· cinema as skin ·

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Still of ‘Under the Skin’ (2013)

The published author Laura U. Marks describes the skin of the film as “a metaphor to emphasise the way film signifies through its materiality, through a contact between perceiver and object represented.” She states that “it also suggests the way vision itself can be tactile, as though one were touching a film with one’s eyes.” Furthermore, she concludes in her book ‘The Skin of the Film’ that “for intellectual artists it is most valuable to think of the skin of the film not as a screen, but as a membrane that brings its audience in contract with the material forms of memory.

And I do not know if she would consider myself an intellectual artist but I do believe that the skin of the film is a metaphor of everything that surrounds the film with its particular and recognisable atmosphere. The skin of the film is its discernible visual appearance. Moreover, I agree with L.U. Marks that “the skin” is the most memorable aspect of a film, this one aspect that has a prolonged impact and persist in our memory even more than the story it explains. For instance, think of how easy is to identify a movie you have already watched by just a few frames rather than figure it out how it ended.

Now, in order to exemplify what is cinema as skin to me I would like to reference the Jonathan Glazer’s film ‘Under the Skin’ in which Scarlett Johansson performed the leading role of a strange creature that resembles an alien just landed on the Earth. One of the first scenes of this film based on the Michel Faber novel with the same title presents the alien entity introducing herself into the body of a laying young woman and putting it on as an entire-body suit of real skin.

The whole film conducts the audience inside that skin through this unique visual journey. The entity dedicates all its time to seek for lonely men to lure them to isolated properties and drag them to an underworld dimension where they are sort of fossilised to get later on consumed by her.

In her unquenchable search she uses her physical appearance to seduce them, therefore her outer   aspect. This appealing skin, though, is embodied by a threatening creature. Thus, two opposite concepts meet in one same personification. This skin and body is what serves the director as an excuse to lead the spectators around diverse cities of the United Kingdom and to present its people, those bodies and skins of the inhabitants. Indeed, the director confirmed that, a part of Scarlett and very few others, the other people were not actors and in most cases did not even know they were filmed since he used secret cameras. He intended, by this mean, to catch the genuine reactions of the people and their truly personality.

The film uses the actual skin at the beginning to drag the audience into the metaphoric skin of the film. This metaphoric skin is a very delicate, cold, quiet yet disturbing atmosphere where something, regardless is apparent normality, is twisted. (SPOILER) At the end of the film, the skin begins to tear apart and peel and the body of the relinquishing creature is visible again. Likewise, this is the moment when the audience is expelled from this atmosphere and disembodies the skin of the film.

This is a clip of the end of the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJV546PsXKg


 

References:

Marks, L.U. (2000). ‘The skin of the film‘. Duke University Press. Durham and London.

Glazer, J. (2013) ‘Under the skin’.

 

· StoryBranding ·

The first session of CTS Brand Busting was very interesting, this is what I would call a great and powerful beginning. Amongst many other topics, we talked about storytelling related to brands. This is also known as ‘Storybranding’.

The eventual aim of every brand is to sell. However brands can either advertise products to purchase or brilliantly create an entire story behind the brand to get sales by itself. This way, the brand would establish an enduring relationship with the consumer that would guarantee the ‘repeated purchase’. Thus, it is smart to think that the more people relates to a brand, the more will the sales increase. Indeed, the current president of ‘Story-Lab U.S.’ and author of ‘StoryBranding 2.0.’ (2014) stated that “A product’s purpose is functional. A brand’s purpose is meaningful.”

Hence, how can this lasting connection between consumer and brand be achieved? Basically, it consist in creating the soul of the brand, its values, its ideology. In the end, all we aim to is to make people feel identified with the brand. Almost as inventing an always supportive friend: no matter what, this brand will always be a guaranteed value you can trust to fulfil your needs and a ‘friend’ you can always rely on in your next purchase.

Yet, how are the brand identity and its values created? First of all, it is key to understand and analyse the background of the brand to identify the values this brand stand for. The second is relating these thoughts with the brand. Once this is accomplished, it is time to realise which is the profile of the target market and where is the gap the brand can get to them. In other words, distinguish which needs are still not fulfilled that the brand in question can and let the brand reach the prospects through this little gap.

For instance, the energetic drink Red bull is not introduced as a questionable nice flavoured drink made with peculiar ingredients but as a drink for the unstoppable, the adventurous, the ones with no limits. Red Bull is a drink specially made for them, that understand their desires and encourages them to keep it up.

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Red Bull advert “Find Your Wings”

Eventually, there might happen to be some obstacles. The only way to face them correctly is by being aware of this possibility since the very beginning and stay firm when they arrive to even broaden the meaning of the values they stranded for since the beginning.

To sum up, story branding is a lifelong method brands can use to get a loyal spectrum of consumers by focusing first on their own story and then on prospects’ needs to find an unbreakable connection between them.

_______________________

References>

Dahlia, M. and Lange, F. and Smith, T. (2010) ‘Marketing Communication‘.Chichester: Willey.

Signorelli, J. (2014) ‘StoryBranding 2.0.‘. Austin, Texas: Green leaf Book Group Press.

 

· Kay Catalogue, Modernism and Fashion Persuasion ·

This lecture aimed to give an overall vision of Modernism and its key points regarding fashion, people’s taste and society.

First of all, we were presented the figure of the ‘flaneur’ which is a French term to describe those who just like to wander and stroll aimlessly around the cities in a very slow and calm pace discovering the cities and the society that inhabit them. This particular personality was fundamental for the French senator and member of the Parliment, Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809-1891) who aimed to enhance the city for the wellness of the people by creating more open spaces like parks that would encourage people to walk through new streets that have never before dared to step on. He used a grid system to make the city geometric so that people would be able to navigate more easily and stimulate the social activity of Paris. This idea was named ‘phsycogeography’.

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Flaneur wandering around the city.

So by this, we can understand that this concept of city that we have nowadays have not always been like this, and that cities were not thought as the urban scenario that are today where we expect to find many different activities to do by wandering all around.

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The grid system of Paris by Haussmann

By applying these ideas into the city, the evidences between different social classes became more obvious and clear. This lead to a class system where people’s taste was linked to their status. However we realise throughout the lecture that taste has nothing to do with the status or the purchasing power, but with what we saw, learned and received since we were born. So actually tastes were passed on from generation to generation.

Nowadays, according to the theory of the French contemporaneous sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002), our tastes are as well set for us beforehand, as the media and publicity send those images and messages of what we should like. A great example is the catalogue of the Sweden company ‘IKEA’, where all those ideas decorations and furniture are so ideal and attainable regardless our social status.

 IKEA Catalogues of ideal houses

What’s more, our tastes is now considered a way to self-improvement as the English educator Mike Featherstone claimed: “consumer culture publicity suggests that we all have room for self-improvement and expression whatever our age or class origins”.  The Kardashian’s show was used in the lecture to exemplify how someone can become a brand that actually sells you the idea of self-improving by your own taste elections.

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The Kardashians’ Show (example of self-improvement)

It’s kind of scary to realise how advertisement define for us our tastes and choose for us what we need. We make in class the exercise of thinking about how many adverts of products we might like pop up every time we surf on the Internet. This is an absolute privation of our intimacy, which can be related to the second part of the lecture about the pleasure of gazing. Recently, the popularity of realities that sneak into other’s houses increased considerably and TV productions take advantage of the inherent predisposition of human-beings for gazing and the pleasure we get from it.

All in all, our tastes, doesn’t matter who originate them, are gonna catch some eyes due to the strong inclination of people to stare at others. And probably, everything is just a vicious circle where  people feed back from what they see to make a selection of their own tastes.


Reference List

October, D. & Hauer, G. (2016) Kay Catalogue, Modernism and Fashion Persuasion [Lecture to GMD Year 1] T303: Contextual and Theoretical Studies. UAL

· The debate ·

This lecture had a very clear purpose, discuss about the importance of grids and whether they are essential or not. So, let’s get the ball rolling with the ‘pro-grids’ ones:

The Swiss graphic designer Josef Müller-Brockmann (1914-1996), known for his constructivists designs, described that the work of the designer needs to have “the clearly intelligible, objective, functional and aesthetic quality of mathematical thinking” and continued with a long list of all the virtues he considered of the grids such as its consistency, the rationality of creative and technical production processes, the ease to integrate colour, form and material and the dominion of space and surface. He considered that “work done systematically and in accordance with strict formal principles makes those demands for directness, intelligibly and the integration of all factors” and that “working with the grid system means submitting to laws of universal validity.”

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This last point is very interesting as human-beings, like the nature and the entire universe, have this genuine and inherent desire of order and organisation. Indeed we can find clues of this tendency in the way society is organised, our daily life and even on our spare time. Furthermore, the fact of having tools such as the grid to create this order, make it easier for our brain to create links between contents when we look at a page, for instance.

The grid, therefore, was agreed for many designers like German relevant typographer Jan Tschichold (1902-1974), architects like the French modernist Le Corbusier (1887-1965),  and artists like the Dutch suprematist Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) to be a funcional and clear way to convey the message as well as international and universal. Moreover, the grid was considered to show the criteria and creativity of the designer as it proves that the decisions aren’t taken randomly but following an order. Müller-Brockmann concluded in his book ‘Grid Systems in Graphic Design’ (1996) that “every visual creative work is a manifestation of the character of the designer. It is a reflection of his knowledge, his ability and his mentality.”

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Mondrian (1929) Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue III
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Le Corbusier’s grid system applied to people and architecture

On the other hand, the ones against the grid system like William L. Fox argued in his book ‘The Void, The Grid & The Sign’ (2005) that “the grid exercises authority over space by applying a ruler to it in all senses of the word” and also that “as an artificial extension of our egocentric visual triangulation of the world, the grid is always suspect”. In summary, all those ‘anti-grids’ considered it as “spatial signature of modernity” made “to control and discipline”.

According to the Canadian essayist and philosopher Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) stated that the grids were used to create order but that it forgets the relationships between contents. Moreover, he criticised the fact that many urbanists were applying the grid, which was used in printing mediums, to organise cities, and therefore, the way people lived as if they were types. It was a “neutral and rational” according to the Dutch sociologist Saskia Sassen (1947).

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The American grid towns

The American critic and theorist Peter Lunenfeld juxtaposed the the advantages and disadvantages of the grid in his book ‘Snap to Grid’ (2001) claiming that “the gains in predictability and accuracy are balanced against the losses of ambiguity and expressiveness”. So he was one of the pioneers who pointed out both the strengths and weaknesses of the grid system.

Furthermore, at the beginning of the 20th century the avant-gardes like the dada movement began to experiment with the collage which is a technique not opposed to the modernist grid but a thoughtful about representation, time and space. It was an absolutely visual media willing to convey how the world spoke, shouted and made sounds. That is to say, a new way to liberate the words -parole in liberta- and let them stand by themselves, which was very clearly represented, for instance, in the dadaist poetry.

 

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Theo van Doesburg’s dada poster. (1923)

Dada poster from Hannah Höch & Parole in liberta  (right)


Reference List

Anon, (2016). [online] Available at: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1050153.files/Grids_Rosalind%20Krauss.pdf [Accessed 8 May 2016].

Baines, J. & Hartnett, JP. (2016) The debate [Lecture to GMD Year 1] T303: Contextual and Theoretical Studies. UAL

Fox, William (2005) The Void, the Grid & the Sign: Traversing the Great BAsin. Reno & Las Vega: University of Nevada Press.

Krauss, R. (1980). Grids. New York: Pace Gallery.

Lunenfeld, P. (2000). Snap to grid. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

Müller-Brockmann, J. (1981). Grid systems in graphic design. Niederteufen: Verlag Arthur Niggli.

Sassen, S (2000) New frontiers facing urban sociology at the Millennium. British Journal of Sociology.

Sennett, R. (1990) The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities. New York: Alfred A Knopf. This can be found online by putting the following words into Google: Conscience of the Eye Harvard pdf [don’t forget the pdf]

Thegreatamericangrid.com. (2015). The Great American Grid. [online] Available at: http://www.thegreatamericangrid.com [Accessed 8 May 2016].

· Photography & Fiction + Pose! ·

The aim of this lecture was to have a quick look at the history of photography since its invention until nowadays and the way we currently use this medium. We specially pointed out the ‘portraits’ to see this evolution throughout the years more emphasised.

The lecture started with a painting from the painter Johannes Vermeer, (1632-1675), ‘View on Delf’. Paintings like this were for a very long time the only way to represent the reality until it changed with the appearance of the photography in the 1826 with “View from the Window at Le Gras”, the first photograph ever, taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce with a camera obscura. He was a inventor and scientist that created with the help of the artists Louise Daguerre the first successful photographic process.

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Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675), View on Delft, c.1660–1661.
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshaus. 

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Joseph Nicéphore Niépce ( 1826) “View from the Window at Le Gras” .

Since then, the debate was opened and artists, philosophers, writers, and the upper-class began to wonder which method was better to represent the reality: paintings or photographies.

About this the French modernist writer Marcel Proust (1871–1922) wrote in his novel ‘In search of the Lost’ that people can only recall experiences throughout their involuntary memories. In order to illustrate this, the main character of the novel only remembers his childhood when he tastes a madeline that unexpectedly brings him to very specific memories of that period. This theory is supported by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin. He used for the first time the term ‘aura’ in his book “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936) to refer to the originality and uniqueness of the art. Therefore, any other mechanical process such as photography, will not achieve this ‘aura’ of paintings.

Nevertheless, with the time and some enhancements such as the contributions from the British William Fox Talbot (1800-1877) who came up with the positive and negative process in order to make easy copies from the same picture, photography reach a good reputation and was even considered another tool more for painters. This is how ‘Pictorialism’ arrived around 1860 until the 20th century. It was a trend that consisted emphasising the beauty, tonality and composition of the subject matter rather than just represent the reality.

Furthermore, we had a look to Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) who was one of the first women to experiment with photography and became widely know for her portraits of important figures of that time such as Charles Darwin. Other sort of portraits that were very relevant in the history of photography are the deceased babies portraits from the Victorian period which are inevitably romantic and disturbing at the same time and absolutely unacceptable in our today’s society. We also talked about the long times in front of the camera that the subjects needed to stay statics to get a good photography and the tools they used for it. We even tried on our feet by staying statics for 1 minute before our partner will take us a picture and see how our facial expression look antinatural and forced.

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Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)  Self-portrait. Good example of pictorialism

And from portrait to portrait, we jumped to the ‘selfie’ trend and its difference to “self-portraits”. Roughly, all of us agreed that the selfie is a bad quality photography which its main purpose is to show an ideal and pretentious side of ourselves with favourable angles and strange aesthetic poses.

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Robert Cornellius (1839) ‘Self-portrait’ . – possibly the first self- portrait and daylight picture of the history.

On the other hand, the American photographer, Susan Sontag talked, in a rather pessimistic tone, about pictures of ourselves taken by others and how these photographers contribute to the  “mortality, vulnerability, mutability” of the subject photographed. I specially found this point really interesting and not widely considered although it is the truth.


Reference List

Barthes, R. (1981). Camera lucida. New York: Hill and Wang.

Benjamin, W. (1936) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

Homer, N & Ingham, M (2016) ‘Photography and Fiction: Pose!” [Lecture to GMD1] T303: Contextual and Theoretical Studies. UAL

Proust, M (1913) In searhc of the Lost. Éditions Grasset, Éditions Gallimard

Sontag, S. (1977). On photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

· Think Ink! ·

I guess it might be inevitably to think that the society we live in will change every time a new invention comes up, and this is both frightening and thrilling at the same time. It already happened with the telegraph in the 1840’s, the radio in the 1900’s or the TV in the 1920’s. There’s this fascination about the new yet mixed with hesitation.

The debate about the death of print doesn’t come us a surprise although it is been emphasised by the appearance of digital formats such as online publications or e-readers. Indeed at the beginning of the 20th century there were already some artists and philosophers that already dared to predict the depict future of 2000 due to all the technology innovations.

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The French artists Villemard’s postcard from 1910 predicting the 2000 depict future.

The famous graphic designer, David Carson claimed the death of print in his 1995’s book “The End of Print” by claiming that the imagery would take the lead and supporting the position of the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan about the influence of technology on printing.  Nowadays, fully living immersed in those technological inventions, there are still people reluctant to just rely on the new digital methods and stays by the side of the traditional means.

The Japanese graphic designer Kenya Hara is one of those who still believes in the magic of printing. He stated that “technology has no point unless it subtly awakens and activates the sense of its recipients” and exemplified our situation by naming one of the greatest talents of all times:  “Leonardo da Vinci created magnificent paintings. There is absolutely no one today who can paint this way. We must believe that this fact is due tot the loss of sensitivity and wisdom so obvious in his work. The same can be said of the skills of skinning apples or writing letters by hand. The necessary sensory perceptions and receptivity have begun to fade away.”

Definitely one of the most important points about the traditional printing is the fulfilment and satisfaction that a physical product produce on us. As human beings, we like to get all our senses involved in the experience. On the other hand, digital publications out stand for its immediacy and wider range of colours on the screen.

Hara stated that “computer can bring us sensations that were beyond the reach of designers of the past. It inspires in us such a dynamic and uplifting motivation that we’re persuaded to abandon our antiquated sensory approach.”

In order to realise by ourselves the reasons why we choose printed products, we were required to make a list of our more meaningful printed medias in our life story and give the reason why they are so significant. This is my list

  • The visa stamp for the UAE on my passport.
  • A little pocket calendar of 1997 (the year I was born).
  • All my personal diaries in which I wrote about my childhood and teenager years.
  • My first official certificate in English
  • Postcards from my German friend travelling the world.
  • My artistic sketchbooks
  • Tags from my favourite clothes.
  • Cinema tickets
  • My endless list of “Movies I have to watch some day”  in a A5 notebook.
  • A goodbye letter from my best friend.
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The visa stamp on my passport
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Postcards from my German friend

My little pocket calendar from 1997 and its little painting on the back

To finish the lecture, we went across various printed independent publications that were worth mentioning due to their particular and memorable features and high quality. Such as the Austrian magazine ‘Vangardist’ which was printed using ink mixed with HIV positive blood or the ‘Vogue Gold Millennium Issue’ from December 2000.

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‘Vangardist’ magazine, HIV positive blood issue
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Vogue “The Millennium Gold Issue”, December 2000

Actually, despite the strong impact of the digital medias, the print is still a trend chosen for many for more independent, exclusive and thoughtful products, as there’s still zine fairs, for example and many brands and editorials that rather prefer to make short carefully treated runs -revivalist print-, than long cheap runs.

To sum up, I would like to cite the letter of American designer Jessica Helfand in the last editions of ‘The End of Print’ to her daughter: “Print isn’t dead, sweetheart. It’s just sleeping.” She argues that as long as reading would exist, print won’t die and that reading is something that will never die as “reading is your ticket to the world”.


 

Reference List

Baines, J & Sykes, R. (1016) ‘Think Ink!’ [Lecture to GMD Year 1] T303: Contextual and Theoretical Studies. UAL

Carson, D. and Blackwell, L. (1997). David Carson. New York, NY: Universe Pub.

Hara, K. (2007). Designing design. Baden, Switzerland: Lars Müller Publishers.

Pages, T. (2016). Villemard’s Vision of the Future – Sociological Images. [online] Thesocietypages.org. Available at: https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/03/09/villemards-vision-of-the-future/ [Accessed 6 May 2016].

Poole, B. and →, V. (2012). The End of Print (Again): Why David Carson Still Matters – Print Magazine. [online] Print Magazine. Available at: http://www.printmag.com/design-inspiration/the-end-of-print-again-why-david-carson-still-matters/ [Accessed 6 May 2016].

“Typography and Language”

We got started with the following statement: “Typography can be treated as an image itself

So, yes, contrary to what we’ve been told in the first lecture, text doesn’t need an image to stand by itself. Actually there’s a metaphor that Beatrice Warde uses in her book “The Crystal Goblet” that explains it pretty well: you have to worry about what’s inside the goblet not about the goblet itself. That is to says that the content is much more important than the contender. Despite so, the typography needs to have a relation with the content because, otherwise, it would be just decoration.

We were supposed to understand that typography interferes somehow with how we read and also that the typography needs to be entertaining by its own. This is one of the main principles of 8vo, a graphic design firm founded by Simon Johnston, Mark Holt and Hamish Muir back in 1985. They created, for instance, a new -and weird- disposition for a essay to make it more entertaining, engaging and appealing to the eye.

To sum up, the typography has to work for the text and it is graphic designers jobs to create the relationship between these two subjects. As once David Carson did. He tried to fit a text he was given to the blank space he had by using a 5p font.

Nevertheless, to be able to play around with the text, first you need to know some basic keys about storytelling and narrative processes. The main thing that not even a graphic designer can modify is the Story Classical Line which is roughly the initiation of a conflict until it reaches the climax and its decrease until a resolution is found.

Moreover, we went through an introduction about semiotics which is about signs and its meanings, something very useful for a graphic designer. It all began in the mid 19th century with the Swiss linguistic Professor Ferdinand de Saussure and the American Charles Sanders Peirce. Both of them realised in a short time of difference that there are some meanings that comes naturally, the signifier, and other that are both personal or cultural interpretations, the signified. The first one is called the denotative meaning of the item and the second one, the connotative meaning of it. So we can get the connotation of an X subject by our own reading or because it’s a global cultural and conventional agreement.

Taking this into account the designer can mess around with the different meanings of the words to get the word that fits the best the purpose of the text, its content and its look.