2013 roundup – 5 favourites from the last year

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‘Face Stamps’ by Hüman After All at Pick Me Up

2013! It was a good year for talks, exhibitions and interactive experiences, providing plenty of inspiration for fresh graduates like myself. Here are the five events and releases I found most interesting, in the fields of graphic design and interactive storytelling.

 

Tom Gauld at the Typographic Circle

I went to Tom Gauld’s talk at the Typographic Circle in March, which was a great insight into how his irreverent, witty comics and illustrations are written and drawn. It was interesting to hear how his early fascination with Lego influenced his love of robots and his modular drawing style. Surprisingly, he spoke about his drawings as a sort of typeface, a distinct library of visual parts that can be fitted together in different ways. This speeds up creating his work (Gauld is a regular contributor to The Guardian) but is also part of what makes his visual style so distinct. Also, the badges he created for the event were great:

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Badges by Tom Gauld for his Typographic Circle talk

 

Memory Palace at the V&A Museum

A curious thing, Memory Palace was an exhibition at the V&A, based on a book. The book was written by Hari Kunzru and illustrated by a broad and eclectic selection of artists, illustrators and designers. It is a tale of murky and sometimes fantastic recollections of modern London, told by a prisoner in a post-apocalyptic future. The protagonist’s memories are mentally stored around his cell, using the Memory Palace mnemonic technique. The exhibition presents the Palace, creating a walk-in storybook with accompanying illustrations, sculptures and interactive bits.

For me, the real advantage of the exhibition format was the change in scale from the book: illustrations that cover half a page are turned into huge sculptures that the viewer can walk around and examine. In particular, a huge 3d paper illustration of a warped NHS doctor-salesman by Le Gun was much more vivid than the reduced sketch printed in the book.

While the format creates new problems for the viewer (navigating around other visitors is distracting, like being in a noisy cinema audience), I thought the exhibition was a brave presentation of an interesting story, and an experience I hope the V&A and other galleries will build on in the future.

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3D Illustration by Le Gun

 

The Stanley Parable by Galactic Cafe

The Stanley Parable is a computer game that surprised me in two ways: with its intelligent, self-aware commentary of game design, and the successful reception that such a concept-heavy game received.

On a basic level, The Stanley Parable is a giant interactive choose-your-own adventure book, with a branching story and multiple endings. You (the player) are Stanley, a computer operator who one day comes to the realisation that his slightly surreal, artificial office is completely and mysteriously abandoned. The Narrator provides constant commentary on what Stanley should do according to the story – but the game gives you the freedom to either follow or rebel against the Narrator’s designed path and challenge Stanley’s predestination.

To say too much would be to spoil the surprise of playing it, but if you are interested there is a good full review at Rock Paper Shotgun here.

For me, the critical and commercial success of the game is representative of the maturing of gaming as a medium. In a year when the two giants of the mainstream gaming industry, Microsoft and Sony, released their newest console iterations, The Stanley Parable is evidence of a growing appetite amongst audiences for smaller, less glitzy experiences which forgo fancy graphics and production values in favour of intelligent, thought-provoking experiences.

Where You Are by Visual Editions

Visual Editions’ latest printed publication continues their exploration into non-linear print. Where You Are is a collection of 16 short stories, each by a different artist or writer, told through maps. The design, by Bibliotheque, does a good job of showing the individuality of each story without sacrificing the visual integrity of the collection. It’s really quite lovely, and has an accompanying ‘taster’ website, too.

 

Pick Me Up at Somerset House

Pick Me Up at Somerset House this year was fantastic. The exhibition has always been about hands-on graphics, and exhibitors continued a trend towards showing lo-fi DIY printing. Hüman After All’s ‘Face Stamps’ were my highlight: a collection of stamp illustrations that visitors could use to create their own faces. Simple, but brilliant:

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Some pages made using ‘Face Stamps’ by Hüman After All at Pick Me Up

2014 is already promising an equally exciting array of design talks, books and exhibitions. HOLO, a new print magazine written and published by the team behind Creative Applications is due to be released imminently. I’m looking forward to seeing who is lined up to speak at the Typographic Circle this year (ad man Dave Trott is scheduled on January 30th), and hoping Pick Me Up continues a great programme of workshops and interactive exhibits when the festival returns in the spring.

http://www.creativeapplications.net/holo/

http://typocircle.com/

 http://www.visual-editions.com/

http://pickmeuplondon.com/

http://www.vam.ac.uk

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