The development of science and technology has brought more possibilities to the design field. Science and technology have always helped graphic designers to explore and develop different ways of communicating with the audience. At the beginning of the development of modern graphic design, designers were accustomed to working with still images and type on paper. They could not have imagined that one day designers would work with interactive visual media in three dimensions.
Before I came to the United States, I studied graphic design for eight years in China. I studied visual communication during my undergraduate years. I obtained a master's degree in graphic design. Then I worked for three years as a professional designer. Over the years of studying and working, I have developed a keen interest in the digital direction of graphic design. I want to develop my own unique design methodology, which was one of the reasons I came to the United States.
I do not want to limit myself to the conventional methods and visual language in the field of graphic design. I want to study many different areas. With an interdisciplinary imagination, designers can bring many perspectives to their projects. "A different perspective isn't always better," wrote John Maeda (born 1966), a Japanese-American graphic designer, computer scientist, academic, and author, "but working with many different perspectives is *always* better, and harder." This design approach takes time and energy. However, if you work this way, every project has the potential to bring with it a breakthrough. I want to participate in a process of creation that will be full of surprises.
In the MFA Graphic Design program at MICA, I selected courses related to both digital and interactive design and art. For instance, the courses in Processing and Arduino introduced me to techniques with which I could design in the visual language of Processing, rather than with Illustrator or Photoshop. Processing is a programming language, development environment, and online community. Since 2001, Processing has promoted software literacy within the visual arts and visual literacy within technology. After more than a year of study, I knew what I wanted to do for my thesis project. I wanted to research interactive graphic design.
Because I chose to study interactive graphic design, I had to find a category in the field of graphic design in which to implement my preliminary ideas. After several rounds of discussions with the professor, I chose the concept of poster design as my foothold. Therefore, interactive poster design became my thesis project. "A poster is any piece of printed paper designed to be attached to a wall or vertical surface," is how Wikipedia defines a poster. However, a poster is also an art piece in the world of graphic design. It concentrates the most abundant and purely visual language expression from designers.
My interactive poster project is named “Out of Print,” because it encompasses items no longer being published in print, audio, or other media. I intend the title to be poetic and to point toward the larger context of a culture in which posters are presented digitally and interactively. I see posters as a medium which are out of time or, rather, timeless because of the fundamental interaction with two-dimensional things.
"Out of Print” mixes works from graphic design and interactive design. The posters feature images, typographic elements, sound, and even motion to create dynamic environments that enable people to interact with the posters and play with the graphic design.
My thesis project is full of trial and risk, because my major is not interactive design. Lack of skills and knowledge brings a lot of difficulties. At the beginning, I told myself, "No matter what, I can find success." The process of exploring will be my most valuable experience. Instead of using Leap and Processing to control a poster in the early exploration, I chose the method that combines conductive ink and the Arduino to enable the user to change the design of the poster. My intention was to enable people to touch the ink on the poster in order to control the images on the computer through the Arduino. However, the insensitive connection between these two forced me to find another method. I decided to explore the effectiveness of using a sensor device instead. After trying several sensors, like MakeyMakey and Kinect, I decided to use Leap Motion, which is a simple, user-friendly hand sensor. The Leap Motion Controller senses how a user moves their hands. A user holds their hands in the air above the sensor and can point, wave, reach, and grab. A user can pick something up and move it.
"With great interest and enthusiasm to explore the unknown in the field of the known," is the meaning for the learning phase of graduate students. Rambling between the known and unknown always inspires me to do something new and mixed. For my poster project, audience members visited my installation to interact with the visual graphics on the posters. The programming (Processing coding) generated vector patterns in response to the user moving their hands in the sensor field above the Leap Motion Controller. The interactive process brought instant digital outcomes (projected onto a wall) as well as printable graphic-design outcomes (printed posters).
For the interactive component, each frame generated by each movement is random and cannot be intentionally reproduced. Every frame is, therefore, an out-of-print poster, so to speak. I found that the dynamic, interactive platform was the most interesting part of Out of Print. The whole process provided me with a great opportunity to develop my unique methodology, which is based in part on bringing perspectives from the interactive arts into conventional media within graphic design.
Sound effects were another way to involve an audience in my exhibition space. In my project, the audience could control the sound effect for each poster in addition to operating patterns on the poster. Depending on the viewer's hand movements, each poster generated sounds from different instruments, like guitar, bass, piano, etc. Visitors could play music through hand gestures registered by the Leap Controller.
"Out of Print" contains three parts: an interactive-poster installation, an instructional video, still frames from the interactive process, and a video trailer to promote the project. These three parts tell a similar story in different media. I want to build a connection between traditional graphic-design practice and digital interactive design.
My works in "Out of Print" invite the audience into a multidimensional space. Using Leap Motion, a user can interact with the poster. By moving their hand in the space above a sensor, a person can indirectly alter the appearance of type, shape, and sound, which is projected onto a screen. People can see, listen, and play with graphic design.
“Out of Print” expands the concept of poster design. A poster is no longer just a printed piece on the wall. Instead, as a motion graphic for the viewer, it is shifted to a dynamic space to create an entertaining and unforgettable experience for the users. With a conceptual approach, “Out of Print” offers a useful tool for people who are not familiar with posters and graphic design. I will continue, in my practice, to explore interactive graphic design. “Out of Print” is not only a project for my thesis show; it is also a boost toward my next phase as a designer.