'Helvetica the NFT' introduces the iconic typeface to the digital world
by Sunena V MajuSep 20, 2022
by Sunena V MajuPublished on : Aug 02, 2022
While drawing inspiration from their precedents, the architecture of the 21st century is a myriad of styles and ideologies. But amid the many concepts ranging from contemporary architecture to the Metaverse and space architecture on Mars, there seems to have arisen a trend to forget the architectural witnesses of the past. While the conservation and protection of architectural monuments are gaining their due attention, the demolition of 20th century brutalist structures are on the rise too. Though the reasons for these demolitions root in the decaying state of the building and the lack of revenue to maintain them, the underlying theories direct toward the political ideologies and the social construct surrounding brutalist philosophies. While this issue is still under discussion, the demolition spree continues with Kisho Kurokawa's Nakagin Capsule in Japan. However, in an attempt to preserve the memories of the past and to commemorate the last Nakagin Capsules, Switzerland-based Get It Studio created a series of digital art that captures the stories, emotions, and history of the tower. Through the exhibition titled Nakagin Capsule Memories at Almost Perfect Tokyo art residency in Japan, the creative duo, Sandra Golay and Alexandre Armand, paid homage to the Metabolist monument. While the physical world spirals in the subtractive pattern of demolition and dismantling of old structures, the digital world seems to open a platform that can act as a memory lane of their past. Amid the multitude of possibilities in the digital realm, to what extent can it impart tangible senses, emotions and realism?
In a conversation with STIR, the Art Directors of Get It Studio, Sandra Golay and Alexandre Armand, talk about the inception of their studio, the journey of storytelling in the digital realm, and the exhibition.
Sunena V Maju: What is the genesis of Get It Studio?
Get It Studio: We were both working for the same visual communication agency and literally fell for each other on a creative and romantic level. Our creative process and visual style were similar and we shared a common interest in cross-media experimentation using photography, paper art, motion and stop-motion design and so forth. Finally, our thirst for innovation and pushing boundaries drove us to resign and start our own production company: Get It Studio.
Sunena: In your initial photoshoots, the presence of detailed handcrafted props is very evident. What was the inspiration for such a style?
Get It Studio: We are fascinated by arts and crafts in general and admire the patience and skill involved in the elaboration of unique objects and artefacts. In Switzerland, there is an ancient art form called "Poya", which involves painting, carving or cutting thin wooden or paper sheets to depict scenes of rural life. We felt it would be interesting to tap into this artistic tradition and reintroduce it into our contemporary creative process to create handcrafted props and set designs. We focused on using paper, foam board, model wood and the likes to build our 3D models and stagings. It is demanding and painstaking work but we find a lot of satisfaction in the meditative and relaxing dimension of working by hand. In the next step of the process, we give a lot of attention to composition and lighting effects inspired by still-life photography. Our aim is always to create visuals with a distinct aesthetic vibe because we love to work with the intrinsic imperfections that can make our craft genuine and original.
Sunena: As a creative studio, how do you translate the client's brief into a concept?
Get It Studio: Our primary task is to gain a thorough understanding of the expected outcome of a project. Who is the audience? What kind of profile do they have? What are their concerns? How should the message be perceived? In what context will the message be delivered? What medium will be used - print, screen, horizontal, vertical, etc. Those are some of the first questions we will ask until we have a clear understanding of outlines and expectations. Then we kick off the project with a brainstorming session. At this point we don’t set ourselves any limits, anything goes and even the most ludicrous ideas are considered and discussed. As there are two of us, we rarely have the same ideas or thoughts when we put our heads together and as designers, we naturally keep challenging each other until we come up with the best possible concept.
Sunena: How do you add an element of the 'real' in your digital works especially with material, texture and geometry?
Get It Studio: During the first few years of Get It Studio, we focused on creating tangible and figurative handcrafted artwork with a particular attention to materials and textures and how to enhance them with lighting. When we moved our creative process to the digital realm to elaborate virtual models and textures, we felt it was important to keep a distinctly handcrafted aesthetic style. By applying specific and realistic imperfections to a perfect virtual interpretation we make our images and animations more memorable and interesting. Furthermore, in the digital realm, we have the possibility to experiment and iterate many different variations and combinations of textures, colours and illumination. This was of course extremely difficult and tedious to achieve when we worked exclusively with handcrafted models and set designs.
Sunena: Between incorporating physical products into a digital world and vice versa, what seems to be your biggest challenges?
Get It Studio: We have created a great deal of product imagery that integrates still imagery with a 3D digital environment. For all of these compositions, illumination and lighting are absolutely crucial. The human eye is capable of detecting subtle differences in tonal shadings and light sources. Solving depth of field and perspective views issues can also be quite laborious. But these technical constraints make our work interesting and we love to take on such challenges. We are also very interested in photogrammetry which is the art and science of extracting 3D information from photographs. The process involves taking overlapping photographs of an object, structure, or space, and converting them into 2D or 3D digital models. Currently, this is probably the best technique to integrate tangible items into a digital environment but it still demands a great deal of experimentation to get a satisfying outcome.
Sunena: Can you tell us a bit more about the 36 days of type 2021 and your process of creating this particular series?
Get It Studio: For this project, our idea was to design a series of vases that could exist in the tangible world. As a constraint, we chose to stick to basic materials such as glass, wood, plastic, terrazzo and ceramics. We decided to produce three images for each style so that we would have to create new combinations throughout the duration. Since the main requirement of the project was to produce and deliver one image per day it turned out to be the perfect exercise to curb our tendency to be perfectionists. At the end of each day, we had to deliver and therefore couldn’t afford to hesitate or get lost in details. We had to get straight to the point. Dealing with this particular constraint had a liberating effect on us. And in this context of urgency, we grew confident in our capacity to produce solid Computer-generated imagery (CGI) and we also realised that this medium would allow us to thrive.
Sunena: Could you tell us a little about your concept for 36 days of type 2022, particularly about your choice to use organic shapes and incorporate movement in them?
Get It Studio: For the 2022 project, we wanted to get out of our comfort zone by focusing more on organic shapes and generative designs. Our intention was to put aside the gravitas and limitations of reality and move towards a softer and more emotional vibe where typography becomes more photogenic and alluring. Even so, we couldn’t help but reference our creative roots and we pushed our textures to include even more detail and photorealism. In these increasingly uneasy times, we feel an irrational need to remain optimistic, so we reach out for new aesthetics, stranger and bolder than ever before. But rather than recanting our creative roots, we dig deeper into their foundation to create even more tactile and playful images.
Sunena: You recently had an exhibition in Tokyo titled Nakagin Capsule Memories. Could you take us through your inspiration and process behind this particular project?
Get It Studio: In April 2022 we came across an Instagram post from Almost Perfect Art Residency in Tokyo. They were now accepting applications from overseas artists. Almost Perfect is essentially a short-term residency program for foreign creatives who want to come to Japan to learn, be inspired, and display their work. On the same day, we also learned with great sadness about the Nakagin Capsule Tower’s imminent dismantlement and destruction. This amazing building has always stimulated and fed our imagination. It embodies a retro-futuristic vision of the world whose multiple iterations found their way onto our TV screens in the last millennium and made a permanent mark on dystopian and sci-fi cinematography. As such, its importance goes beyond its conceptual structure and despite its removal from metropolitan Tokyo, it deserves to be celebrated. We decided to apply to Almost Perfect with a visual art project about the Nakagin Capsule Tower. At this point, our idea was still pretty vague but they loved our concept and they selected us to come to Japan in June 2022. The end goal of the residency is an exhibition in their gallery.
To find original ideas for this project we ask ourselves, what has and will become of the recent and current tenants? What of their habitat and what of our imagination and the dreams we had and still have in regards to the Metabolism Architectural Movement? How could the Nakagin Capsule Tower evolve into a new digital state? Our intention was to capture this moment in time and develop an artistic project that asks these questions of whoever will take a moment to contemplate our interpretation. Let the onlooker decide for himself what we have gained and lost with the disappearance of this architectural and cultural landmark.
At the beginning of our stay, we had the chance to meet guides from Showcase Tokyo. They were the official and only accredited tour guides allowed to take guests inside the tower. Thanks to them we learned a lot about the Nakagin. We were particularly inspired by the stories they told us about everyday life in the tower. There was for instance this young woman who tried to capture the specific smell of the tower in aluminium cans. She actually came to see our exhibition and by luck, we asked if she wanted any explanations. Once in front of this specific image, she started laughing, saying that it was her who tried to capture the smell. What an extraordinary encounter! We gave her a copy of the image as a gift. She came back to the gallery the next day to offer us two cans of her actual project. There was the story of water leaks and tenants running around with plastic bags to collect the water. Or the students who, to eat in the capsule without a kitchen, had to settle for cup noodles. All these stories have fed our imagination and our creativity. We have also developed our own images based on our positive and colourful vision of this tower.
Sunena: In the process of exploring the potential of digital art, how do you find yourselves being a part of Metaverse and NFTs?
Get It Studio: We are very interested in these new technical means and these new possibilities of expression. There is still, we must say, a certain technical barrier to overcome. You really have to spend time in the different communities to be able to understand how to communicate and interact with the protagonists. It may be hard to be successful right away but it can be an unlimited means of expression and we don't want to miss the opportunity to be part of this change. The creation of virtual worlds for the Metaverse is surely something that we will try to experiment with more within the studio.
Sunena: Considering the current direction of NFTs and blockchains, what comes next in terms of digital design?
Get It Studio: The possibilities are limitless! The last crypto crash will surely calm the ardour of speculators and people really interested in digital art will stay. As far as we are concerned, we are convinced that many new opportunities will be offered to artists. AR filters are also something we are interested in, the ability to own a unique filter that you can "carry" with you from a digital world and show it to others, is perhaps going to become a new way to express yourself. The sale of NFTs to customise your avatar will surely become very popular. It is still necessary that all the platforms are compatible with each other to be able to transfer these NTFs from one to another and that is still a big challenge.
From collectible NFTs to otherworldly blockchain-funded crypto creations, STIR brings you the best of fungible-non fungible inspiration from the global realms of art, design, and architecture. Read more here.
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