Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Design Brief Revision

July 19, 2010

“The language of post-apocalypse demands a “saying the unsayable,” providing an account of an unimaginable aftermath. And yet,
these aftermaths, however unimaginable, have actually happened, and languages for them exist ”

(Berger, J. 1999. After the end: representations of post-apocalypse. U of Minnesota Press.)


Catastrophic viral outbreaks and plagues have been known to have an enormous impact on human societies. How would
a future world inhabited by survivors with amplified or newly aroused mental disorders function? Such survivors may
evaluate established symbols and cultural movements to assist them in creating a new identity and visual language.


To use illustration as a means of designing ficticious cultures for the purpose of raising awareness towards the symptoms
of two mental disorders.

Research Questions

How can I use traditional and digital illustration techniques to design the visual language of two cultures that
express their mental disorders through related historic cultural movements?
What cultural motifs are key to symbolizing the defining mental disorder of each culture?


The design output will include:
Two resolved character portraits and one environment design for each colony.
Solutions that are the result of numerous experiments involving traditional and digital mediums.
The consideration of formal aesthetic design principles used to recontextualize iconic cultural elements.
A single image that illustrates a possible confrontation between the two developed cultures.
A book documenting the aforementioned processes. This shall be designed to act as a ‘pitch’ device for
further development of 2092: Post Sanity.
Narrated videos of the design process created to inform and attract an exhibition audience.

Preface/Design Brief

June 29, 2010

By way of a catastrophic viral outbreak, how would a world inhabited by survivors with amplified or newly aroused mental disorders function? Colonists may search for new symbols and cultural movements to best reflect their mental abnormalities.

This proposition shall be the central inspiration behind the development and design of 2092: Post-Sanity. Focusing on the visual growth of two colonies within this fictitious world, three characters and one environment shall be created for each. The characters will occupy one of three roles relevant to their society’s function: a powerful politician, a lower classman and a scout familiar with environmental hardships. Vaguely describing the aforementioned positions will allow me to explore multiple aesthetic and storytelling options when considering their cultural and disorderly alignment. By synthesizing newly discovered elements together, I will account for the psychological and historical emblematic quality influencing the components being constructed. Environments depicting a colony’s civilization shall be conscious of this influence by embodying the afflicted mental disorder and chosen cultural movement. As such, the aim of each work will be to realize an idea. The quantity of art outputted reflects the desired level of believability to be achieved for each piece within the timeframe of one semester.
Once the design of two habitats and its inhabitants are completed, these pieces shall be organized into an illustrative composition. This image will portray a conflict between the two fickle-minded colonies. With the emphasis of this project being on discovering an original design solution, assignment descriptions shall be kept minimal in an attempt to discover the defining aspects throughout the design process.


June 24, 2010

Below is my first draft outline of the imagined world and the two colonies the brief story will follow. If anyone reads it, feedback or ideas would be awesome.

2092. A bewildered world struggles to cope beyond a devastating viral outbreak. Quickly amassing sufferers over a two year period, the virus provokes even the most genetically dormant mental disorder within an individual. Functioning civilizations are left crippled with their inhabitants either abandoning their posts or being too sickened to reach them. Ceasing the continuation of society’s expected dependancies leads to any remaining survivors banding together through the recognition of a mutual trait: their afflicted mental disorder. Separated into various colonies, survivors are now tasked with constructing an identity that represents their own inner torment. Desperate to reinvigorate familiarity, the divided colonies search deep into history to associate with a proven cultural movement. Of the emerging settlements, two define themselves as the Delusional Expressionists and the Maniacal Romantics. Their conflicts will confirm the whispered title of this chaotic era: Post Sanity.

The Maniacal Romantics are a colony whose members identify with the mental disorder Seasonal Effective Disorder (SAD); a specific type of bipolar disorder. SAD’s distinctive feature is that the mood disorder has a seasonal component. Most typically, SAD symptoms start in the late fall and worsen in the winter. Recognizing their inability to function indefinitely at ‘normal’ mental health levels, the Maniacal Romantics form a bond with Romanticism, a historic cultural movement that was prominent between 1750 and 1850. Originally, this movement was a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature embodied through the social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment (Casey, 2008). Such a union was bought about through the common influence nature had on literature and art during the Romantic period and the weather dependent moods endured by those with SAD.
The colony functions within a class hierarchy. Upper class citizens have access to a limited supply of Wellburtin, a drug designed to prevent recurrences of SAD. A side effect of the treatment is a loss of appetite, leading to a clear physical distinction from the lower class. The Maniacal Romantics civilization resides on a cliff, overseeing the ocean. This location was purposefully chosen so that residents could fish for a wealth of sea life, an optimal source of Omega-3 that helps treat depression. Not considered however, was the exposure to low barometric pressure from the ocean, which can cause sporadic acts of psychiatric violence. The central architectural feature of the settlement is a large tunnel that aims skyward. The purpose of the device is to expose the community to “intensely bright lights. This is called light therapy” (Elliot, 2007, p. 13).

The Delusional Expressionists are post apocalyptic survivors who have adopted the ideals of Expressionism to justify their self-perceived delusions. Diagnosing delusional disorder requires that the sufferer holds false beliefs with supernatural conviction and  profound illusory certainty. By way of viral infection, the particular disorder provoked inside the members of this colony is delusional atmosphere: a phenomenon were the person senses the world to be subtly changed in a significant way. ‘This may be allied with delusional awareness in which there is a heightened appreciation of atmosphere’ (Munro, 1999, p. 30). There is a feeling of anticipation often associated with perplexity and apprehension that has lead these victims to the early twentieth-century cultural movement Expressionism. Expressionists ‘endeavored to go beyond a mere perception of reality and aimed at a psychological rendering of the impressions they received’ (Elger, 2002, p. 9).
Shortly after the virus suffocated humanity, those stricken with delusional disorder were in a brief state of ecstasy. Amongst the chaos and destruction every object surrounding the delusional appeared ‘fascinating. Alteration in colour or sensory quality preceded the other disturbances in visual perception’ (Moskowitz, 2008). Unable to associate with survivors who did not share the same sensations, the delusional banded together and began the construction of their own settlement. Celebrating the newly found significance of even the most obscure shapes influenced the features of the Delusional Expressionists home. Two years after the completion of their city however, the early reactions of obsessive bliss is replaced with ‘intense anxiety’ (Moskowitz, 2008). This occurrence was the result of memories being created during the apocalypse. ‘When memories are formed under intense stress, a critical component of normal memory formation – the hippocampus – is disabled, and memories without spaciotemporal content are created’ (Moskowitz, 2008). The disembodied nature of a ‘highly charged emotional event’ will in turn lead ‘to stronger than usual’ (Moskowitz, 2008) memories. The Delusional Expressionists are now emotively contextualized within the the horrific events of two years prior; 2090. No longer can they observe their creation in awe. Crazed by their lack of ability to ‘perceive objects as meaningful wholes’ (Moskowitz, 2008), the Delusional Expressionists abandon their home.


Casey, C. (2008). “Grecian Grandeurs and the Rude Wasting of Old Time”: Britain, the Elgin Marbles, and Post-Revolutionary Hellenism.” Foundations. Volume III, Number 1. Retrieved 2009-06-25.

Elger, D. (2002). Expressionism. Taschen.

Elliott, C. (2007). Seasonal Affective Disorder for Dummies. For Dummies.

Moskowitz, A. (2008). Psychosis, Trauma and Dissociation: Emerging Perspectives on Severe Psychopathology. John Wiley and Sons.

Impressionism or badly considered?

June 22, 2010

Had a sketch with Corel Painter XI. I am interested in rendering my final works in this program because it forces you to think out a colour palette first. It apparently gives a more traditional feel over Photoshop, but I’m not too sure. Finding it a bit hard to get to grips with the software, but I like the available options on the brushes. I feel like I have less control and that could be a good thing.

I’ve been thinking about how loose or detailed I want my final works to be. If this project is intended as pre-production for a movie/game, do the people who recieve the work necessarilly want to see/know every single item on a character or environment design? Perhaps the mood is more important at that stage of the process. Adding a lot of detail can also lead to works looking static and lifeless. Our eyes sometimes like to imagine all the things that COULD be there as apposed to what already is.

Delusional Expressionism

May 19, 2010

Delusional disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis denoting a psychotic mental disorder that is characterized by holding one or more non-bizzare delusions in the absence of any other significant psychopathology. Non bizarre delusions are fixed beliefs that are certainly and definitely false, but that could possibly be plausible, for example, someone who thinks he or she is under police surveillance. In order for the diagnosis to be made auditory and visual hallucinations cannot be prominent. Although olfactory or tactile hallucinations related to the content may be present.

To be diagnosed with delusional disorder the delusions cannot be due to the effects of a drug, medication, or general medical condition, and delusional disorder cannot be diagnosed in an individual diagnosed with schizophrenia. A person with delusional disorder may be high functioning in daily life and may not exhibit off or bizarre behavior aside from these delusions.

-American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, (4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

‘Expressionism’ was a cultural movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the start of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world under an utterly subjective perspective, violently distorting it to obtain an emotional effect and vividly transmit personal mood and ideas. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of “being alive” and emotional experience rather than physical reality.

Expressionism is exhibited in many art forms, including painting, literature, theatre, dance, film architecture and music. The term often implies emotional angst. In a general sense, painters such as Matthias Grunewald and El Greco can be called expressionist, though in practice, the term is applied mainly to 20th century works. The expressionist stress on the individual perspective was also a reaction to positivism and other artistic movements such as naturalism and impressionism.


My first colony concept is based around aspects of expressionism and delusional disorder. I find the mental abnormality has common links to this cultural movement. For the creation of this tribe, I will assume that ideals of expressionism (abstraction used to convey strong emotion) has in fact lead to illusions amongst inhabitants (or vice versa.) As German expressionism peaked in the 1920s, I will attempt to adapt fashions of this period into my design. In the character below, he is seen wearing suit trousers. Unfortunately, in my brief research, it seems the common suit is one of the only choices available to men of the 1920s. Thus I have incorporated unrelated armour into the design. He wears a veil over the majority of his face to emphasize his infatuation with whatever illusions he is in his mind. A ‘dream catcher’ is attached to his back enforcing the characters belief that he is indeed in touch with abstract spirits. Here is the starting point for a more specific direction with my project.

Rorschach, alchemy and silhouettes.

May 14, 2010

‘The Rorschach is a performance-based test of personality functioning based on interpreting a person’s responses to 10 bilaterally symmetrical inkblots. The overall goal of the technique is to assess the structure of personality, with particular emphasis on how individuals construct their experience and the meanings assigned to their perceptual experiences.

The interpretations on Rorschach data can provide information on variables such as motivations, response tendencies, cognitive operations, affectivity, and personal and interpersonal perceptions.

Central assumption of the Rorschach is that stimuli from the environment are organized by a person’s specific needs, motives, and conflicts and by certain perceptual “sets.” This need for organization becomes more exaggerated, extensive, and conspicuous when subjects are confronted with ambiguous stimuli, such as inkblots. Thus, they must draw on their personal internal images, ideas, and relationships to create a response. This process requires that persons organize these perceptions as well as associate them with experiences and impressions.  The central thesis on which Rorschach interpretation is based is this: The process by which persons organize their responses to the Rorschach is representative of how they confront other ambiguous situations requiring organization and judgement. Once the responses have been made and recorded, they are scored according to three general categories: (a) the location, or the area of the inkblot on which they focused; (b) determinants, or specific properties of the blot they used in making their responses (color, shape, and so on); and ( c) the content, or general class of objects to which the responses belongs (human, architecture, anatomy, etc.)”

– Groth-Marnat, G. (2009). Handbook of Psychological Assessment. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

Perhaps I can use the three categories that make up a Rorschach plate to create my own emblems that embody a mental disorder? A great piece of sketching software is Alchemy. It’s free and allows you to create shapes that inspire the ground work for finished work. It has some pretty genius ideas attached to it, so if your feeling you are just recycling the same shapes over and over (like me!) check it out. I intend to use it for silhouette design as well as exploring its potential as a Rorschach plate creator. I will attempt to mesh these two activities together to see if it communicates an intended mental disorder. For now I have just done a single silhouette and tried a few (mostly hideous) loose design ideas.

Also, a quick painting exploring mood and colour and composition.

Informative poster

May 12, 2010

This poster is a general summary of where I am at so far with my project. It also includes where I am heading next. Much thanks to the lovely Carly Hitchcock who designed the typographic layout.

Analysis Of Degenesis

April 26, 2010

“The Arrival Of Primal Punk”

“Primal Punk. The term was coined by German publisher Sigh-press to encapsulate the style of their fresh approach to roleplaying games in the Degenesis RPG. Primeval savagery. Wild abandon. An epic post-apocalyptic survival drama. Primal Punk-a perfect fit for the material.

Degenesis is the story of mankind’s struggle in the wake of Earth’s greatest catastrophe: a rain of massive asteroids. Europe and Africa have been cut off from the other continents and battle against each other for control of the known world. In europe, the people are finally emerging from a dark age that spanned half a millennium, whereas Africa has become complacent and corrupt after centuries of wealth and splendor. Meanwhile, a new threat to mankind has emerged. With the asteroids came a new and sinister life form which poisoned the earth and its creatures.”

My analysis: Cyber-punk is another genre that had adopted the ‘punk’ suffix. It’s setting is usually derived from elements of ‘hardboiled detective novels, film noir, and postmodernist prose to describe the often nihilistic underground side of an electronic society.’ ‘The emphasis on the misfits and the malcontents is the “punk” component of cyberpunk.’

Degenesis uses the idea of incorporating rebellious, misfit characterized tribes into a world reverted back to primeval tendencies. Having human beings rely on their most basic instincts to survive creates conflicts with anyone who opposes their livelihood.

As a way to localize these conflicts, Degenesis uses a world-wide catastrophe (rain of asteroids) to erase other continents that are not applicable to the base story. Only the African and European continent remain. With the asteroid rain-fall comes the opportunity to bring an unreal or supernatural element to the story, something that would not have been available in our world’s current state.

“The Day After”

“2073. The year of the Eshaton. The world trembled as human civilization was atomized in a cataclysmic hail of asteroids. Ten thousand years of evolution snuffed out in a single day.
Europe was hit especially hard. Fires and electrostatic discharges lit the night. The days that followed were filled with smoke and dust. The rain became acidic and the air was poison. Cities stank of death.
But the worst was yet to come.
Earthquakes and volcanoes blasted the fragile remnants of humanity. Fault lines shifted and magma flowed across the devastated cities melting cars, filling basements, and burying bunkers. Poisonous gas wafted across the wastelands; the dying had no end.
Red crater dust and volcanic ash filled the sky, casting the land into twilight. The sun became a distant, glossy marble.
In Africa, however, a new age of prosperity swept over the land. Equatorial jet streams pressed the dust clouds away to the north and south and the dark continent was able to breathe. As a deep freeze settled over Europe and South Africa a pleasant Mediterranean climate replaced the oppressive heat that defined most of Arfica. The Sahara bloomed, while the rest of the world was poised to freeze to death.”

My analysis: 2073 is the year the catastrophe occurred. Using this time frame allows for the creator of the story/setting to incorporate futuristic elements we have not yet perceived. The time period however is still within our current century (2000-2100,) allowing for recognizable current day objects to have survived or become antiques by then.
Disaster elements could be relative to the continent? A scientific understanding of the domino effect that would occur from an asteroid fall to our fragile environment is displayed. Africa becomes a more livable situation than what it was originally by having a bearable climate. Every other continent that is prone to switching weather patterns becomes ‘poised to freeze to death.’

Cyberpunk reference material retrieved from:

Degenesis introduction retrieved from:

The Colony

April 25, 2010

The Colony is a reality TV series created by the Discovery Channel that follows a group of survivors who attempt to coexist and survive in post-catastrophe L.A.

Residing within an old manufacturing warehouse, these people will be tested to see if they have the necessary skills to gather clean water, maintain a secure dwelling and construct beneficial tools for survival.

In the beginning of the first episode, each member scrounges limited canned foods together. Later they are tasked with putting beds together with industrial materials. Their first attempt at slumber is interrupted by an intruder banging on one of the entrance doors.

“An attack from outside can reveal the cohesiveness of a group or it can expose the weak links.”

-Dr. Miatta Snetter, Psycotherapist/Post-trauma specialist

“In an apocalyptic or catastrophic event, there are going to be individuals with the intent of either stealing what you have for their survival or just causing mayhem for their entertainment.”

-Adam Montella, Homeland Security Advsior

The next day, four new survivors approach the warehouse. Conflict amongst the original inhabitants eventually leads to their allowed entry.

“If you have a strong faith you want to help the poor you want to help the needy but you have to take care of your own first.”

-John V, Machinist

So far, this show appears to be a valuable resource for understanding the dynamics of surviving without everyday benefits. This information could be valuable for constructing societies within a post-apocalyptic/restructured society.

Terminator: Salvation

March 25, 2010

Terminator: Salvation follows humanity’s last bid to survive the constant onslaught from the machines. Man created robots deem humanity unsafe from itself and set out to destroy every last living being.

John Connor preaches to fellow members of the ‘resistance.’ His motivational broadcasts based upon tapes left to him by his deceased mother. The film tightly uses the ‘pre-‘ and ‘post-‘ contexts to portray the story.

Near the films end where John Connor is facing ‘termination,’ he pleads another robot figure to help him. Is the movie trying to present the theme that man’s reliability on technology is not actually a weakness?