I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to some leading designers in two London multidisciplinary design studios, over the last two days. I shared my project with them and they replied with some honest and useful feedback, expressing both their praise and their concerns about the direction I’m going in. It was actually really great to get out of the studio for a bit and get some fresh perspectives, and it was incredibly useful for me in knowing what to expect whence I graduate.
On the good side, everyone seemed to understand and appreciate the project as a whole, it has legs and potential as an idea – so no fundamental issues there. The designers responded positively to the data I’m working with, one particularly enjoying the infographic from CNNMoney (http://money.cnn.com/interactive/economy/personal-space/ or see below) and encouraging me to use that as a starting point for the branding of the experience. There is definitely a theme emerging with the circle, from the projection to the infographic to the dial phone itself, so I’m definitely thinking of using it for the identity of the project.
The first designer had a bit of an issue with the visibility and accessibility of the project, and suggested that the installation should be open to more than one person at once, to further promote public engagement and conversation. He suggested I think about personal space in a more fluid and changing way, enabling people to enter and exit as they please, while having a single position from one person can control the projection. They also stressed the importance of having a good piece of introductory copy at the entrance of the experience, using simple language and clear design. Both of the designers seemed to think that it would be an improvement if I made the data somehow accessible to the people not directly within the experience. Having spoken to them, now I think I should definitely steer in the direction of clarity and simplicity, one response having been “pick one thing and do that really well, and edit down the rest“. I really need to pin down exactly what the project is about, and everything, from branding to building materials, will be dictated by that. Yet simple is often the hardest.
There were general concerns about the sound, both because it would cut off other people from the experience and because potentially it breaks the visual metaphor of the dial phone. While the benefit of headphones would be having binaural sound, maybe it’s not really worth the trouble. The function of the binaural sound is to mimic the sense of claustrophobia you get when you’re in a crowd, can that be done if I use surround sound and multiple people are in the space? That automatically changes the project to be about the spatial relationship between the people in the space, pushing the idea of cultural differences into the background. I might need to simplify the project and forget about headphones and create a surround soundscape with the sounds of the different cities, having the intensity and frequency change according to the radius of the circle.
The designers seemed to think there might be too many things at play, and I should just make it all about one element, the projection, or the sound, or whatever else, and just drive that home.
One designer highlighted the importance of the animation of the circle, to make the installation less static and more fluid. I was also thinking about getting rid of the phone plinth and having animated footsteps, almost indicating the presence of an invisible person in this invisible city we’re in. Also, what if I had the interface on the outside, to create a relationship between the people outside and inside? So that people outside choose what city is created on the inside, which is then revealed to them when they go in.
Another thing that was mentioned was illustrating where the places are on the map because not everyone would know exactly the cities, and it’d be nice to see them all in relation to each other.
I’m any case, I’ll think about all of these things a little and after a tutorial tomorrow I hope I’ll have some answers.