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White noise - a state between order and chaos, and a possibility between meaning and nonsense. It is at once a womb for new signals, and a graveyard of broken pieces. "White Noise” is the visual identity design for Media Arts and Technology’s End of Year Show 2016. 

Concept

 

Years ago, the words “white noise” first settled in my mind as the title of a song by the post-rock band, Mogwai. The repetition, randomness, and complexity of this music genre formed my initial impression of white noise. The term itself struck me with its contrasting beauty and simplicity.

 

Combining these associations with its origins in signal processing as a collection of all frequencies, I interpreted white noise both as a state between order and chaos, and as a possibility between meaning and nonsense. It is at once a womb for new signals, and a graveyard of broken pieces. Thus, the visual identity design of this show presents white noise as a composite notion, a fusion of three parts: 1. an assemblage of basic elements evolving from points, to lines, to squares, to cubes, 2. a distortion of the three-dimensional world in relative perspective, and 3. an overlay of micro- and macro-scale points of view.

The Journey

 

The whole visual identity underwent a long, evolving design process, balancing software development with design strategy. It was not built all at once with a blueprint; instead, an algorithm was constructed to generate a collection of designs with unexpected aesthetic shifts between them.

The process of the design began with a basic state of the word “white noise.” This first state was built by transforming pixels to cubes with random, dynamic movements. Next, shaders were used to represent these cubes, distorting the perspective of the cubic geometries. These shaders were then converted into vector lines to provide the graphic’s foundational layer. The design was finally patterned with text to immerse the background with additional texture.  

An accompanying video illustrates the algorithmic process and its complexity, animating through these states in an infinite pattern space, at different levels of viewer proximity to the design. The viewer’s gaze and curiosity explores this distorted environment at different scales and navigational points of view. Thus, this dynamic spatial image conveys the multitude of micro and macro structures found within this white noise world.

white_noise_algorithm in Processing

This process of generated and superimposed images created the design source material for the show, including posters, postcards, wall signage, labels, catalog cover, and our web design.

exhibition setup

wall sign

Catalog Design

For the catalog design, the concept of white noise is embodied in the general layout of text and images, breaking the grid. The text breaks into smaller pieces and is arranged sparsely to create a design aesthetic of fragmented randomness. An additional layer of vector elements is distributed randomly throughout the entire catalog and overlain as background. This provides conceptual unity with a distinctive rhythm and adds multi-layered depth to the two-dimensional manifestation of our graphic identity.

Special thanks to Donghao Ren

// The design is developed with Processing, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop.