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A major exhibition at the Graphic Design Festival Breda examines new ways of generating image through variable factors where the designer acts more as a conceptual thinker who directs a process.

By Editor / 25-05-2010

Recent development of software and the accessibility of do-it-yourself hardware has enabled the designer to create images in new ways. Reproductive design, also known as processing lets the designer create unexpected images based on codes and variable input.

By combining codes, digital data (for example ambient temperature or animal behaviour) and new output hardware (i.e. printers, displays), a new mode of expression emerges. Variable factors have more influence on the visual result than the designer themselves who in this case becomes more a conceptual thinker or director.

DECODING, a major exhibition at the Graphic Design Festival Breda (GDFB) features various experiments in user-generated design by Dutch and international designers illustrating how processes affect image. Benetton's research lab Fabrica (IT) developed an online clock composed of numbers taken from everyday life. The public all over the world can contribute to the visuals of the Exquisite Clock where users capture and upload random numbers onto an online database. The clock is available as a web 2.0 site, an iPhone application and a series of site-specific installations. Dutch designers Studio Smack fashioned a Transparency Suit which visualizes the unseen flow of information around us (in this case our shopping behaviour). Through filling in personal details, e.g. when purchasing something, online surfing habits and social networking etc data immediately enters the data body which is translated into visual codes and logo on the second skin, a regular suit which is worn by the user. The suit demonstrates the transparency of our modern lives and that technology can be used to keep an extremely (scarily) close eye on us. EDHV who recently exhibited Debug as part of Z33's Design by Performance exhibition, also presents the project in DECODING. An experimental machine prints artworks with the help of various species of insects, each with its own behavior that in turn affects the outcome of the artwork. The graphics will be printed as posters.    

Other designers involved include LUST, Laikafont, Jeroen Holthuis, sndrv, Perongeluk, Julius von Bismarck & Benjamin Maus and openFrameworks Lab. LUST's P.I.B installation which attempts to translate narratives of earthly citizens - gathered from social networking sites - as light projected into outer space perhaps might attract unwanted attention, posing a threat to national security: the GDFB exhibition organizers made sure to inform the Dutch ministry of Defence about the enormous beam of light shooting into the sky from the roof of the gallery.

"Our goal was to display new methods in graphic design," explains curator Dennis Elbers who is also Creative Director of the GDFB. "A designer is not only a person who places type on paper; technology offers chances for a new approach in creating image. Design is a young profession that keeps evolving. Media, technique and designers influence each other in many ways. Open source coding is a way to establish innovation. DECODING proves that a design festival is not only about existing campaigns or cultural events, it can result in things we use in our everyday life."

Photography: Suzanne Jongmans

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