BA GA PL Derek Yates interviews Mat Heinl, CEO of Moving Brands

On the 8th Sept, Moving Brands CEO Mat Heinl, joined author and educator, Derek Yates to deliver a keynote presentation at the bi-annual conference of the Graphic Design Educators Network at Cardiff Metropolitan University in South Wales. The theme of the conference this year was ‘Exploring Territories’ and Derek and Mat were to expand on an interview featured in Derek’s book, ‘Communication Design Insights from the Creative Industries’ by discussing ‘the benefits of open ended, prototype driven, enquiry and why embracing failure could be the real key to survival for today’s creative graduates.’

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The presentation kicked off with a screening of ‘Play’ a short film that explores MBs approach the research, development and problem solving. After the film Derek asked Mat to describe how MB make space for such an expansive and exploratory approach outside of the ‘design friendly’ clients that occupy the cultural sector. This sparked a discussion around the importance of designers being able to articulate ideas ‘beyond the echo chamber.’ A case study film of MBs work with Hewlett Packard provided a perfect illustration here and allowed the discussion to move on to the importance of the iteration and how development processes with the contemporary communication industries have evolved beyond those necessitated by the limitations of print. Derek described how digital agencies talk about a ‘minimum viable product’ and seeking to perfect in the marketplace, but Mat was quick to point out that there is an honour in going for perfection and that MB want to get something absolutely right and are prepared to stay until it is.

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From here it was an easy jump to a discussion about the benefits of embracing failure as a key tool of learning in both education and in design practice. Derek pointed out that in contemporary Higher Education the need for accountability against league tables and performance matrices has created a grade obsessed achievement culture. In this context embracing failure seems counter intuitive and open-ended experimentation and risk taking became more difficult to promote. Mat stressed that at MB risk is deemed inherent to success and maybe focusing on the word ‘failure’ was not helpful. There needs to be a certainty that a project will be delivered, whatever the ambition. Experience has taught them not ‘to be framed by their capabilities’ and instead they see each task is an opportunity to extend these capabilities.

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Derek and Mat concluded their conversation by discussing the benefits of collaborative, cross disciplinary enquiry. Derek pointed out that within Higher Education, institutional pressures related to assessment and a need to differentiate courses against an employment aspiration can obstruct genuine exploration with students from other areas. Mat talked of the need to ‘disrupt the subject silo’ and how designers should not think of themselves a ‘swiss army knife’ of different services. He also stressed that MB differentiate between collaboration and cooperation, they do both and have an understanding when each is appropriate.

Derek concluded the presentation with a screening of ‘Type Here’ a project produced by one his recent graduates, Ed Hatfield, which illustrates really well some of the ideas that he and Mat had explored in their discussion.

This blog article was originally written for Moving Brands

Generative Graphic Arts – Festival Forte 2016

This article profiles Graphic Arts lecturer Jaygo Bloom’s latest outcrop of creative endeavours as he takes on lead concept development, artistic direction and production for the Festival Forte playground. Montemor-O-Velho. Portugal. Showcasing three new generative public artworks created by Jaygo utilising code, GLSL fragment shaders, projection mapping, video synthesis and 3D form fabrication.

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Late summer nights 25th – 29th August I took to the role of lead AudioVisual Development for Festival Forte an international Electronic Art and Techno Music festival held within the saw-toothed, stone embattlements of Castelo de Montemor-O-Velho, Portugal, a centuries-old fort predating the founding of Portugal.

Initial site visits and discussions with the festival organiser and local community helped me to settle on three locations: The castle gardens, the castle courtyard and church. Mapping three points of generative activity within the festival grounds for the tired crowds to relax within, take in the scene and catch a breather some distance away from the booming techno acts playing live on stage.

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A personal highlight was developing work for the Santa Maria De Alcacova church. Every evening the crowds would drift towards the green light emanating from the church enclave, inside a pixel perfect mapped structure, visible from the gates a slow, undulating, generative video synthesis, reminiscent of early video engineer Nam June Paik, illuminating the arched screen towering four metres above and suspended two feet from the floor between slender spiral pillars.

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A short walk away in the castle courtyard, I took to the task of mapping twenty large, square paving stones and illuminating these through a random generative sequence, made possible through code and the abstract and complex universe of Fragment Shaders, mapped by an overhead strobe rigged to a metal frame.

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As happens so often when making for public interaction, the work soon realised itself as a generative, interactive dance floor; a reworking of those initial coded experiments by John Conway back in the 1960s, the subject of Artificial Life. A-Life for millennial’s, after hours entertainment fuelled by a raw sense of fun and acute acid contortions. One 20-something guy in a red T-shirt tested a paving stone with one foot, as if checking for boobytraps, while others danced from stone to stone in an attempt to keep up with the lights.

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Situated in the castle gardens with a panorama across the entire Montemor-O-Velho valley, I erected a towering four metre cubed, L- shaped, white monolith, mapped structure. Throughout the night this became a haven for phased out folk, surrounded at times by a few dozen revellers, exploring its minimal form as a place to rest, absorbed within the rich, analogue video synthesis projected on its shape from all sides, punctuating the horizon line from dusk till dawn with a digital, other-worldliness.

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At around 8pm on Sunday before Michael Mayers played the defining closing act, I watched the sunset with around 40 others, facing westward as the last vestige of light sank into the distance. The installations had been switched off, the festival was winding down, but the party still going strong.

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Festival Forte has conquered me since its first edition, the acts and the quality of the performances, the special care and integration of audio visual interactives and festival artworks. The vibe that only a small festival can offer, is perhaps the closest you can get to that original spirit that led someone one day to thinking about joining thousands of people in one place, to listen to and dance to music and celebrate coming together, creating a half utopia around a half dozen days.

Next year I recommend you all be there to open your ears to new sounds and escape from the boredom of the real world. See you there!

 

[This article first appeared on the WSA Graphic Arts blog at http://www.winchesterstudio.soton.ac.uk/2016/09/20/generative-graphic-arts-festival-forte-2016/]