This project took place at Multiple States whilst I was director between 2014 and 2017. We wrote our case studies as interviews between members of the team. Here is that interview. Credits for everyone specifically associated with the project are at the end of the article.
Futurity is an experimental digizine (digital zine) showcasing artists working across a variety of mediums. Each issue will explore some unusual development ideas to create interesting frameworks with which to view art online. The word digizine encourages the free play and encourages design that is reminiscent of the DIY and experimental nature of handmade zines.
Each issue will be based around a theme and this theme is designed to encourage conversation with the artists. The theme for the first issue is Success.
Kevin Beck asks Will McLean about experimenting in design and development and about his hatred of phones.
Tell us a bit about the background of this project and how it started?
We had been extremely busy in the studio working on some quite heavy development work, and the desire to stretch ourselves in other directions encouraged a search for a new studio project. I wanted to try to make an online magazine, as I couldn’t find any that featured the particular artists I was interested in. However, I wanted to ensure that the design stayed enjoyable and free, so decided to label it a digizine as an homage to the zines I had always collected and produced. I thought the name might constantly remind everyone working on it that it was about experimentation as much as anything else. We also saw it as a test for us, being responsible for the content of a site as well as the design and development.
There are some great artists in here. Tell me about the curation process.
I know, they are so great. They all sit quite nicely within a certain vein of style and practice. They are similar in the naivety of their work and many came from or have one foot firmly planted in the Graffiti world. I searched through my bookmarks and through the people I follow on Instagram for all the artists I had stumbled across whilst wandering aimlessly through the World Wide Web. That was some of the most enjoyable time I could remember spending online. How often have we bookmarked someone’s amazing work, reassuring ourselves that now we would never forget it. How often have we returned to view the page? I’d say the answer to that question is ‘not many’. It slowed me down too. I looked at entire bodies of work rather than just the front page. I wrote them all down in a trusty spreadsheet with descriptions of their work to help me to decide on who might be a good fit. It was fantastic. I had a great time. Then I settled on a few and sent them messages asking them to be involved.
How did you decide on the interaction for each body of work?
The brief was to experiment. The only stipulation was that we must slow the user down and try to create a new way to look at artworks online. Some of the interactions are led via development experiments and some by design experiments. Everyone working on the project was asked to push themselves to learn new development techniques. That steadily led the direction of the final work. For example, I hadn’t worked very much with draggable elements and the Johannes Mundinger page was an exploration of my first experiments in that area.
The site is limited to desktop-only screen sizes? That seems crazy in this day and age. What led you to this decision?
I hate phones. I hate the way they are taking over my life. It could be seen as a selfish decision to limit the use of the site to a platform I prefer but I see it as a way to encourage people to enjoy the content in more thoughtfully. I did not want people to breeze through the digizine on their way to work. I wanted people to engage deeply and I just couldn’t see that happening on a phone. I feel that the habits we have all developed when using a phone are all directed to consuming more in as short a time period as possible. This is completely at odds with the concept of the zine, which is to encourage users to experience less content in a longer time period. Perhaps in the next few issues we will be able to develop a way for this the site to be delivered on a mobile. Then again, perhaps not. I really, really, hate phones.
You certainly hack into some of the artists’ work. I know that is reminiscent of a zine, but is it really in the remit of a designer?
I suppose you are talking about the Mafia Tabak and Johannes Mundinger pages. Yeah, that is a good question. I don’t know if it is in a designer’s remit and I was pretty nervous when I sent them the preview. I tried not to think too much about it when I was doing it. I didn’t want negative thoughts to scare me off trying anything. I think it is interesting to look at because it is so surprising. I think that when an artist hands over their work to a designer to decide the layout, the designer must respect the work. At the same time, the designer must be free to create a new piece of work out of them. I wouldn’t have done it with some of the other work, but I thought those guys’ work could handle the crops. It wouldn’t have worked on the non-graf pictures. They needed to have the backgrounds.
Why are some of these pages so slow to navigate? I am thinking particularly of the Nartur page, where you have to hold your mouse down to make the slideshow play. That seems like you are making it harder than it needs to be for the viewer.
Open your mind! It was in the initial project concept to slow the user down and to make them really interact with the work. No better way to force them to do that than making them sit still with their fingers on a button in order to view the slideshow. I love how slow it is. I find myself really absorbing the work in a way I haven’t recently done while online.
I find it frustrating that the images cover the majority of the page when you are trying to read the words that Scott Keim wrote on Success. Why did you do that?
I saw David Carson talk on YouTube and he said, “Don’t mistake legibility for communication.” I had that in mind. I was trying to create a feeling through the page design. Scott Keim’s work seemed to me to be a lovely and loose stream of consciousness. His drawings are so curious and dreamlike that they might just be flashes of imagery floating through your mind. And in your mind can you really discern between words and images? No. It is all thrown at you at once. It’s the same on the page.
Why is Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk as the back button?
Because I think it’s funny. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t.
And Sean Connery over your editor’s note?
That guy is seriously successful, so it had to be him. And it is such a great fist pump. It really is all that needs to be said about the work that was submitted for this issue. He was so great in The Rock.
- Design & Development – Will McLean
- Development – Kevin Beck
- Development – Chris Corby
- Development – Hamish McLean