Tag Archives: Nik Hafermaas

Explore. Reform. Succeed: How psychographic profiles drive Graphic Design’s innovative new website

Graphic Design alum Youmna Chamcham's takes a Reformer's approach to design

Graphic Design alum Youmna Chamcham takes a Reformer’s approach to design

When a highly regarded graphic design program launches a new website, it’s often received by design community with the heightened levels of scrutiny and anticipation reserved for the latest iPhone unveiling. And those expectations become stratospheric when that academic department happens to have distinguished itself with its pioneering transmedia curriculum.

But all that pressure to dazzle the design world did not deter ArtCenter Graphic Design Chair, Nik Hafermaas, from breaking with convention in both the conception and execution of his department’s newly minted website. Instead, Hafermaas recruited a core group of innovative designers to take a distinctly idiosyncratic approach to developing and building the content of the site around a set of user archetypes known as “psychographics,” based on demographic research of likely visitors. The look and feel of the site was then created based on the written psychographic Q&As that Graphic Design faculty member Guillaume Wolf had assembled as the site’s driving conceit.

Hafermaas’ risk paid off. Artcenter.edu/gx launched to great acclaim earlier this month. As the raves continued to roll in, we seized the opportunity to ask Hafermaas to illuminate the unconventional process that lead him to create a site inspired and inhabited by the presumed end user.

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Catch a sneak peek at the past, present and future of fonts and ArtCenter’s new Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography

The centerpiece of the student-produced show was an interactive  typographical timeline enabling viewers to create a customizable program. Photo by Nik Hafermaas

The centerpiece of the student-produced show was an interactive typographical timeline enabling viewers to create a customizable program. Photo by Nik Hafermaas

The passageway leading into the South Campus gallery is swimming in an alphabet soup of letters and familiar icons and signage, hawking everything from the latest blockbuster to cheap, fast cash loans. It’s an immersive experience in the nuanced codes and messages contained within the various fonts and typefaces that punctuate our modern landscape. This visceral typographic encounter acts as an introduction to the student-produced temporary show, 85_15 TYPOGRAPHY: PAST/PRESENT/FUTURE, which is the first exhibition to be presented by the new Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography (HMCT), due to make its official debut on November 7 with the Symposium and Center opening celebration in its permanent space on the ground floor of ArtCenter’s 950 South Raymond building.

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Art Center pop-up studio opens doors at BIKINI BERLIN in the heart of City West

Art Center’s pop-up studio in BIKINI BERLIN

Over the past 12 years Art Center has built a rich track record of studio abroad projects in the German capital. What started out as an anarchistic design intervention squatting an abandoned drugstore back in 2003, has evolved into a robust educational program in the thriving urban environment of Berlin, sought after by students, faculty and alumni. The ensuing suite of semester-long transdisciplinary projects was co-created by Nik Hafermaas and David Mocarski, the department chairs of Graphic Design and Environmental Design respectively. Under the labels “Fresh Eyes Berlin” and later “Testlab Berlin,” the two majors plus the Illustration department have hosted more than ten projects combined.

Testlab Berlin projects use art and design strategies to envision how we will live in the future and are often sponsored by brands that are seeking genuinely fresh creative insights derived from first-hand cultural immersion in the multi-cultural laboratory that is Berlin.

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Transform, Transcend, Transmedia: The Changing Face of Graphic Design

Paul Hoppe’s installation "ECHO: The Fragility of Moments Suspended in Time."

Paul Hoppe’s installation “ECHO: The Fragility of Moments Suspended in Time.”

It’s the final week of the Fall 2012 term and “The Annex”—a nondescript temporary building on the northern end of Art Center’s Hillside Campus—is doing a good job hiding the feats of alchemy occurring within its walls.

Entering classroom A7 on the second floor of this battleship grey structure feels like stepping into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. In one corner, a student waves his hands to stir into motion a field of floating green particles. In another, students walk through a mirrored passageway that reflects their position in time and space from exactly 10 seconds ago. Elsewhere, two ellipses face one another—one on the floor, the other on the ceiling—as they project images of nature, architecture and words like “renewal” and “emergence.”

What is going on here? These upper-term Graphic Design students are tweaking final projects they created for Advanced Graphic Studio, a class that’s part of an ambitious undergraduate curriculum called transmedia within the Graphic Design Department.

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Alums’ airport installation takes shape from flight

‘Tis the season for travel — and those who find themselves in Atlanta’s International Airport can find an artsy take on flight.

AirFIELD — designed by alums Dan Goods and Jamie Barlow, and graphic design chair Nik Hafermaas — mimics the flight paths of one of the world’s busiest hubs.

The liquid-crystal sculpture suspended from the ceiling is synced to real-time flight data and quietly ripples with each passing plane — up to 2,500 a day.

The installation’s 1,500 discs are connected to 81 circuit boards and a server, and switch from opaque to transparent with an electric charge. Planes traveling short distances create small movements while longer flights cause greater activity in the sculpture.

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Graphic Design student wins Adobe Design Achievement Award

Recent graduate Jeff Han GRPH 11 (top) and current Graphic Design student Jerod Rivera represented Art Center at last week's Adobe Design Achievement Awards.

Recent Graphic Design graduate Jeff Han GRPH 11 walked away a winner at last week’s 12th annual Adobe Design Achievement Awards.

The event, which was held at the DesignThinkers 2012 conference in Toronto, honored students and educators whose winning projects were selected from 41 finalists out of nearly 5,000 total entries from 70 countries.

Han’s museum re-branding project for the fictional Contemporary Museum of Architecture (COMA), which he created as a seventh term student in instructor Brad Bartlett’s Transmedia course, won the award in the the Print Communications category.

“I’ve always had a very strong interest in architecture,” said Han of his winning design, which utilized a typographic solution inspired by the generative creation of forms in contemporary architecture. Part of the rebranding project included creating a series of posters promoting an (also fictional) exhibition by Greg Lynn, an architect whom Han lists as a creative inspiration.

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Filling in the Blank: Students Bringing TEDx to Campus

Class shot of the TEDx Art Center College of Design Studio. Photo: June Korea.

Orange will mix with red this summer when the student-driven TEDx Art Center College of Design conference takes over the Hillside Campus on Saturday, June 9 to explore the event’s theme: “Design a ________ for Social Impact.” The “blank” in that title is a call-to-action designed to inspire conference attendees to come up with their own idea for how to effect positive change in the world.

Also on hand to inspire attendees will be an impressive lineup of speakers, including Doug Powell, national president of AIGA and the individual spearheading that association’s Design for Good initiative; and Cameron Tonkinwise, chair of Design Thinking and Sustainability at Parsons The New School School for Design, whose current research is exploring design-enabled sharing of resources. And for something completely different, Art Center Product Design alumnus and KILLSPENCER founder Spencer Nikosey has been tapped to provide the day’s musical entertainment.

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Students Spend Their Summer Augmenting Reality

Still from the promotional video for Juju, a student-created augmented reality application.

This past summer term, Art Center welcomed back its first visionary-in-residence, science fiction author Bruce Sterling (Schismatrix, Islands in the Net, The Caryatids) to co-teach an augmented reality (AR) transdisciplinary design studio with Graphic Design instructor Guillaume Wolf called Augmenting Reality.

Not certain what AR is exactly? You’re not alone. For the studio, Sterling and Wolf defined AR as a software program that must: 1) mix the virtual with the real, 2) be interactive in real time and 3) register in three dimensions.

AR is an industry still on the cusp, and applications are only now starting to sneak out of the labs and into consumers’ hands. “It may even be a bit before the cusp,” Sterling says of the AR industry. “It’s an old technology, but it’s a baby industry.”

In the course—hosted by the College’s Graphic Design Department and sponsored by Amsterdam-based Layar, a company whose AR platform claims more than one million active users—teams of students designed both concepts and prototype AR apps that ranged from virtual pets to an augmented “spiritual reality” experience.

Layar's Maarten Lens-FitzGerald gets some FaceTime with Graphic Design student Shi Jie Lim and Graphic Design Department chair Nik Hafermaas. Photo: Alex Arestei, Layar.

“I was impressed by the student’s concepts, execution and their presentation,” says Maarten Lens-FitzGerald, general manager and co-founder of Layar, who watched the teams’ final presentations virtually (during the final he was “passed” around the classroom on an instructor’s smartphone). “Even with innovative media, it’s still important to be able to tell the story using mainstream media. Not all AR people know this; but the students did.”

Words, no doubt, that are music to instructor Wolf’s ears, who wanted to make sure the students were designing based on something people can actually connect with.

“Why are people interested in anything? It’s not just about design, it’s about the psychology behind it,” says Wolf of what he tries to impart to his students. “Why is a product sexy? Why do we want it? How does a designer create that desire?”

(Read more, and view videos of the work, after the jump.)

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Stop the Presses: Students Dive Head First into Editorial for the iPad

It’s hard to believe the iPad has only been with us for a little over a year. The now ubiquitous device debuted last April and sold three million units in 80 days, making it the then-fastest selling device of all time. The publishing world quickly took notice and recently began publishing iPad-specific publications. Virgin CEO Richard Branson’s magazine Project was the first such publication out of the gate last December, and this February Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation launched its iPad-only newspaper The Daily.

Sensing a shift in the industry, Nik Hafermaas, Chair of Art Center’s Graphic Design Department, sat down with instructor Carla Barr to discuss the possibility of creating an iPad design class. Barr, who has taught Editorial Design extensively, saw an opportunity to bring her area of expertise and this new technology together and suggested creating an iPad Editorial class.

“Students a few years ago had very mixed feelings towards interactive media,” says Nik Hafermaas, who thinks this class, along with classes like MediaTecture and this coming term’s augmented reality studio—sponsored by LAYAR and co-taught by writer Bruce Sterling—fall into the burgeoning arena of transmedia design and are important steps for where Art Center students needs to be headed conceptually. “Now students are aware of the ubiquitous nature of these tools,” he says. “They’re starting to enjoy using them, and see that somebody needs to design the content.”

The experimental class—whose test run took place last term and which is being offered again Summer Term—attracted the attention of two education specialists from Apple, one who visited the class and another, according to Barr, who said there was no other class he knew of focusing on editorial for the iPad.

We recently chatted with iPad Editorial instructor Barr and two students who took the class, Graphic Design majors Megan Potter (who graduated last month) and Jinsub Shin about their experience and digital publications.

Carla Barr, Instructor

Dotted Line: Who took this class?
Carla Barr: Surprisingly, everybody in the class was part of the graphics print area of emphasis. They were sixth, seventh and eighth term students whose last interactive class had been early in their Art Center education.

Dotted Line: What kind of work did they do in class?
They created their own magazines and newspapers. I wanted them to come up with the content, rather than give them an assignment. So they came back with concepts and I had them cover the walls during the second week with their ideas.

Dotted Line: Each student created a magazine?
A sample of a magazine. They had to create a minimum of three articles, a table of contents, a cover and two covers for future issues. And there had to be interactivity and motion in each story. This was also an editorial class, so I taught them the structure of a publication, use of typography, imagery and sequencing.

Although the content would end up on an iPad, I still had to make sure they understood the fundamentals and everything my editorial students from the past would have to learn.

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In Case You Missed It

The Persistent Online Dating Campaign Medal, from Bucher's new book

As you know, there’s always something going on when it comes to Art Center alumni, students and faculty. Some of the latest:

  • Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Advertising alum Stefan Bucher’s new book, You Deserve a Medal, takes a fun look at the battlefield of love. Book signing and reception Feb. 15 at Skylight Books in Los Feliz. http://www.344design.com/ydm/
  • Fine Art alum James Drake, whose work focuses on life on the U.S./Mexican border, chosen for a Texas Medal of Arts award. El Paso Times
  • Graphic Design Chair Nik Hafermaas, along with colleagues at Google and NASA, develop ECloud, a weather-visualizing liquid crystal installation, at Mineta San Jose International Airport’s new North Concourse. San Francisco Gate
  • Photography alum Terry Wild documents impact of drilling on Pennsylvania farmscapes. Lancaster Farming
  • Advertising alum Mike Leon named creative director of Dubuque, Iowa-based creative firm. TH Online
  • Fine Art alum and former faculty member Erik Olson documents Detroit’s vacant buildings. Northville Patch