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Posted 11.05.18

Get moving: Interactive design and inspiring visits to Spain

By Lauren Taverner Brown

We caught up with BA (Hons) Graphic Design students - also members of The Agency, the college's in-house design studio, after a trip to the city of Zaragoza, Spain, where they provided illustrated assets for an interactive installation created by Escuela Superior de Diseño’s “Interactive Experiences” group, on display at the Etopia Centre for Art & Technology.

Plymouth College of Art’s current Erasmus+ agreement with Escuela Superior de Diseño de Aragón (ESDA) in Zaragoza, Spain has been in place since 2014. At Plymouth College of Art, we have Erasmus agreements with over 25 institutions, which offer our students the chance to study, undertake work placements and be part of exciting projects in other European countries during their time studying with us.

The connection between Plymouth College of Art and ESDA has not only seen students spend time studying in both places, but has also seen some ESDA exchange students choosing to remain at the college to complete their studies.

Along with the opportunities for longer term Erasmus exchanges, our links with ESDA also enable some shorter exchange trips, most recently for a group of second and third-year Graphic Design students, who are also members of The Agency - the college’s in-house design studio. The group travelled to Spain to take part in the ESDA Interactive Experiences Group, which aims to explore new possibilities in interactive spaces and experiences.

Rimma Seklani, Todd Taylor, Lewis Kearne, Jed Boyle, Rian Harford, and Mantas Gaidauskas were commissioned to design elements for an interactive experience that was installed in the Etopia Center for Art & Technology, as part of a conference on the practice of design, which took place in April 2018.

Visitors to the event try out the interactive display, featuring illustrated characters created by students from Plymouth College of Art

In order to create an interactive animation display, the six graphic design students used Illustrator to design characters that were then animated by programmers and computer science students from ESDA, in a project that linked the creative ideas and concepts of the Plymouth College of Art students with the technical, programming know-how of the ESDA teams. The students created an interactive display where visitors could select a character and then see a projected image of it on a wall, that would follow them and mirror their movements in real time.

"Zaragoza is a beautiful city filled with innovative creatives. I would love to go back, and would recommend anyone one else to visit.”
- Todd Taylor, 3rd year BA (Hons) Graphic Design student

The concept for this interactive display came from Professor Javier Marco, a mathematician and programmer who works at ESDA. His proposal for the project looked to bring together knowledge from specialists in engineering, art, design, and social sciences in order to tackle the complex process of designing and building a tangible user interface (TUI) that would help to link the digital and physical worlds.

His proposal stated: “With computers becoming more embedded in everyday objects and environments, there is an emerging field of human–computer interaction that links the digital and the physical worlds, by embedding computation in physical artifacts and environments, using a variety of technologies and materials.

“The working group for this project emphasises collaborative design and peer teaching as means to transfer knowledge between students from diverse backgrounds, allowing them access to work with the tools and technologies necessary for designing and building Tangible User Interfaces.”

Jed Boyle, a second-year student on the college’s BA (Hons) Graphic Design degree said, “I am interested in digital media design, coding and website development, so this new branch of tangible interface technology was great to learn about. I am sure as the industry advances it will become more and more established as a contender in mainstream consumer technology. From a designers point of view, I think it’s important to recognise this, and get a head start on integrating this technology into our design thinking and concepts.”

Kamal Gohil, who runs The Agency here at the college said, “This is the third time we’ve participated in this conference. In the past I have run creative typography workshops as part of the conference, as well as giving presentations about The Agency, which have always been very well received and the team at ESDA are keen to mirror what we’re doing with our in-house design studio, where students can get paid work experience. It’s great for us to be able to talk about the college, meet new students and create opportunities for our current students.”

He continued, “When I’ve travelled to ESDA in the past, I have met students who have then made the decision to come and study at Plymouth College of Art, often choosing to transfer here for the final year of study - and also get involved with The Agency.”

“The first time I went to the festival, a student called Maria Gimenez Fortea came into our workshop on the second day with her portfolio and said she wanted to come to Plymouth. I thought her portfolio was great and I encouraged her to apply. Maria came to us on her Erasmus exchange, and then she decided to transfer to Plymouth College of Art for her final year, as well as joining The Agency team. She worked on a selection of design jobs alongside completing her final year of study, graduating in summer 2017. She is now working as a graphic designer at a digital marketing agency here in the UK.”

Image by www.undoestudio.com

Whilst visiting Spain, Kamal also took students to visit Undo Estudio, a design agency set up by Luis Garcia, Alfredo Martinez Perez and Isabel Tris Blasco. Undo Estudio specialise in the design and production of cultural projects, including a mural design project that serves to celebrate and unite communities across the city.

The students were given a tour of the studios, and an overview of the projects that Undo are currently working on. Todd Taylor, currently in his third year of our BA (Hons) Graphic Design programme, said; “I actually visited Undo Estudio twice when we were in Zaragoza. The team there were so accommodating, and their studio space is filled with loads of exciting products and design work, making it a sheer pleasure to visit. The visit has inspired me to run my own agency in the future.”

Todd will graduate this summer, and his work will be on show at the college’s Degree Shows which will be open to the public in June. He continued, “This project taught me that there is a lot of exciting work you can do using Kinect sensors, coding and vector graphics. The possibilities of developing products through tangible interfaces is endless.

“It was great to catch up with ESDA students who were previously on Erasmus exchanges at Plymouth College of Art - Zaragoza is a beautiful city filled with innovative creatives. I would love to go back, and would recommend anyone one else to visit.”

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