wait until it got dark to film my project in action. However, the only thing I hadn’t planned for was snow. This meant that uni was forced to close at about 3:30pm, meaning I was unable to film or even test my project in the atrium, which was very irritating. With only a weekend left before presenting our projects, I was forced to think very fast and come up with an alternate solution.

My initial idea was to take a photograph of someone being followed by the shadowy figure, so I started this by attempting to project my figure out of my window, onto the driveway below. Due to the shape of my house, this was not possible, but I managed to project it onto roofing and a wall.

I then started working with the idea of shadows inside.

I experimented with making the figures as if they were looming down on the viewer, using the corner to try the make them feel trapped and as if this problem was growing and surrounding them.

I also experimented with placing it next to a bed, as if it was a nightmare, or something you have put out of your mind is coming back to haunt you as you are subconsciously sleeping.

These were quite interesting but didn’t really get my point of student debt across. So I attempted to project the shadow onto a desk full of university work. However the shadows were lost in the busy image.

I wanted to continue down this direction, but simplifying it from the whole desk. So I thought the most important important items on that desk to a student of university of the arts london is probably the sketchbook and the laptop. The sketchbook was too small to project on to, unless I had a smaller frame and suspended cut-outs, but I did not have time to make one. So I tried using the laptop.

I liked these images far more than the ones I had been taking before, simply because there was more ideas behind them. This meant I was going in the right direction, but wasn’t quite there yet.

I took a step back and started looking over my ideas and what I wanted this project to say, and decided it was about doubt and worry, which is what this shadow represents. It was about being unsettled and trying to force this sum to the back of your mind.

I then decided I was going to try that quite literally, and project the sum onto the back of someone’s head, as they were hunched over a desk working. However again, I could not create shadows small enough with the frame I had made.

So I projected it behind the figure instead.

I instantly liked this, the lines suspending the figures worked nicely with the striped shirt, and the way they and the frame act almost like a prison, as if the person caught inside it is trapped with this debt, which is mostly true. I played around with this idea until I got what felt like the right shot:

I like the grainy blue lighting from the laptop, it gives the image a huge feeling of despair and worry.

It is not the interactive end product that I had wanted, but considering the short amount of time I had to produce it, and the huge amount of experimentation work I put in, I am proud of this outcome.

Using photoshop I was able to create a quick image demonstrating what my original idea (before the snow), should have looked like.

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