Neuromancer book cover re-design, as part of a look back on the projects I’ve done this year so far, during and after the MA. 

On my trip to London last year, I picked up a copy of Some thoughts on the Common Toad, by George Orwell. The cover was beautiful and I decided to bring it back as a present to my (then) teacher and friend Maziar. When he got it, he mentioned it was designed by David Pearson, a wonderful designer from Penguin. David is a great designer in contemporary graphic design, and we were lucky to have him earlier this year at Khio, giving a workshop on book cover re-design.

I participated in this workshop, and the task was to re-design the cover of a book we liked. We started by selecting a genre and doing visual research of the existing book  covers within that genre. Afterwards, we sketched ideas and started to create mock-ups of our re-design. This process was guided by David, and he also showed us his latest work, inspiration and love for letters, books and type as image. We continued into the final design of our book cover, and presented to the whole group in the end. David’s perspective and critique was really helpful, and it was a pleasure to have him over. He also gave a talk at Grafill during his stay in Oslo, showing his work and talking about his process.

The book I chose was a personal favorite: Neuromancer, by William Gibson. Sci-fi book covers from the 60’s and early 70’s are gorgeous: there is a tactile quality in them. As I did visual research, I found that this could not be said from sci-fi book covers from the 80’s, and I thought this was an area of opportunity I could explore in this workshop. I created a book cover creating a texture and pattern made from a circuit board motif. The title of the book emerges from this pattern, both for the cover and for the spine. I created paper versions of it (paperback), but I wanted to push it forward, so I used the laser cutter to engrave and cut the design on book cloth. After that, I explored options with neon paper underneath, and finally, with LED’s (LED wallpaper would be wonderful, as a first layer of the book cover). I had a lot of fun creating this re-desing, and loved to have David with us!


neurorefsVisual research

neuro_sketch1Initial ideas, concept exploration

neuro_process_1Process: sketches for the layout

neuro_process_2neuro_process_3neuro_process_davidDavid at the crit.


Paperback version 

neuro_2bneuro_2c5 y 6_neuroSecond paperback version.

7_neuro8_neuroBefore and after, front cover.

9_neuroBefore and after, back cover.

neuro_1The book in context.

neuro_3Playing with the laser cutter!

neuro_4_paperExplorations with neon paper underneath the book cloth.

4_neuroneuro_3_aWith LEDs underneath the book cloth.

1_neuro2_neuro3_neuroneuro_3_allThe whole layout.

neuro_david2David Pearson at Grafill.

neuro_david1The book cover that started my interest in David’s work. 

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The end of year show was around the corner. I finalized the project, but now needed to work with the space where the installation would be set up. I got the area next to the gallery, overlooking the cafeteria at Khio. The advantage of that spot was the space (huge), and having electric plugs near walls, etc. (rigging would be easier than in the gallery). The main, big, disadvantage was that it was full of light, since it faces huge windows. The exhibition was to start around 16.00, but once again, being summer, the sun doesn’t go down until 11 pm or so. I had to work around this issue.

sketch space

This is the set-up that I thought of for the exhibition.

With some help, I built a room in that space, and managed to black it out in order to have constant favorable light conditions for the motion sensor to work smoothly. Maybe with the kinect 2 this wouldn’t be so much of a problem, as I read here. Either way, the art direction of Stardust indicated a dark space. I used the theater curtains on the walls and for the ceiling I needed something dark and light. I thought of painted paper, but didn’t have the time to test it out. Then I thought about fabric, but when I tested it, it was incredibly heavy and would be a challenge to have it stay on top (having to make wooden beams and a “rooftop” structure, etc. and -by the way-I had a day until showtime). So I worked with what I had at hand and got black plastic bags, thin as air, and made a big “blanket” out of them, and use that as rooftop. I used massive amounts of duct tape, and even had to nail it to the adjacent walls. But once inside, you couldn’t notice what the rooftop was made of, and the focus was on the huge mirror-wall I got, and the stardust all over your body.

DSC07865This is the space from the hallway entrance. All visitors would come through here.

DSC07864The space overlooking the cafeteria downstairs.

1_IMG_3508The area where I needed to build the room for the installation.

2_DSC078823_DSC078804_DSC078835_DSC078926_DSC078917_DSC078968_IMG_3471The kit: macbook pro, kinect, projector, speakers, speaker stands, long hdmi cables, camera and tripod.

9_IMG_3511Apparently, the area where I set up couldn’t take all the power I was using (which wasn’t much) so I needed to have electric extensions from the installation all the way down to the cafeteria. Hence the message to not touch that plug.

10_DSC0790012_IMG_2441Testing “backstage” (behind the mirror wall), literally, through the looking glass ;)

11_IMG_245113_IMG_2765The installation space from inside.

Everything was set-up, tested, and ready (the night before the show I managed to finish the set-up and test the code running correctly. Always, always have an extra 2 days of set-up time! Pete you were right!).

Now…show time!

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I prepared for the final exam by setting up two spaces where I would present my project to the censors:  the gallery and a dark room where a demo of Stardust could be experienced by them. At this point in my process, Stardust was almost finished, and I needed to tweak a couple of things, but would do so before the final exhibition/end of year show.

The main presentation about my process and project took place in a gallery space at Khio. I arranged my work and displayed visual essays and booklets about each stage of my research.

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For the second space, I transformed a meeting room into a dark space where the censors could experience Stardust. I did some previous testing using a big screen just to get the set-up right (projector distance, angles, etc.).

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.20.35 PMThe meeting room that was transformed into a dark space for the installation.

20130426_0004Testing the angle of where the mirror should be (I ended up using plexi mirror plates), as well as the projection/kinect distance.

IMG_3132IMG_3142Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.29.43 PMIMG_3126After testing the set-up, I decided to use big mirrors and get rid of the screen (the stardust would be on the participant’s body). There was an inconvenience on the day of my exam though. All these tests I have done at night, but my exam was scheduled at 9 am. In the Norwegian summer, this means that it is very, very bright outside, and the light came through the glass wall in that room. I needed to black out the room entirely. I asked for some theater curtains (great for absorbing light) from the theater department, and me and my friend Vibeke blacked out the room completely.


I presented for the external and internal censors. The 25 minutes went extremely fast, and after a couple of weeks I got the deliberation and grade. I was very happy to hear I got an A and that although the installation was a working prototype (needed details to be finished) the process and research (dissertation) were satisfactory. I got great written feedback from them as well!

What was left was set-up for the end of year show.

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The next stage after finishing writing my MA dissertation, was to think about the layout and format. I had thought about how I wanted it to be before writing began, and I even sketched out my ideas and was exploring papers and of course, drooling at typography that I could use. But when the time came to edit the writing with the design, I chose a format close to what they call in Norway skolebøk, or school book. The type families I ended up using were Maxime and Corinthian Bold Condensed. I wanted to convey tactility at the turn of each page, and use emergent technology, somehow in the book (at some point I thought about an AR code but then thought that would be gimmicky in this context, the very thing I examined in my thesis!). I opted for using emergent technology in the production of the book, in order to gain tactility and visual metaphors for each chapter. I used a laser cutter for the titles in some pages, acetate sheets in order to reveal a message hidden in a title, and hand-made pin-holes in black paper to communicate stars.

I had a lot of fun trying out papers, testing ideas and getting the layout together. I was short on time, so it was an intense process, with late nights as a rule. The final production was done by the wonderful guys at Konsis, which put up with all my specifications (inserting different types of paper, the order of these, adding a ribbon, and making a few copies in hard cover). The final book was hand-bound and over 300 pages (a lot of images in there, though).

I was very happy with the result, and the amount of time invested in this project was worth it!

DSC07781DSC07737DSC07802DSC07771DSC07764DSC07803DSC07810DSC07805DSC07808DSC07809DSC07792DSC07799Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.32.55 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.22.08 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.21.29 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.21.49 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.33.13 PMDSC07785Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.32.19 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.32.33 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.31.19 PMAnd finally the excitement of getting the book!

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blog_header_experimentsI wrote about my journey in the MA, as well as my pilot projects and final piece, for my MA dissertation. I decided to call it “Through the looking glass: creating enchanting experiences through design and emergent technology”. The reason I used “Through the Looking Glass” in the title is because through reflecting on what I’ve done the past two years, I discovered similarities between what I was exploring and what Alice (from Lewis Carroll’s tale) went through, as she traversed the mirror, or looking glass. This is also something I addressed in my final project itself: going through the “looking glass” of screens and into an embodied type of interaction.

In each of the chapters of my dissertation, I quoted an excerpt from Alice in Wonderland, that reflected what I was writing about as the story progressed. I also used visual storytelling in my dissertation in the form of visual metaphors in the design and layout of each chapter openers.

In addition to writing the dissertation, I also designed the book for it. It was a very fun process, although I realized I spent days writing stuff I would delete after. Good writing is re-writing they say.

Here are some photographs of the process, starting with the writing bit (sometimes I feel more organized when I have a messy desk and my stationery around).

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Several iterations later, I finally finished Stardust! Just in time for the end of year show at Khio, too!

The final installation used the coloured-boids, as they matched exactly the art direction from the photoshoot (part of the visual references process). It was tricky to work with the set-up: get the projector and kinect aligned, and I opted for a mirror wall as part of the “room” where the installation was set up. (I had to create that room myself too).

I worked hard for the “tag” part, where the participant transfers the stardust through touch. In the end, it was more simple than what I thought. Although I had the tag logic figured out and was working on the code’s syntax, when I tested it, the kinect’s delay in reading the second user helped to make it feel like the stardust was passing on to the next participant more smoothly, and so on. “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”. So the code worked around that.

I was very happy to be able to create an interactive project from concept to execution. I learned a lot in the process, and I also felt at this point that starting things is easy. The hard part is finalizing them.

Here is the photoshoot from the final installation, as well as a video for the project (sound design by Rafa Meza).


I’m very thankful to my tutors and friends for helping me along this process, and I couldn’t wait to show the project off at the final show!

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