CTS – Authorship & Storytelling

Authorship and Storytelling are important aspects of design.

Authorship is about creating work and responsibility for the “whole” but typically we talk about authorship in regards to books because fewer people are typically responsible for that book.

So authorship varies depending on the medium as while Mary Shelley is the author of Frankenstein while someone like Martin Scorsese is the Director of Goodfellas but is not responsible for all of the authored content.

Roland Barthes suggests that when reading a book the reader is consuming text rather than articulation of a person so Mary Shelley is the author of Frankenstein but the reader does not necessarily read anything about Mary Shelley in the book so the relationship is independent.

Authors are rarely credited for there work. For instance many of us in the room will not be credited for things we work on because a collective of people typically work on a project (especially in video games) so the “Developer” could be Square Enix but hundreds of people will work on a game. It is impractical to name who is responsible for every individual aspect so in a sense the work that designers do is rarely credited to them.

Authorship is not the norm: It is an unusual thing that affords status to individuals.

Wim Crouwel 

Jan Van Toorn thought that you may not always be credited for your work but you are still responsible for it and present for it so you have a moral and ethical responsibility to work (or not) work with a design. He argued that you will always be present in your design.

If you design something you still have an ethical responsibility in design because you are creating something that will represent different things for different people. For instance if you design something for a controversial item, such as cigarettes, and even if you are not credited you still think about if it is ethical. However it is not always practical because you can’t necessarily expect someone to give up a job because they were told to design a cigarette packet and refused.

When you, as the author, are part of a team (like in games design), are you trying to connect the user to an idea or if you work in advertising you do you connect the user to the brand and make them want it? For instance in video games you might want to teach the player mechanics and you have to design a way to do that, while if you worked in advertising then for Apple they used to have adverts with people as silhouettes dancing so everyone could identify with the people dancing, having fun and listening to music because there was no identity of the person portrayed in the advert.

Critical Design

Critical Design is a way of a designer tackling an issue they feel passionate about and have something to say, for instance instead of protesting you could create a work of art that conveys a protest against something.

Design Fiction

Design Fiction is essentially fiction about how design might change in the future and how it might impact us. It is speculative and not really predictive but to think “If these are the trends we follow today then how will it change in the next ten or twenty years?”.


CTS Glastonbury Exhibit @ V&A Museum

For this week we were asked to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and to see the Glastonbury Exhibit there. We had to talk about how it was designed (how we interpreted the design) to convey the purpose of the exhibit.

I have uploaded all the photos I took and will talk about them in the order they are presented. However first I will talk about the entrance to the exhibit, which on reflection I realize I did not photograph.

I found it quite confusing to find the entrance to the exhibit as from the entrance to the V&A there didn’t seem to be any immediate signposts (then again it was quite busy and my eyesight is comparatively poor) and although I eventually found the way to it, this was frustrating. However it is worth noting that eventually the exhibit is signposted by florally painted oil drums, empty (I presume), with arrows pointing in the direction you need to go.

I thought this was quite interesting as from what I know of Glastonbury it is sometimes associated  with what you could call liberal or “hippy” moods so the bright and colorful displays made me think that sort of way of thinking (I’m not sure how to articulate it properly) is part of the spirit of the festival. The actual entrance to the exhibit was quite small and nondescript, a few doors to open and then black walls with pictures, information or projection-enabled exhibits.

Photo #1 & 2: I wasn’t sure what the copper models were meant to represent as I couldn’t see a little stand with information on it and part of this display was cordoned off. However I think it is probably symbolic of Glastonbury Festival’s site, being based on a farm, with animal figures and trees and the triangular shapes possibly representing tents. As for the metal crab I have absolutely no idea.

Photo #3: You can see the (blurry) photo of a map of the Glastonbury site which shows various facts and figures about the festival each year. Some of these include the length of it (5 days), how many people visit, how much it costs, the size of the site and various other facts and figures.

Photo #4: This wall gave a bit more information about the purpose of the exhibit, to inform about “the sights, sounds and stories of the Glastonbury Festival” and take you on a journey through it.

Photo #6: The environmentally friendly messages give you an insight into the ethos of the organizers behind the festival, but I also noticed that the exhibit isn’t just plastered onto the actual walls of the V&A but instead on walls of black (cloth?) material and metal pipes, much like scaffolding and displays at the actual festival. I thought this was a nice touch and a surprisingly subtle way of giving you an idea of what it is like to be at the festival as its not something you will necessarily notice straight away, if at all.

Photo #7: A makeshift tent had projections of people at the festival on it. I noticed later on that when it displayed a scene of a rainy vista at the festival the sound system in the V&A mimicked this with raindrops. It wasn’t too loud but I thought it was a nice touch.

Photo #8: The walls were covered with newspapers scrappings, posters and more that served as a collage of how the festival and coverage of it has evolved over the years. I find exhibits like this quite hard to read so I assume that the purpose is less about the detail and more about showing off that Glastonbury Festival is a cultural event that has endured for decades.

Photo #9 & 12: You can see a wall where people had been asked to take post-it paper notes and write their DOB, what year they visited and who performed, to show what Glastonbury means as an event but also has meant on a personal level to individuals over the years. It reminded me of when I visited Japan years ago in 2008 and saw a temple where people took little wooden blocks and inscribed things on it, my Japanese friend told me that it was the equivalent of offering prayers or saying “Take care of my loved one”. It was a little overwhelming and although you can’t tell from the photo each stack of notes was quite deep so even from the limited people who have been able to go the exhibit it obviously has memories for people.

Photo #10: This photo shows another board of information explaining some of the thinking behind why “Pyramid” is such a symbol associated with Glastonbury (the main stage is called the Pyramid Stage, unless i’m completely mistaken).

Photo #11: This gives you a view inside the aforementioned tent, and people lay inside on beanbag/sleeping bag seats to recreate the tent and festival feeling. It was quite interesting to see and I imagine it holds more relevance to people who have actually been to the festival.

Overall I thought the Exhibit was actually a little confusing and maybe disappointing. As someone who only really knows about Glastonbury Festival anecdotally (from friends, family and accounts on the internet) I was surprised at how small the exhibit was. I also felt like there wasn’t a natural flow to the exhibit as the way I would have designed it, or the way I would have preferred, is to be slightly more “Glastonbury over the years”. For instance last year for CTS we had to visit the Science Museum and visit the Information Age exhibit. It was much larger than this but also confusing as there wasn’t a “Follow this path to see the evolution of technology over the years” and instead was a bit more patchwork.

Even though this exhibit was very small it felt confusing as well, however visually I got a strong sense of what Glastonbury was about and recognized iconography from it (the scaffolding/tent/pyramids) and I thought the use of projection and sound was very effective in making me subtly immersed in it. I would be interested to see what people who are more intimately familiar with Glastonbury would think of the exhibition.

CTS Non Visual Experiences

Non Visual Experiences

Since one of our primary senses and one we rely on is our “sight” it is a very important sense to take into consideration when designing things if you work in media or design industries, although other senses are important.

SIGHT – Visual (Eyes)

SOUND – Audible (Ears)

TOUCH – Haptic (Skin)

TASTE – Gustatory (Tongue/Nose)

SMELL – Olfactory (Nose)

Sound is also very important (music or talking/anything you can hear relies on this sound so it can affect video games tremendously) and can add atmosphere and depth to televisions shows and visual mediums and even art galleries sometimes use music to help set the mood or atmosphere for a particular exhibition. For instance I went to the Victoria & Albert Museum to see the Exhibition on Glastonbury and another Exhibition on Music had Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” playing.

Smell and Taste are hard to incorporate into designs as TV and Movies and Video Games don’t uses them as senses, but Touch is easy as controllers for Video Games typically have vibration features to convey haptic feedback.

I have been into sweet shops and they use sweet smells and bright colors to make it feel like a Willy Wonka esque candyland. I also went on a tour of the Cadbury’s Factory in Birmingham years ago and they gave us an ungodly amount of free samples which actually turned me off chocolate forever.

You could divide these senses into two groups; Contact and Distance senses. Contact senses require you to touch something, obviously, while Distance does not require this.

Distance Senses; SIGHT, SOUND

Contact Senses; TOUCH, TASTE, SMELL

These are not strict categories though as some could argue that smelling is a distant sense because you do not have to be near an object to smell it, but you could equally say that touching particles from the object with your nose makes it a contact sense. Honestly I think to argue about it to that degree is being needlessly pedantic.

Conservative estimates place the amount of scientific senses at roughly ten;

  1. Vision
  2. Hearing
  3. Smell
  4. Taste
  5. Touch
  6. Pain
  7. Mechanoreception
  8. Balance
  9. Temperature
  10. Blood Pressure

The more scientifically liberal minded believe there are thousands of senses.

Constance Classen “The Witches Senses”

Ocularcentric – Centred Around Sight

Cutaneous – Relating To, Or Affecting, The Skin

Somatic – Relating To The Body, Especially Separate From The Mind

Visceral – Relating To Deep, Inward Feelings As Opposed To Intellect.