You may remember from a few months ago a series of posts about my time at the The Island: A Primitive Multiplayer Game Processing Workshop, run by Andreas Gysin.
Earlier this year I mentored Nicole Ryan with her thesis project, as she embarked on her last semester at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. This post showcases the resulting work.
Nicole graduated as an MFA this past spring, complementing her previous BFA degree in photography. She was one of my students in 2011 at Nature of Identity class, and having won a Brand New Award for her work in it, expectations for her thesis project were high. She did a great job.
Worried about the diminishing role the arts are having in a typical high school curriculum these days, she set out to find ways graphic design could be deployed to help. She created a series of tools that could inspire both students and teachers. In her words:
This project focuses on the role the arts play in education. Love and appreciation for the arts in some capacity is unanimous among the people I know and interact with. People love the arts, even if they personally feel they lack the skills, because all forms of art can entertain, entice conversation, challenge ideas, alter our mood, and teach us something about ourselves and our culture.
This book is a curation of supporting information (both from my own field research and from published professionals and educators), case studies and potential methods for arts integration in and outside of the classroom. Educators, parents and advocates can utilize these resources as inspiration and as a starting point for projects of their own.
By the time we started the mentoring sessions, Nicole had already been working on her thesis for more than a year, and had a solid research foundation. She had gathered materials, conducted interviews, visited schools, and collected wonderful visual documentation along the way.
When it came to the developing a compelling design approach, I got a chance to mentor her along that journey. I tasked her with better defining her audiences, when and how she could motivate them. Equally important was exploring how the visual communication would look.
She was then able to develop and expand a look and feel system that required variety to engage those audiences. And we discussed each application’s purpose within her system, establishing strengths and weaknesses in each approach.
Within all the expected and unexpected applications worth designing, could there be one core application that embodies the thesis solution in its entirety? In Nicole’s case, it was an exercise kit containing booklets and flashcards that would help engage students and teachers with various art forms.
Teachers and parents who want to offer their kids creative activities, but feel they lack the resources and knowledge, can use exercises as a tool and a source of inspiration. The exercises were conceived following insights Nicole found in her research. For example, students prefer art activities that are group-based instead of individual endeavors, so the exercises encourage collaboration and sharing. Through beautiful typography, a fresh colour palette, and inviting illustrations, these pieces show it isn’t hard to make any learning experience interactive and more engaging.
And, we’re back. This year I’ve resumed a project that got started back in 2011, during a workshop I attended in Italy: the design of my first typeface. During those five days in Urbino, I managed to build the alphabet (both upper and lowercase) in a bold weight. Later that year I added numerals, punctuation, accented characters… almost the complete set. Except for some difficult glyphs full of curves, such as the ampersand or the pound sterling. And so I moved on to other things.
I recently resumed work on the project, saying hello to Fontlab after so long (Fontlab is the program I’ve been using to design this typeface). With renewed energy I’ve been making steady progress. The first thing I did was I finishing those difficult glyphs, thus completing the full character set for the bold weight.
My intention then was to figure out metrics and kerning pairs, and call it the day. But I’ve been getting some helpful guidance from Rod and the other nice people at PsyOps. During one of the informal meetings we’ve been having (they offer great workshops too) I learned that FontLab has some useful transformation tools. This meant that doing other weights would not mean starting from scratch each time.
And so I began experimenting with creating a lighter weight to complement the bold. It has been an interesting learn-as-I-go-along process. I didn’t have a strong idea of how the light weight should look until this experimentation. In a way, I’m still not sure, but I’m letting the process dictate the result.
The transformation tools were helpful with some uppercase characters, and got me started. But after those, the rest had to be constructed manually. Once I got upper and lowercase characters sorted out, the next thing was to deal with numerals (always a difficult proposition) and the rest of the set (punctuation, accented characters, etc.)
And so the design is moving along. Many of the forms in these screen grabs have already changed in my latest version, but they give an idea of where the typeface is heading. Next, I’m hoping FontLab’s interpolation tools will make it easy to create an in-between semibold weight.
Not sure when I’ll ever finish, but I’m enjoying the journey. However, considering now I’ll have to do metrics and kerning pairs for all these weights, when people ask me “what about italics?,” I roll my eyes (at a 13˚ angle of course).
Finally Friday arrived, the last day of The Island: A Primitive Multiplayer Game Processing Workshop, run by Andreas Gysin. During the morning each of us contributed with final touches (I put some effort into the look of the terrain), and in the afternoon we played! How much fun is it to attend a workshop in which at the end, instead of an exam you get to play a game?
Thank you Andreas and Serena for organizing such a fun workshop!
Thursday was a long day during the week-long The Island: A Primitive Multiplayer Game Processing Workshop, run by Andreas Gysin. We had to code code code in order to get the game ready for playtime on Friday. A lot of the effort went into making sure all the individual components we were working on independently would work together.
I must say it was really fun seeing the little guy in action! After spending a lot of time deciding on the visual look of the character, I arrived at something that made me happy.
It was also the day when we began to code our gaming interface: would we use keystrokes, buttons or sliders on the screen to control the various character attributes? I was able to program a few attributes: changing the size of my character, switch to turbo speed, and make him transparent. I figured they could come in handy during the final competition.
As we got to the middle of the week in The Island: A Primitive Multiplayer Game Processing Workshop, run by Andreas Gysin, the game started to take form. While some of us worked on developing our character (how it looked, how it sounded, what powers it could have… all was up to our individual coding decisions), others focused on 3D mapping and getting the terrain working, or the camera, or the network connectivity. Andreas obviously directed most of the coding, and guided us along the way.
After class, I decided to take advantage of some of the cultural events of the Longlake Lugano Festival. As unfortunately none of the students spoke Italian but me, we didn’t get to attend as many of these as I wanted, but at least that Wednesday I got my fill. First a book reading Giovanni Ventimiglia (a Philosophy professor) talk about metaphysics journey through time and geography (surprisingly engaging presentation), then the hilarious play The Misfortunes of a Widow performed by Licia Maglietta, and finally some live music courtesy of Tonino Carotone.