I am a strong proponent of speculative design. The simple argument is that unshackling design from the usual constraints and social expectations gives designers the headroom to create the unusual and unexpected, or to take a critical or even antagonistic position. For research, speculative experimentation can drive innovation and lead research in exciting new directions. When I create speculative work I do so without expectation of immediate practical or commercial application but I know that ideas and techniques developed during a speculative process inevitably find their way into more conventional works. A fine example of this is my collaboration with Crowd Convergence.
Crowd Convergence provide a social media moderation service which allows their customers to aggregate various streams and filter the results. It’s perfect for large-scale events like sporting matches where organisers want to broadcast social media updates on a big screen and need to curate the content (ie. block anything offensive). Having seen some of my Twitter experiments, Crowd Convergence contacted me about creating visualisers for their social media service. I was stoked to receive the invitation and somewhat surprised that my speculative work had found such a directly relevant application.
“AIR”, the first of the Crowd Convergence pieces, extended techniques from one of my earlier experiments to create a 3D motion graphics sequence. After displaying a status post, the view zooms through a cloud of status updates, twisting and turning to arrive at the next post in the stream. Below, AIR in situ at London’s “Clothes Show Live” and at the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Dubai.
Photowall, as the name suggests, renders a social stream as a fullscreen tiled wall of photos, overlaying the screen name of the author and any associated status text.
Both of these works make extensive use of CSS 3D transforms; AIR for its rendering of 3D space, and Photowall for the transitions of each image tile. As I’ve stated previously (here and here), the evolution of CSS is a brilliant example of the changing practice of graphic design. Concepts and techniques derived from print design are being redefined and extended to address the transient qualities of the computer screen. It’s an active area that is evolving quickly.