The Meaning of a Second

Like most of you, I have a closet of plastic shoeboxes filled with printed photos. Last week began scanning many of them. One of them is the image above of my grandmother, mother, aunt, and me sitting on the steps with dappled light. It's not particularly well composed, but it feels like summer. It reminded me of the scene in Blade Runner, when Harrison Ford looks through his own family photos. For a second, the light dappling on the subject of the photo he holds begins to move.

That scene has its roots in Chris Marker's La Jettée. La Jetée is the story later remade into 12 Monkeys. It was created with only still images, no motion. But there is one moment in the film when, for a brief second, one of the characters opens her eyes. Then the film continues with the series of still images.

A similar concept is used in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up. A series of black and white photographs display the sequence of events of a murder. There is no motion, but the sound of the trees is added to strengthen the narrative. The effect in all of these is an increased sense of connection for the viewer.

I may be simple, but it's those quiet moves that I like in a film. I'm okay with blowing up spaceships too, but I think Guardians of the Galaxy would have been improved with a sequence of still images and the sound of trees.

sequence begins at 1:00

Blade Runner

Blow Up, sequence begins at 1:15

Type of Tomorrow

I’m often asked, “Sean, what’s the future of design?” Fortunately, I know. I specifically know the future of screen-based design. I’ve seen it on television. There are several options.

If you prefer a future that is run-down and multi-cultural, Blade Runner shows us how to mix corporate identity and Japanese Kanji. LA Eyeworks is still in business, and the Los Angeles Police Department has hired a designer with a retro-digital outlook. For those preferring a modernist future, 2001: A Space Odyssey articulates a future with a nice and consistent on-screen typographic palette. Courier and OCRA are still all the rage. Many screens are now vertical to better see tall people.

Modernism still dominates in the 24th century on Star Trek, The Next Generation. Akzidenz Grotesk Medium Condensed has been determined as the only acceptable typeface, and tablet shapes are de rigueur. Screen based typography on the latest Star Trek movie has the problem of over-using Microgramma. However, any use of Microgramma is over-usage. In this future, we are obviously able to digest enormous amounts of information on screen with tiny type. Luckily, everyone seems to be under 30 and tech-savvy.

This is what I now know: if you are a designer in the future, you may be asked to use Microgramma or fill the screen with trivial information. Just say no.