History & Futures – Week 8: Design & Critique

Thoughts on Week 8 Lecture & Resources

Read-Only Memory

As a fan of retro video games, I found this week’s lecture by Darren Wall of Read-Only Memory very engaging. In the past, gamer culture has often been overlooked and ridiculed, but it’s been interesting to witness a gradual shift in perspective and the growth in appreciation for video games as an artform (and a pastime) within my own lifetime, after growing up with a love of Space Invaders, Nintendo, Sega, and a younger sister who was obsessed with the Final Fantasy series.

Read-Only Memory were commissioned by Japanese games giant Sega to produce a book on the classic Sega Dreamcast games console.

I particularly like how he described the process of taking something typically considered “low culture” and subverting this by turning it on its head, creating a “high culture” object on that subject, a beautifully crafted book, designed to be treasured. It was interesting to learn about the thinking behind this, where the aim was to make something that sparks a physical, emotional connection linked to the experience of actually interacting with a real video game, particularly the 80s and 90s generation of games, which was incredibly tactile (due to the physical nature of using controllers, cartridges and consoles), as well as being visual and vibrant.

500 Years Later: An Oral History of Final Fantasy VII, which features a code-breaker bookmark enabling the reader to see hidden messages in the book.

I was intrigued by the idea of taking this thought process a step further and adding a layer of interactivity by including a meticulously made bookmark which allows you to see coded messages within the printed book, a nod to the way video games have hidden content, or “easter eggs” – something which is only visible if you know how to unlock the content.

A book on arcade game typography by Read-Only Memory.
Images via readonlymemory.vg and thamesandhudson.com


Studio Automatico

Beautiful ideas on using type as texture and a way of creating visual structure from Studio Automatico.

I thought this gatefold card with cutouts was a really interesting way to give an otherwise flat design a sense of depth. I like the organic shapes, how it plays with layering and the contrast between positive + negative space.


Research

Crowdfunding

A crowdfunded hardback Tank Girl book about the infamous anti-heroine.
Cover artwork/design by Jamie Hewlett. Image via Kickstarter.com

I’ve been aware of Kickstarter as a crowdfunding platform for some time – in fact, I have previously backed a few projects on the site myself, including a Tank Girl graphic novel and supporting a campaign by Hidden Door (an Edinburgh arts festival) to revive a local theatre building.

The concept is an interesting idea, whereby creators (everyone from artists to designers and writers) can promote a project they wish to realise, encouraging people to back it by pledging a donation, usually in return for something, such as a physical book. The backer “rewards” are often tiered, with the largest pledges being promised more, or higher value items as a “thank you” for donating the funds.

Example of a successfully-funded Kickstarter project.

Last year I supported this Kickstarter campaign by writer Asa Wheatley who was on a quest to self-publish Sagas of the Shield Maiden – a Viking and Western-inspired graphic novel about a fearless female warrior.

Stretch goals are often used once a Kickstarter has hit its funding goal,
in order to encourage backers to continue pledging towards it for bonus items.
The final Sagas of the Shied Maiden publication:
an oversized, perfect-bound full comics anthology printed in full colour.
One of the “stretch goals” goodies: a matching, printed bookmark.

Having spoken to creative friends who have gone down this route, their advice was that to run a successful crowdfunding campaign, you need to have high quality visuals, an interesting product and a compelling story – ideally told through a short promotional video which explains the idea behind the project and helps engagement. They also heavily promoted the campaign via social media and via email to their own mailing list.


Workshop Challenge

How I might fund, promote, market and launch my publication.

Exhibition: Having a launch exhibition (hosted within the tapestry building) as a special event which would coincide with the opening of the museum/visitor centre. This would display the artefact/publication as a piece of art in its own right.

Launch: I would send out invitations to the launch event which would be a real, physical postcard printed onto textured card. These
would also have bespoke hand stitched elements on give a sense of tactility.

Marketing/promotion: Short promotional video showing the book up close and how it was made, for example the hand embellished details.

Collaborating with the local university’s School of Textiles to create stitched, drawn or digitally designed pieces inspired by the tapestry

Crowdfunding: Kickstarter with backer incentives of a stitched individual miniature “tapestry panel” or exclusive embroidery workshops


Visual Research

The new Great Tapestry of Scotland building in Galashiels.

The new museum that will house the Great Tapestry of Scotland (the subject of my visual culture essay) is a unique and visually striking building. Currently it’s not yet open to the public but the outer façade is visible, so I went to the site and took some photographs for inspiration. Its unusual roof structure has an undulating, zig-zag style appearance so for my final design, I want to incorporate this and evoke the architectural form by presenting the publication as a concertina-folded book.

The additional rationale for taking this approach is to visually emulate the idea of a frieze, so that the individual pages are joined up horizontally, forming a visual narrative, much like the tapestry itself.


Design Development

I made a scaled-down paper model to help me figure out
how the concertina folds will impact the design and layout.

Testing out ideas for the concertina-folded book design.
Creating visual elements to enhance the page design.
Photograph of a lace fabric I hand-knitted from a silk & mohair yarn.
The pattern is a traditional Shetland lace pattern called “feather & fan.”
My sketch of vintage Paisley shawl designs – drawn at the Textile Archive of
the Heriot-Watt University School of Textiles & Design in Galashiels.
Stitching a heraldic unicorn motif by hand onto fabric for the front cover.
The unicorn is intended to represent Scotland as it is the country’s national animal.
Testing out different ideas for layout + typesetting.
Testing ideas for the double-page spreads.
Sourcing my own photographs of woollen yarn to use in the editorial design.
Trying different options for the back cover design.
Developing the design concept for the chapter opener spread.
Teasels I photographed at Culross in Fife, a town that was once a Royal Borough.

Final Design (BLAD)

Click here to view the final editorial design outcome as a PDF.


Reflection on the week

This is the first time in years I’ve had to do a piece of longform writing, and I found adapting to the academic style (after a 10-year absence) quite challenging. I do enjoy writing in general, but I definitely struggled with the essay at times. It felt as though I needed an enormous amount of research in order to write a single paragraph and sometimes felt quite slow making progress with it.

That being said, I did enjoy the process of researching my essay and found that in doing so, I learned a lot about my own heritage and the local area. Currently the Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre in Galashiels is nearing completion, and is due to open sometime in 2021, pandemic restrictions permitting. I am very much looking forward to being able to see the real thing, after spending so much time studying it and learning the stories behind it! It has also been interesting to witness the build-up to the opening of the new museum in the town, where two new murals were recently unveiled to tie in with the tapestry.

If I had more time to work on the design, I would love to make a full concertina book. It’s not a format I have often used before but it felt perfect for this project. I would also like to experiment with textured paper and cardstock, as well as possibly trying some hand stitching directly onto paper or card.

I would ideally have liked to do more embroidered details in general and give the overall aesthetic a greater sense of tactility. I was partly hampered by the fact that I sew quite slowly but given more time this is something I could explore further. I do think incorporating my own handmade textiles and photography was a perfect way to create something unique and helped bring the concept to life. I definitely feel it would look quite different if I had simply used stock imagery.

I also experimented with different ways of creating textured elements and mark-making on the page: scanned textures, textural drawing brushes in Photoshop, and the idea of type as texture, much like Studio Automatico. I think this is an approach I can definitely see myself using in future projects and a technique that I would like to continue developing in my design work.


References

Kickstarter. 21st Century Tank Girl. Available at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/332295438/21st-century-tank-girl-a-book-by-hewlett-and-marti [accessed 25/04/2021]

Kickstarter. Sagas of the Shield Maiden. Available at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/asawheatley/sagas-of-the-shield-maiden [accessed 25/04/2021]

Read-Only Memory. Arcade Game Typography. Available at https://readonlymemory.vg/shop/book/arcade-game-typography/ [accessed 20/03/2021]

Studio Automatico. Available at https://www.automaticostudio.com/home/ [accessed 20/03/2021]

Thames & Hudson. Arcade Game Typography: The Art of Pixel Type. Available at https://thamesandhudson.com/arcade-game-typography-9780500021743 [accessed 20/03/2021]