Collection: Unit 4

Experience & Environment

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Before even starting to do any of the reading, I found myself doing a small exercise just to awaken my reflection on the topic of the brief : Get Lost. Right away I started thinking about vocabulary both in my native language -french- and in English. The word lost in french translates to perdu and a synonym of it which I love is égaré. Egaré is to me a really poetical word, I love the way it sounds (P.S. I wanted to link the sound here but Google's computer voice manage to massacre those three syllables). Lost in my romantic thought, imagining René-François de Chateaubriand wandering in nature, I started wondering the translation this word in english and this is when I got really disappointed : égaré translates to mislead in English which upset me as mislead is one of those pre-compose words which meaning is obvious.

Looking for etymology online, I got myself interested in the anagram that wiki-dictionary gives. After this research I kind of felt like I got to a dead-end and so I started reading the first pages of A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit. Page 6 my romantic soul got re-stimulated :

"Not to find one's way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal [...] But to lose oneself in a city -as one loses oneself in a forest- that calls for quite a different schooling." To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world [...].

Here is in beautiful concise words what I was thinking about when reflecting about égaré et mislead. This is I believe what the brief is really about : not to loose your way but to lose yourself, in other words the brief is about fighting against the alienation of the mega-city.

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Starting more realistic reflections after the group discussions on Monday, I decided to focus my project on one aspect of my commute : decision-making. Since I live at Finsbury Park which can be considered as a hub and since King's Cross is obviously a hub, there is many different ways to commute from home to work for me. I remember last year during foundation entering the station by an entrance that is now closed for refurbishment, then my friend convinced me that taking the left strairs instead of the right one would be quicker since another corridor was now getting refurbished and so on. Recently I even found myself taking the train on sunny-days since it's a lot nicer. 

Anyway, all of this got me to think about Sartre and all of the ideas that we are the decisions we make, and that the fact that my friend takes the bus to save extra pennies while I just get a travelcard for the month says loads about us.

This got me to think about another really important fact about my commute : since I live in halls of residence - Sketch House- there is at least more than 50 people doing the same journey as me commuting to CSM. This is an interesting idea and I thought I should not miss a chance to use it since it differenciates loads my commute to the one of someone who is living at home for instance.

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Here above some attempt to map all of the different options from one's flat in Sketch House to one's classroom in CSM. As you can see I changed my diagram form at serval point : first it was incoherent to have CSM represented thrice whilst Sketch House was only featuring once. Then I realised it couldn't be a closed circuit since your walk from KC to Granary Square was necessarily influenced by your transport mode, which is why I ended up with a traditional probability tree.

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One element I am not too sure yet of is how to make each element recognisable and differentiable (ex: Sketch House lift comparing to CSM one). For an extra-realistic approach I thought I could counts the number of steps of each staircase, creating a little body of data. This idea lead me to imagine I could try to count the number of calories burnt by using X or Y route.

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Another problem I have is I don't really know how to arrange the illustrations on a spread :

  • What organisation system should I follow? Chronology is the obvious one but should I organise them as a long line? Or I could go for something geographical.. ?
  • How do I size each element? Time consumed, physical effort ?

This reflection about scale while mapping reminded me of this astonishing map Peter Hall showed us in one of his lecture : each state is scaled in relation to its economic power. (see coloured map to the right)

At this point I was confused and wasn't sure of where all this was going. What is my point?

All of these scientific observations are just not as interesting as I made them in my head. Who is going to engage with my body of work? It's like if I completely removed all life from my study since I started working on infrastructures = stupid since they are designed for people !

At this point my reflection went back to my Facebook pole : on of the things I was stimulated by, at the start of the project, is that I live in halls and we are a little group of student commuting to the same Granary everyday. They are therefore my audience. But no one will be interesting in only reading the calories fact of our commute. It's like in advertising : to convince you need the right amount of facts and the right amount of emotion. Facts by themselves are boring and 100% emotions lack of 'proof'. Now I have facts I need to bring on emotions, empathy, human vibe.

I remember illustrating the pavement outside of Sketch and annotating next to it how I am always frustrated to walk on the cracks. This is my story about commuting, what makes it mine.

Thinking about Unit 1 on empathy, the expression "stepping in someone else's shoes" came to my mind. Maybe what I need is explore the different routes possible with another student, annotating facts (infrastructures, time, calories, number of steps..) and asking the commuter what that makes his/her commute personal.

I feel like I am getting somewhere but I still have an essential problem : I need to define better my aim so I know what to do with the data I will have collected. A publication? An app that picks from the database someone else's itinerary?

So to get an basic idea of what transport mode people from Sketch House uses to commute to CSM, I created a poll on the group-chat, unfortunately you always get people creating silly answers. 

But what was really interesting here is that just like me, many people ticked serval options. Which proves there is this common feeling of choices and that people do not only restrain their self to one mode of transport.

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With a total of 34 possibilities when considering only 3 modes of transport, I was amazed by the results. I never thought that I had so many decisions to make everyday.

"Only old people have a routine", my mother use to tell me this so I couldn't complain about any schedule change. I used to hate this sentence, but now looking back at it I think I finally understood what it means : not sticking to a precise every-day routines allows to stay creative by accepting opportunities which makes life a lot more stimulating.

I thought, since I have all of 34 possibilities maybe I should experience each one. By creating a visual code I could really easilly represent all of the possibilities. Since the choices made through out the journey are all linked architecture I thought I could illustrate each of those infrastructures behind our journeys. It made sense for me to look at technical drawings since my whole approach of the brief has so far a 'clinical' vibe in the way I have been mapping the different paths possible.

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AND THEN SUDDENLY A NEW IDEA SHOWED UP

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I got intrigued by a seat pattern on an Instagram picture. I don't know why or how but it was the first time that it strikes me : this pattern was just really cool for a simple tube seat moquette. Seat patterns and design of infrastructures in general are elements that surround us, that we see everyday but that we never fully notice.

Looking up London tube seat fabric images, I found myself trying to associate each pattern with the right line. I thought it was a fun game and not as easy as I imagined.

So I started researching about it. After reading few articles,  here are the ones that triggered my reflection :

  • the first one explains why train-seat fabric is so ugly : the pattern basically need to be complicated so it can camouflage better stains
  • the second one made me discover Stevenson's project called Bustour in which she basically explored this idea that stimulated me : 'a lot of everyday things imprints itself in our memory unconsciously without being actually perceived'.
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In comparison to the Buzzfeed quiz, I thought a more viable form for such a game (that could actually really work) which is to create an app similar to the really successful Logo Quiz concept. Why is it more viable?

  • it's not a mCQ and there for it is less easy to play = more challenging and therefore engaging : the player need to know the spelling and can't do an approximation
  • the player can complete the game over a long period of time depending on how attentive he is on an everyday basis
  • it can encourage social interaction : asking for help to friends
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In my prototype I used a typographic illustration by Andreas Neophytou that he created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the company, in which he used the fabric patterns (see here).

To keep an elegant and neat aesthetic I thought that illustrated version of the patterns were nicer than actual pictures of the fabrics. This is when I came across Sam Morris's work. The digital designer got in trouble few years ago for creating TFL seat patterns illustrations and putting them as open source for people to use as background picture (phone, laptop, iPad etc). Since he got shut down for using TFL's designs, I couldn't find many of his illustrations. I decided to contact him to know if he had more of these pattern I could use for my prototype. He sent me a link towards a GitHub page on which he initially published the open source illustrations and warned me about making my project heavily TFL lead.

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I had the idea of a game where people have to identify patterns. Such a quiz had been created on Buzzfeed (here) but I was quite surprised of how it had been made : each image was associated to a mCQ.

Anyway, one afternoon I decided to go on an exploration trip in the underground to discover the line behind each pattern. How disappointed I was when I realised that some pattern where used on serval lines. But I understood why Buzzfeed quiz was an mCQ there isn't only one right answer.

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Since this idea pop up quite late in the process, I had to create a quick visual for the feedback session which was the day after. To the left you can see a vague prototype of what I had in mind.

  • i am not sure yet how to work out levels
  • should I show how many lines this pattern could be found on straight away?

I created had to create hints to help the player stay active : from my study of Logo Quiz I understood that it was necessary since without hints some player might get stuck in the game, and loose all interested in playing.

The service hint would give you the nature of the transportation mode you can find the pattern in : is it a tube? a bus? a tram?

The location hint would give you the name of a station where you can find the pattern (N.B. the station has to be a hub of transportation, there is no point in giving the, name of a station where there is only one stop of bus/tube)

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Feedback session :

1) Make it more clear how your project relates to the brief
2) Develop a rough hierarchy for levels
3) Make a development plan
4) Create an interactive prototype for final crit
5) Make a leaflet version of it and test it

From there I developed a prototype on InDesign.

I remembered a team presenting their app prototype for Unit 1, the quality of the render was amazing so I contacted one of the team member to ask what software/platform they used : InVision. Which happened to be really easy to use.

I am planning on making a short film to record how the app works. I am not sure yet if I am meant to make it just to show my work on workflow or if I should put more effort and try to make it into a branded teaser video. I suppose the second option is way nicer but it will depends on how much time I will have left.

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Final Crit

Peers said my project was "well thought", it sounded to me like they appreciated the leaflet more since we have been talking about it for a longer moment. They suggested to add a tube map at the back of the publication.

Emily's feedbacks :

  • I should have made my own illustrations : since I am still at uni it is good practise to create content and not only to be a creative director to my project.
  • Typographic illustration by Andreas Neophytou is not best : "TFL" is a big company and making the whole project call "I spy TFL" is not the best option. She believes I should have chosen something less corporate that would evoke more to the people. Looking back, it I understand what she meant: project like 'Art on the Underground' are referred to as "in association with TFL" and not don't necessarily sound like they are owned by the firm.
  • I need to reconsider the tone : the text explaining the concept is really "intellectual" and is not best to reach the biggest audience - problem being I like being a bit nerdy.
  • Typography needs to be more relevant : look up Gill Sans which is known for looking a lot like Johnston (the original tube typeface).
  • There is no hierarchy on the leaflet spreads, type is too big
  • She didn't understood that they were as many grey boxes as lines you could fin the pattern on : maybe add numbers? Bullet points?
  • Text would be better left-aligned
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I took a bit more time to work again on the project : I got few leaflets from the tube and anylised them:

  • they all have a pretty similar layout
  • they are all pretty much the same size expect the tube map which is smaller
  • the ones about TFL services have a blue heading and a blue footer that includes their logo
  • the ones that aren't about TFL services can vary in colours and typography but remain the same cover layout and format

I am not too sure what format I should go for or weather I should have a similar style to the Art on the Underground leaflets.

I had a look to see what kind of typeface were available for me to use : only people who make a formal demand might get the authorisation to use Johnston and found a free font called Tube.. 

I tried to create a new leaflet but I think I am in a bit of a dead end now. This proposal couldn't go any further without TFL's support. 

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