7 [Projects] in 7 [Days]

4
Oct

For my seventh and final project, I wanted to extend my concept from Day 6. Thinking about objects being stripped of their color, or more specifically being painted white, got me thinking about the ghost bikes that have been popping up in more and more cities across the U.S. and Europe.

(For anyone not familiar with the phenomenon, ghost bikes are bicycles that have been painted white and chained to a city landmark to point out the site of a tragic cyclist accident. The movement has been widely embraced and is an incredibly simple yet powerful way of bringing about awareness of car and bicycle safety in hopes of decreasing the number of similar future accidents. More information on the movement can be found here.)

I began thinking about what might make a good candidate for a similar experiment on a smaller scale and kept my eye out for objects while searching for picture frames for Day 6. And while it could be a coincidence, I suspect that my being in a degree program for Design and Technology influenced my final decision of where to take this project: I would paint old, broken-down and most-importantly, deprecated, pieces of technology in order to memorialize both their passing and their contributions to the line of technological innovation.

Now believe it or not, while old technology seems like something that would be easy to find at thrift stores, it turned out to be much harder than I anticipated. Any old tech that I found in the first few shops was $30 or more per item since they were only selling things that still functioned as originally intended. (A shame really, I would have loved to paint a boombox white as part of the project.) It then occurred to me that this would most likely be an ongoing issue, since people generally would be looking to buy items that actually work, not just delapidated pieces of technological history. Feeling somewhat discouraged, I finally went to a thrift store (Monk Thrift Shop) near Washington Square Park, and hit the jackpot. Apparently they stock a lot of old as-is technology and housewares thanks to the demand from NYU film students shooting period pieces for school projects—if you’re ever in need of some really cool old but very aesthetically interesting items, definitely check it out.

Walking out of the thrift shop, I had come away with a stellar and comically large old alarm clock (practically the size of a small ArtBin) an old analog phone, a broken-down desk lamp, a massive solar-powered calculator, a couple old mix cassette tapes, and the keyboard [and all the relevant computer chips/brains] of a TRS-80 microcomputer, one of the first personal computers manufactured for public consumption in the late 70s. Once home I really could not bring myself to paint something of that vintage and significance, so the TRS-80 did not make it into the shoot. And for that measure, the phone—a beautiful bright cherry red color—was allowed to keep its hue as an accent to its soon-to-be-colorless friends. But the rest of the items came up to the roof with me and my can of spray paint and joined the white picture frames, undergoing a full color-stripping/white-washing session. (A few of the items, the lamp in particular, I painted with a very heavy hand in order to achieve an especially crackly/distressed look.)

 

 

I placed the objects together for a quick photoshoot, then arranged them in positions that would be similar to their intended use to replicate the bikes being placed on the street at the scene where the cyclist was injured or killed. I staged two main scenes: one with the broken-down desk lamp and large calculator at my desk, now surrounded by smaller, more powerful equipment; and another with the clock radio at my bedside table.

 



 

 

I’m very happy with the outcome of the project; the objects took on an almost haunting ethereal quality that really portrays the mood that I was hoping to achieve in honor of the ghost bike memorials.

Pictures of all the objects before, during and after their brush with a can of spray paint can be seen below, in additional to some more pictures and references regarding the ghost bike movement.

 

 

Ghost Technology | Photo Documentation

 

Ghost Bike photos retrieved from:
http://www.bikerumor.com/2009/08/05/ghost-bike-mystery-in-washington-heights-ny/
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/05/ghost-bikes-are-memorials.php
http://nbbb.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/baltimores-first-ghost-bike/
http://distantduck.blogspot.com/2008/12/ghost-bikes.html

Additional information and photos can be found at the ghostbike website: http://ghostbikes.org
You can read about the original inspiration for the current incarnation of ghost bikes at http://www.ghostbike.net/

Category : 7 [Projects] in 7 [Days] | Fall 2010 | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
3
Oct

For my sixth project, I wanted to investigate the other side of color: what happens when you selectively remove color from object. To explore this concept, I visited a handful of thrift shops looking for that objects that might make a good victim from which to strip all color (in reality by adding a layer of white paint; I use the term “stripping” to refer to the symbolic removal of color and color-meaning from the object). In one of the thrift stores, I came upon a large collection of worn down pictures and picture frames, and I decided to use them as my subject. Picture frames are built with an explicity purpose: to display visual works of art, whether they be drawings, paintings, photographs, or even just documents such as a diploma or certificate (or even 4th grade report card). Whatever the intended inhabitant, the frame’s purpose is the same. I wanted to take this purpose away from the frames by painting their artwork and matting in a flat white paint, and some of the frames themselves white as well. (I had originally planned to paint everything white—frames, glass, images, and everything—but the San Francisco hippie in me couldn’t bare to waste the materials that I might otherwise be able to reuse, or to cover up the few frames that were so rustic in their bare wood finish that it seemed a crime to cover it up.

 


 

The frames varied from empty frames to ones featuring words of inspiration, to a photo print that is actually signed and numbered by the photographer, to my personal favorite: a framed card of several polar bears, with matting that had actually had a polar bear paw print cut directly into the matting. (Classy.) The entire haul of nine picture frames cost somewhere around $35— a small price to pay for an explorative project, especially once I realized I could use the materials again after the life of this particular project.

Once home, I laid out the picture frames to create a collage that would display all the frames in one grid, intending to hang the finished pieces on my wall once finished. (Always nice when schoolwork doubles as an interesting piece for your own interior design pursuits.) With a few empty spaces to fill, I used a couple extra artifacts—an old phone and a giant solar-powered calculator I had found at one of the other thrift stores— to complete the composition.

 


 

The next step was the remove the glass and any images I didn’t want to destroy from the frames, and to lay them back out in their gride to document the change. With the words of inspiration gone, along with the polar bears and melodramatic seagull photograph, the composition took on a different vibe already; I snapped a few pictures quickly and eagerly took the pieces up to the roof to begin painting them with a flat white spray paint in order to strip them of both color and any glossy texture they may possess.

 


 

Other than the heavy winds on my roof, the painting process went smoothly and gave the frames and images an interesting ethereal quality. I let them dry and took them back to my room to reassemble them in their grid, and was excited to see the results.

 


 

Despite each frame being completely devoid of color (with the exception of one frame that I left a water-stained piece of off-white paper in to maintain a strong sense of the frames being found objects) the composition was still not only pleasant and balanced but actually visually interesting. A collection of silly prints and broken-down frames that had been discarded had taken on a new life that was a stark departure from their original use.

 


 

Once morning hits and my roommate is no longer sleeping on the other side of my wall, I plan to actually hang the frames in this exact grid to serve as my visual headboard—an element of my room that I had yet to purchase or create over the 2+ months I’ve been living here. Once that is finished I’ll be sure to post another picture to show these reborn picture frames (and friends) in their new roles. I also suspect that after I get everything hung up I may find myself deciding to finish what I started and paint the entire assemblage white, frames and all…but for now I wanted to give the repurposed wood frames a chance to shine on their own.

Category : 7 [Projects] in 7 [Days] | Fall 2010 | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
2
Oct

For Project 5, I wanted to look into color and it’s role in the socio-digital landscape, so turned to internet for its abundance of interesting social network analysis tools. I settled on Trendistic.com, a website that allows you to enter up to six keywords for analysis, at which point it returns to you the prevalence of those key words over a given interval. Without a registered membership you are constrained to 24 hours, 7 days, or 30 days—with a membership, you can see up to 180 days of keyword data. Most interesting about the tool is that for all of these time spans, it allows you hover over past dates and see what the main tweets for each keyword were for that day. While perhaps not earth-shattering, it is interesting to get a quick glimpse into the twitter-past.

 


I started by simply entering in the six main colors of the rainbow (sorry Indigo, you didn’t make the cut) and seeing how they stacked up against each other. The color red was by far the most tweeted of the colors, although it quickly became clear that this was not about color preference; “red” has worked its way into many phrases in our lexicon, whether in idiomatic expressions or names of sports teams. (The Red Sox were quite well-represented over the time span, as were phrases like “red tape” or “red states’. In fact, the largest spike for red in September turns out to have coincided with the video Music Awards—tweeters across the country seem to have been tweeting enthusiastically about the “red carpet” appearances of their favorite stars.

 


 

Red Sox Nation makes its Twitter presence heard:

 

Curious about the color savvy of the Twitter universe, I then tried my hand at some more obscure color phrases. I first popped in some more color-specific hues that might not have made it into the everyday vernacular, (I went with aubergine, chartreuse, teal, fuschia, taupe and seafoam green) and then inputted color terminology (I chose color theory, spectrum, hue, tint, chroma, and saturation). While if I searched for each word separately I got a few hits, there were not enough posts using these words to do any sort of comparison over time, leaving me with some depressingly empty charts. Besides, even when I did get individual hits, it generally pertained to someone’s fingernails or was complaining about a homework assignment for a color theory class.

 


 

Come on Color-Loving Tweeters. Get better:

I would be curious to try a more robust analysis tool to look at more complicated correlations among social network posts and see if there are larger forces at work. It seems hard to believe to me that there are really that few people tweeting about color theory…but alas, most people probably haven’t hit the level of nerd-dom that I’m currently pursuing with a vengeance. Despite the lack of use of the word “chroma”, however, the variations in the frequency of the simple colors of the rainbow was an interesting way to see not only the how often each color is used in twitter, but also how deeply the names of these colors have pervaded our cultural lexicon.

 

Category : 7 [Projects] in 7 [Days] | Fall 2010 | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
1
Oct

For my fourth project, I have to admit I was at a loss. I had done some preparations for one of the larger planned projects, but it began raining which really put a damper on my plans to spray paint outside. (Project still to come but moved later in the weekend. Stay tuned.) So with the hours in the day winding down, I looked around my room to figure out a Plan B.

Now one thing you should know about me is that I love shoes. And I have a lot of them. Not just like a dozen or even a couple dozen, like a LOT of shoes. I also, as you have hopefully gleaned by now given that it’s the entire inspiration for and point of my 7×7 projects, I love color. So in my massive collection of shoes, I also have a lot of colorful shoes. I’m honestly not sure whether or not we can blame this one on sleep deprivation or just a passing whim, but once I took a look at my shoe racks (plural) I decided maybe it would be fun to see if I could make a full color spectrum just using shoes and see where I might go from there. The answer was a resounding yes—not only could I make a full rainbow, I could make a rainbow with transitions between colors, and multiple pairs of shoes per color. (Blue being the only exception, apparently I’m not generally fond of blue footwear.) I set the shoe rainbow up on my window sill since it was the cleanest/widest surface I had on hand, and snapped a few pictures. Looking at my camera to see how they turned out, I then saw the rainbow striped “HELL YES!” sign from the New Museum that you can see from my window—which I had totally forgotten about—in the background. The rest of the pictures from there on out made sure to integrate the sign into the composition somehow.

I’ll admit that this project isn’t exactly breaking the barrier of creative analysis, but I thought it was a fun little experiment both in playing with color that also had a surprising introspective element; I was glad to see that I put my money where my mouth is (literally) when it comes to my love of color in all aspects of my life…and wardrobe.

 

Category : 7 [Projects] in 7 [Days] | Fall 2010 | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
30
Sep

For my third project, I wanted to explore the interaction of people and color when drawing in a public space. The goal was to note two different aspects of people’s behavior when presented with a drawing surface and a full color spectrum of pens: to see if certain colors were used more than others, and to see if the imagery drawn by the user changed at all depending on the color chosen.

To set this up, I bought a long roll of paper 24″ wide by 12′ long and several sets of markers. I offerred two pen-type choices: double-sided Crayola markers that had a light and dark version of each color per pen, and TeeJuice “Really Juicy” fabric markers to allow for a more painterly/graffiti-like quality to the imagery if desired by the user. The catch was that I didn’t just leave a bin of markers and see what they drew—I tied each market to a piece of plastic lace and fastened them to the wall evenly spaced along the length of the paper order to keep the different areas of the paper segregated by color. I allowed for some overlap between adjacent colors, but each color had its own space to inhabit.

In picking a place to set it up, I needed to find somewhere easily accessible where people would see it, but also someplace with enough wall space to hang up something of that size. After talking with some friends about placement strategy, we decided to take advantage of the building’s atrocious elevators and hang it there so that people waiting (with nothing better to do) might draw for a minute or two. This turned out to be a great place for it from a number of users standpoint, although it did have an impact on the subject matter of the drawing. (More than a few ended up being rants on the shitty elevator system.) I set the paper up at around 1:30pm and collected it at 1:30am on my way home.

 

The results didn’t end up pointing to any particular color-related trends, although given that there wasn’t a lot of space each drawing space was already affected by those near it, making that type of comparison sketchy at best. (Anyone drawing in the yellow “section” for example would be subconsciously impacted by both green and orange things in the same space.) There was, however, a noticeable preference for the blue markers, followed by green—an interesting follow-up to my Day 1 assignment which showed the exact same top leaders in general color preference. Now in that particular case the preference might have been inflated due to the fact that space constraints led to the paper being placed vertically and both colors were at mid-height, making drawing slightly easier logistically. But the correlation was interesting nonetheless. Also interesting was that pink was literally never used by anyone other than myself (I had drawn the pig in pink to seed some pink contributors, wondering if maybe people just hadn’t seen the pink markers since they were the lowest to the ground.) Apparently the combination of it being a less popular color coupled with the low drawing height was the kiss of death for the pink markers.

A few comments and drawing stood out for me in particular, shown below. One comment complimented the paint pens which made me happy (always nice when someone appreciates your choices!), and someone else had apparently taken it upon themselves to leave me constructive criticism telling me that the strings were too short for easy drawing (ironic since that was exactly the point of their existence in the first place). Most interesting as far as relevance was the comment “I want to write in red down here!” written in blue down in the blue section, which I thought was encouraging—at least somebody understood that there was purposeful color separation! And the award for most entertaining: a quirky drawing of a duck/bird saying “I lay motherfucking eggs!”. Irrelevant? Perhaps. But hands-down my favorite.

Photos of setting up and the results are below.

 

Drawing in a Public Space | Photo Documentation

Category : 7 [Projects] in 7 [Days] | Fall 2010 | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
29
Sep

For my second project, I decided to look at the effect of color on the identity of three companies that we all know well and have been taught to recognize at even the quickest glance: Starbucks, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. It is fairly common knowledge that the colors a company chooses to represent themselves play a large part in defining the tone and personality of that company. But rarely do we actually take those logos that we know almost too well and try to examine them with fresh eyes.

In order to examine the ways in which colors impact the feel of each of these three companies, I went in search of some good source material with camera in hand. A passing Coca-Cola truck made for a great way to show the impact of color on Coke’s brand and image, and after I wandered a bit without finding as clean a view of the others as I would have liked, I sourced the images of a Starbucks sign and a McDonald’s restaurant location from the illustrious interwebs.

For each of the three companies, I opened up the corresponding image in Photoshop and isolated only the parts of the photo that corresponded to their color identities. From there, I ran through a series of different hue shifts to see what the logo would look like had it been designed with different colors from the beginning. The changes in mood and personality between the different “colorways” are very interesting to see, and emphasize the large role that color plays not only in designing a company’s corporate identity, but also in our daily logo-viewing lives. And besides, who wouldn’t want to see what a lime green and hot pink McDonald’s would look like? I smell an opportunity for a new McDonald’s tweens-only chain…

The results of these color experiments are below.

Color [play].

Category : 7 [Projects] in 7 [Days] | Fall 2010 | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
28
Sep

For my first project, I wanted to investigate our personal relationships with color; namely, how these relationships frame our perception both of the color itself and of ourselves. From a young age, children are repeatedly asked to tell the class, their friends, their grandparents, and so on, what their favorite color is. It’s a perfectly appropriate question to ask a young child—it allows them to practice their language and decision-making skills while also giving them an early opportunity for introspection—but I have to wonder whether this constant reaffirmation of such a simple preference can in some way shape our relationship with color (and the chosen favorite color in particular) going forward.

In order to look into this idea of an individual’s relationship with color, I decided to collect some data to translate into an infographic that would show both the amount of people who picked each color, and the feelings or associations they have for/with that color. I chose to keep the data down to two main variables: the person’s favorite color, and the first three words that come to mind to describe that color. Going into the experiment, I honestly expected there to be many more correlations between the descriptors than actually occured—it seemed like anyone who chose blue would throw out the ubiquitous “calm” or “peaceful”, or that those who chose green would more often than not include “nature”/”natural”—but much to my [pleasant] surprise, the responses were as varied as the people I was polling. Responses varied from descriptors of the color itself (e.g. “bright”), to objects of that color that the person immediately thought of (e.g. “tree” or “ocean”), to more abstract base feelings or concepts that the person had imbued upon the color, such as “playful”, “encompassing”, and “possibilities”.

The breadth of the responses both in type and specific word choice showed an interesting range in the way that people relate to their favorite colors. Some see it simply as an attribute of other things in their lives (“sky”, “ocean”) suggesting that the fondness they have for the color has perhaps more to do with the objects that it reminds them of than the color itself; others, however, give the color such a deep personality of its own that it is clear that the relationship that they have with the color is richer than just a passing preference. It was fun to see who among the group had as deep an affection for the power that color possesses as I have always had.

In order to visualize the data, I wanted to create some kind of infographic using the frequency of each color’s selection and the words supplied by the friends polled. My base idea was to stack the words to make a bar chart showing the relative popularity of the colors, but this seemed a bit plain. I stacked the words in that format and started to play with their alignment and orientation, and began to shift my plans for representing the data. Below I began to experiment with stacking all the colors together into one continuous line instead of separating them into different bars, while also eliminating any repeated words and replacing them with words whose size is proportional to the amount of times the word is used (like a tag cloud).

Early Experimentation with Data Placement

Once I saw the pattern that the words made when stacked together, especially when joined with a label for the individual color on a horizontal plane, I was immediately reminded of a cityscape and decided to pursue this visual line of thought in order to join my lifelong love of color with my recent relocation to New York City. After playing with the colors and placement, I created three different views of this urban “Colorscape”: a city during daylight hours, a greener city during daylight, and a city at night, shown below.

Daytime City Colorscape

 
Grassy Colorscape

 
Nighttime City Colorscape

Of these, I found the nighttime cityscape to be the most successful, and the one I chose as the final product of the experiment. I found it interesting to see which colors were more or less represented on the map—one always expects to see blue as the top choice on a favorite color list but as I suspected going in, the color green has had a surge in popularity in recent years (in no doubt thanks to the “green” initiatives and imagery that have saturated our visual lives). I was also surprised to see that black had a sizeable following, more than red or pink which seem more likely to be listed as someone’s favorite color. All in all, I thought the results of the experiment were both entertaining and enlightening, both with respect to my understanding of color as part of a person’s identity as well as with respect to my own insights into the friends I spoke with. (The color and descriptors chosen in almost every case articulated or uncovered a distinct part of each person’s personality.) While this project will most likely be the most analytical/hands-off as far as physical creation of objects or artwork is concerned, I found the work gratifying in its end results and am glad that I pursued this as one of my seven investigations.

A higher-resolution version of the nighttime Colorscape is linked to the in-post-sized image above; please click on the image to see the words that resulted from the experiment in better detail. I must say, there are some pretty good ones.

Category : 7 [Projects] in 7 [Days] | Fall 2010 | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
28
Sep

In the MFA Design + Technology program, the 7 in 7 project (abbreviated as 7×7 in writing) is almost a rite of passage. For seven days in a row, we have to complete a standalone project, each tied to the others by some theme or constraint that we set for ourselves. Though the mere creation of seven projects in seven days is daunting enough, coming up with a constraint is equally challenging. You don’t want to pick something too conceptually limited, but you also don’t want it to be too simple so as not to challenge yourself—and most of all, you really don’t want it to be a complete cliche.

For my 7×7 project, I decided to keep my constraint relatively simple in order to allow for a wide range of experimentation, while staying within a realm that I find incredibly rich and interesting: each project must in some way perform an investigation in color. When I first had this idea, I feared it might end up falling into the cliched category, leading me to stumble into a trite seven-colors-in-the-rainbow approach. But upon further contemplation, I realized that there are many different angles from which I could investigate color; color theory, the psychology of color, the impact of texture on color, the use of color in everyday design (both professional and non-designer created), the impact of color in fashion, and so on are all independently rich areas for exploration.

So now, armed with my charged quest to explore as many facets of Color as I can discover, 7×7 officially begins.

Category : 7 [Projects] in 7 [Days] | Fall 2010 | Major Studio: Interface | Blog