Looking at todays branding, it seems typography is everything. I even have a friend who chooses where he eats depending on the typography of the signage. As a cinephile I have always been fascinated with how auteurs use a particular typography in their titles, Woody has Windsor and Wes has Futura, it engraves their auteurism in stone. I have been scouring the web for particular fonts that are a pastiche of the past but fit in with the minimal crowd of the modern age. I like simplicity, sans-serif, boldness with a tinge of the theatric, these typographies I feel will represent Houdini e.g Neue Haas Unica, Futura, Normotype.
Since my piece is about a process that took place in the past, I have decided to research complimentary vintage and retro colour palettes. It seems like every graphic designer is using retro inspired colours, since hipster became the new black. There seems to be a pattern of analogous muted colours, the usual suspects seem to be a tangerine or muted burnt orange, subdued teal, charcoals, off-creamy white. I like the idea of using something similar to the Black Lacquer, instead of the average black. Using vintage inspired colours will transport my piece into the historical past, while its trendy mode will root my piece in the present.
Since I am illustrating a theatrical process, I have been thinking about how I am going to make the process look more thespian, a tad more jazzy. I came across this tutorial by Mark Oliver on how to add dimension + vintage grubbiness to plain vectors. It gives a step by step guide. I am not to sure whether I will have the time or the skill to add this to my work, but it is inspirational nonetheless. i love how it makes the vectors look like bygone stage settings, which ties in well with the aesthetic I am trying to achieve. It also brings the vintage look to machinery and contraptions, which is exactly what Houdini’s UPD was like.
I have been looking at various Houdini posters as a source of inspiration for my infographics, but also how artists have transformed vintage aesthetics into fresh, modern graphics. The posters were inspired by the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, both accentuated the use of geometrics, colour blocking, askew angles and bold print.
I have also looked at how graphic designers have appropriated and simplified these styles, in some stunning understated pieces (As seen above). The Black Swan poster inspired by a deco vintage print, is extremely effective in it’s three colour scheme, symmetrical geometrics, simplified shapes and it’s reference to the Rorschach test.
The above are more deco inspired typography, in minimal black and white designs. I think they are fresh, modern with a nod to the past.
My process will be exploring the escapology of Houdini from his infamous ‘escape or die’ trick, ‘The Chinese Water Torture Cell’ or as Houdini called it the ‘Upside Down.’ Ironically Houdini wanted to disbar ‘spiritualists,’ whilst simultaneously engorging the art of illusion, without revealing the ‘process’ of magic and illusion. I want to sweep away the curtain shrouding the process of his ‘tricks,’ ones he hid behind a screen, whilst retaining the magic of Houdini’s craftsmanship, science and cunning behind the curtain.
Aesthetically I will communicate my process through appropriating and modernising Houdini posters, inspired by Art Noveau and Art Deco movements. My infographic will be inspired by color blocking, streamlined movement, geometric and askew shapes, cross-sections, fragmented figures. I want to focus on two processes
- The process and ritualism of illusion, tricking the audience to suspend their disbelief (in front of the curtain).
- The process of the technical escape from the UPI, (behind the curtain).
One is a psychological process, the other a practical step by step process of escapology. I want to emphasize that two ‘truths’ can coexist simultaneously, neither one has preferential treatment in its access to the kernel of the real. I want to communicate that the two processes above are both rituals practiced and repetitively performed to become almost like a spiritual mantra, despite Houdini’s cynicism on ‘spiritualism’. I want to pair a story of magic, madness and two the fold nature of invention as creativity and fabrication, with the processes.
Going through the process of trying to create my initial process has been quite the harrowing exercise, it is just too darn complicated to express psychological states, decomposing bodies etc and also the subject matter is way too grim (even for myself). I have decided instead to look at one of Houdini’s ‘escape or die’ tricks-the ‘Chinese Water Torture Cell’. I will show the process of this escapology but will include information as in costume, props, stage construction, timing, water levels, oxygen levels, the personality of a escapologist, psychology of performing these feats etc. I will collate all the information out there about ‘how he did it’, to reveal the tricks of the man behind the curtain.
I have noticed the resurgence of 60s inspired graphic designs in todays markets, this is kind of congruent with the invasion of the hipster. Since I will be taking some of my research from Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s seminal discussion On Death and Dying published in 1969, I thought it would be good to integrate 60s graphics that have a timeless appeal and ‘hip’ presence in modern graphics. As a pastiche of the past, I will be riding on the ghost inheritance of nostalgia. Here are a few things I have noticed looking at these graphics, especially the work of Saul Bass.
There seems to be an exquisite balance between simplicity, attained through colour blocking, minimal use of colour, stripped-back graphics and a deeper complexity since many 60s graphics were the product of a rediscovered interest in psychology. Saul Bass in particular was heavily influenced by Gestalt Psychologists so his graphics were often fragmented, disembodied– relying on the viewer to piece together the parts. Incorporating a style inspired by Gestalt principals will be appropriate in showing decomposition and the psychological state of grief. The pervading presence of circular shapes and spirals in 60s graphics will nicely tie into my idea of the circularity of death and grief.