This week Newenglish visited Ryoji Ikeda’s ‘Test pattern N°12’ at Store Studios. Ikeda’s test pattern project consists of converting data from photographs, video, sound and music into binary visuals of black and white flashes. Previous installations of this have seen him take over the screens of Times Square (New York) to Elevation 1049, a festival in the Swiss Alpes. At store studios, test pattern N°12 finds itself in an intimate high ceilinged room, in which the binary bars fill the floor – whilst the viewer is also bombarded by audio that sounds like a digitised morse code. Upon entering the exhibition, we were immediately taken aback by the shear energy and intensity of the installation; yet soon joined other viewers in sitting on the ground (where the test pattern is projected) and taking everything in.
We were taken in by Ryoji Ikeda’s breaking down of the boundaries between art, sound, experience and the digital world. The intensity of the Japanese artist’s binary projections push this idea in an inspiringly whole bodied and uncompromising way. Whilst walking around the space we found ourselves imagining future worlds where data itself becomes art, through non-consumable media’s such as binary and other code that make it feel some how mysterious and omniscient – just as ancient art must have seemed at a time when people only saw a handful of images in their lifetime.
Looking forward, could we as graphic designers improve our practice by adopting Ryoji Ikeda’s experience led approach? Would grasping at all the human senses (opposed to solely sight) help us to fore-fill our role as communicators? In many ways we are already beginning to see this shift in the realm of graphic communication as clients seek out more engaging concepts – achieved through moving image and experience design (for example for our recent Honda Marine stand at SIBS we incorporated the sound of Honda engines under the water in order to make our communication more immersive). Could creative approaches like this be the way to capture the consumer’s attention in a world in which they are forever bombarded by video, images and mobile alerts?
This week Newenglish visited the Wellcome collection to see their ‘Can Graphic Design Change Your Life’ exhibition. The exhibition explores the relationship between graphic design and health through six different sections: Persuasion, Education, Hospitalisation, Medication, Contagion & Provocation, through a collection of hard hitting posters, packaging, signage, video and publications. The examples of graphic design in each section shed light on how graphic design has a very real impact on all health related ares from preventing epidemics such as the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa (with pictorial motifs and posters for communities with low literacy) and AIDs education campaigns in the west, to how interior graphics and way finding in hospitals can help patients genuinely feel better.
We loved seeing such a bold celebration of graphic design’s often understated daily triumphs. Thanks to the confident curation of the show we were hit by this as soon as we walked in with the beginning section both shaming then applauding graphic designer’s long and complicated relationship with the tobacco industry – first encouraging the habit through slick packing and advertising and to the present day where design is used to encourage smokers to quit. Addressing what is often a taboo subject in design history. We also felt uplifted by reminders of how graphic design can help an ambulance get through rush hour (those fluorescent vehicle wraps are near impossible to miss) and patients navigate the hospital and feel safe when they arrive – we particularly loved the graphics at the Katta Civic Polyclinic, Shiraishi, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan (perhaps the nicest place to get sick for any graphic enthusiast).
Looking forward we will definitely take on board some of the gorgeous examples of typography seen across the entirety of the show as well as, the clean, instructive yet personable interiors of the various Japanese hospital and clinic interiors exhibited. Most importantly, we came away with a refreshed sense of pride in our discipline; as the unsung heroes of keeping us all well. The type of good old moral graphic design seen at the Wellcome collection reminded us of the work we love doing so much with libraries. More Libraries in the works now!