10 January 2013
In "About the Word Design," Vilém Flusser describes "design" as a bridge over the divide between technology and art. In contemporary electronic publication, there is a confluence of media, techniques, aesthetics, and concepts from art, technology, and design. Contemporary designers by necessity must become fluent in the language of aesthetics and communication of multiple media. In addition to an understanding of typography and graphic design, they need to master the language of video, sound, animation, interactivity, and multichannel video. New creative electronic publications combine all these things.
During a special three-week summer workshop taught by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Department of Visual Communication Design, I took a group of students through a crash course in both multimedia communication and manipulation. The course focused on integrating these elements into electronic publications for tablet computers using the new Folio Builder panel in Adobe® InDesign®. These students were well schooled in the techniques of graphic and typographic design using Adobe Creative Suite® software; however, considerations of using video, animation, and sound to be integrated into an electronic book-form experience were new for them.
We covered the basics of resampling and manipulating sound and moving-image content, as well as the fundamentals of interactive design such as system mapping and affordance, in the intensive all-day, full-week workshops. Then we covered the basics of using the Folio Builder in InDesign and immediately experiencing these creations on tablets. We took as our touchstone multiple visits to the extensive Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection within the SAIC libraries. With the help of Head of Special Collections Doro Boehme, we dug up and inspected experimental art books that included prescient concepts of electronic publications: indexical formats, nonlinear structures, tactile narratives, hyper-flat layouts, multimedia collage. We examined publications such as the Visionaire Series "Touch," Sophie Calle's "Take Care of Yourself," "Sheherezade" by Zweig and Anderson, and many others.
Over three weeks, the students absorbed a host of information, viewed examples from outside works, and considered fundamental concepts of construction and manipulating experiences with multiple media. Their quickly conceived original projects, inspired by the tradition of art books, were creative and adventurous in their combination of animation, media, and text. The quick authoring capabilities of the Folio Builder were essential to prototyping and developing these new original publication experiences within the classroom and viewing the works on tablets during development.
Sahak drew content from a summer charitable program for Armenian children in Azerbaijan to create both a promotional and an expressive multimedia experience. Entry pages used "animated landscapes" combining touch-sensitive animations within a still photo image as the user navigated the informational brochure. Information became both a lyrical expression of the landscape and community, as well as a navigation system.
Gabriella used a children's story that she wrote herself to create a multimedia experience with collage, painting, animation, and sound. She tells the story of Simon the whale with interactive hand-collaged animations and sound and a second layer of floating text.
Vanessa found content about the last meals of convicted killers and created a game-like electronic publication in which playfulness and tragedy are intertwined. The user makes different food choices from a sequential menu. Each set of choices leads to a matching executed prisoner. She incorporated archival photos, videos, and text into a multidimensional, multilinear reading experience.
Playfully citing the words of Raymond Carver's "Cathedral," Hanna created a typographic and graphic experience of the text through interactivity and animation. The publication playfully challenges standard layouts, guiding the user through a labyrinthine reading, moving right then down, then down, then right, and so on, to discover animated text and hidden quotations.
Quinn ironically referenced tactile media — chalkboards, toilet paper, printed books — in this short iPad riff. The publication seeks a fresh layout — somewhere between book, app, webpage, and game.
Throughout all the works created in the class, the students had fresh takes on what the structure and feel of a book can be. Embracing the 2D layout, and the ability to combine multiple media with text, each publication was an original, and experimental, experience in new book forms.