"Mixed Signals: An Intersection of Technology, Music, and Design" is my Graphic Design BFA Degree Project at the Rhode Island School of Design, advised by professor Hammett Nurosi.
Mixed Signals redefines the use of digital technology in music culture through a series of collaborative projects with designers, programmers, and artists that aim push boundaries to create multi-sensorial experiences. By encouraging experimentation with programming, artificial intelligence, 3D animation, and machine learning, these collaborations repurpose or invent digital tools to build new physical and virtual environments. Through studying the history of the evolution of electronic music, research at events in person, interviewing individuals involved, and engaging with virtual communities, live music events are examined as a synthesis of light, sound, and movement.
The combination of these following questions and a playlist of inspiration guided my creative process:
1. How does a mix of diverse design disciplines such as graphic design, apparel, augmented and virtual reality, music, light create new objects and new experiences?
2. What is the importance of technology on the history of music culture and how can I envision the future of audio/visual experiences by creating with both analog and advanced digital tools?
3. How can I gather research with limitations, perhaps in foreign underground locations that prohibit phone use or photography, and what is the result of translating those experiences from memory?
4. How to music events question social norms, create an environment for self-expression, and promote unconventional thinking through the experimentation of other levels of reality such as sound, light, and movement?
5. Can digital technology create unique, stimulating encounters that bring a sense of joy and truly encourage human connection, considering it's negative associated connotations of disconnecting us from reality?
My research process included gathering photography, sound samples, printed objects, and conducting interviews with DJs, audiences, and event organizers in Los Angeles, New York City, Tel Aviv, Berlin, Paris, and London. More research documentation will be shared soon.
Project 1 — Collaborative Poster
The following is a collaborative poster with Joshua Shao, inspired by our shared design processes that we had in common while working on our degree projects. The typeface used is Joshua's new open-source typeface, Norm Sans. We designed the layout collaboratively and I contributed to creating the 3D elements and animation.
Poster is sized at A0 (33.1 in x 46.8 in)
Project 2 — Für Zwei
Für Zwei is an interactive audio/visual installation created with photography student, Giovanna Elia and advised by RISD professors Mark Cetilia and Farah Al Qasimi. The piece is inspired by our research in the underground music communities in Berlin, Paris, and London, and aims to translate memories through an installation that recontextualizes digital and analog technologies.
During the research process in Europe and the UK, we were often faced with the dilemma of restricted photography at these event venues.
As photography was one of the main mediums for research, we were forced to adapt to this restriction and write handwritten notes about our experiences in the venues. As a result, we pieced together the notes with our memories to recreate specific moments in the form of 3D animations and abstract image-based and typographic collages. Paired with recorded audio from the spaces and formal interviews with various DJ's who performed at these events, Für Zwei amalgamates visual and sonic elements to invite spectators to interact with the installation and control their own unique experience.
The music played at these venues is the most important and central component, as it heavily alters the atmosphere of the event. This installation allows for the element of sound to form the visual experience.
Für Zwei is made up of a 12" vinyl record, turntable, and LCD monitor. When the vinyl is played on the turntable, visuals appear on the monitor and the user is invited to adjust the pitch, scratch the record, and even play it backwards. We programmed the vinyl to react sonically and visually to these physical adjustments.
The following images and animations are selected stills from the visual component of this project. My role included designing and animating these visuals through a combination of 3D software, Giovanna's photography, and archived research objects.
Photographed images and editing support by Giovanna Elia.
Special thanks to Mark Cetilia for additional programming support.
And thank you to Benoît Bodhuin for kindly offering experimentation with his typeface, Pickle Standard.
Project 3 — Mixed Signals App & Rave
Current music communities are defined through archival artifacts, such as live-streamed music event that lead to a vestige of performance that digital individuals and audiences view as an archive. Furthermore, within physical communities, such as music venues, our digital extensions (cell phones) are deterred from participating in the overall experience.
This project serves to subvert this preventive attitude in order to use technology as a method of augmenting rather than archiving. Through the use of the audience, performer, and sonic/visual mediums, the phone is repurposed as a device that is encouraging of creating a connected network in which both artists and audience contribute to feed off another behavior. This new relationship aims to form a novel experience in which tools once used for archiving are now directly influencing real time experiences.
In collaboration with Advait Kalakkad, we experimented with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and programming to reinvent the role of technology at live music performances. Advait took charge of programming while I led creative direction and design as we developed a fully functioning app and organized a multi-sensorial event.
This app encapsulates the necessary tools one would need during night out, such as a camera and a communication system, but repurposes their functions to give guests the freedom to augment the environment around them and encourage them to stay focused on that moment in time.
Mixed Signals Rave
We held a rave in the graphic design studios and invited the RISD and Brown University community to join us for the night as we test our project in a true party environment. The app allows guests to send messages that appear on the live visuals. The results are archived on the Mixed Signals Twitter page.
Mixed Signals App
As guests arrived at the event, they were greeted with a QR code stamp connecting them to the app.
User's inputs alter the visuals running on the main screen at the event and the app facilitates interaction. Visuals are generated based on selected colors and 3D objects.
A hidden camera utilized face tracking technology to momentarily interrupt the generating visuals and messages to project abstractions of random guests on the big screen.
Lastly, the camera function on the app has been trained to output blurred images, reminiscent of rave photography from the 90's. Photos were shared on our twitter, which live tweeted an archive of interactions with the app throughout the night.
Below are examples of generated visuals:
Event photography by Giovanna Elia
Lighting and production lead by Polina Zakharova
DJ Sets by Mister_WorldWides, Brutalist Ikea, Daddy Long Legs, and DJ Handsome J
Special thanks to Skream, SHDW & Obscure Shape, DJ Seinfeld, Zack Becks, David Mcgraw Jr., ADAM, Giovanna Elia, Ryan Nguyen, Julian Kelly, Mike Ruiz, Rohan Chaurasia, Josh Bonnenberg, Mallika Nanda, Sue Mazzucco, Kevin Burns, Joshua Shao, & Advait Kalakkad.
[Mix]ed Signals (b2b mixes from the night) releasing shortly, but in the meantime, enjoy this playlist:
Process and Experimentation
Project Extension — Mixmag Lab
The Lab Los Angeles is Mixmag's weekly streaming platform where they host American and international DJs, live from their Downtown LA office. This collaboration aims to envision the future of technology at music events by creating a fully immersive audio/visual experience. More coming soon.
Looking to chat with individuals working in the music industry and interested in collaborating on future Mixed Signals projects.
Interested in hearing more? Let's get in touch.