Monday, 30 August 2010

Q&A with: Thomas James

Explain the Phone Aesthetics project:

The project investigates the dialectic relationship between sound and image, and how the two inter relate. It focussed on the almost synaesthetic nature between the two senses of sight and sound and how the two can affect one another in their communication.

The outcome of the project took the form of a book, which was printed entirely in conductive inks, forming printed circuits and elements which allowed and encouraged user interaction. When various forms were touched, circuits were completed and a small current was passed through the ink. The printed shapes caused varying resistances, which were converted to sound via a PCB in the spine. The book essentially allowed for users to listen to shapes and forms by touching them.

What was the inspiration behind the project?

There is so much I looked at which I would consider as inspiration for the project, music, visual artists, social theorists, designers; but I think the inspiration is pretty much everything I'm interested in, which inevitablely surrounds sound and visual culture. There were more key elements of research that I looked at initially though, I think the first theorist I viewed was Wolfgang Köhler. He instigated research into the 'Bibi and Kouka' effect, which looks at the relationship between words, and their semantically implied shapes.

Did you have prior knowledge of electronics/circuits?

I had a small amount of electronics knowledge, and have always been interested in the crossovers between technology and graphic design, completing more technologically simpler projects prior to the Phono Aesthetics book. I love trying to re-appropirate newer technologies into printed mediums to convey concepts as effectively as possible. I wanted to be more ambitious with this project though, and had a lot of help and advice from designer Matthew Falla, whose work has always been inspiring and in line with my own interests.

What does the content of the book consist of?

The content of the book is a range of illustrated research, and visual experiments, exploring how the various images and forms will affect the sounds produced.There are diagrams detailing certain theories, illustrations detailing the mapping of sound, and general forms and shapes exploring the concept.

Is the theme of sound something you wish to explore further?

Definitely, I'm currently working on a project now which acts almost as a continuation of the Phono Aesthetics project, but allows for a greater level of user defined form and exploration. I think in such a rich topic, there tends to be almost a natural relationship and interest for many designers, which will always provide for interesting and explorative outcomes.

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