Encode/Decode

2012, Cherry Hardwood Encription Kit, A1 Format Poster


In our media rich environment, full of the constant bombardment of messages, how do we assign value to individual communications? It asks rather than fast, more, and constant, could slow, less, and distorted actually enhance our experience by forcing us to become an active participant? As designers dictated by technology, disruption is so often avoided and hidden. This project begins a journey of asking could these disruptive moments actually enhance our interactions in contemporary society and temporarily question what it means to participate in it?

The project began by analyzing the historic use of symbol languages and encoded typographic systems which traditionally add layers of distortion to communication. These systems force audiences to participate in additional steps of deciphering their meaning in order to communicate. By forcing additional engagement, the reward of participating is enhanced. Using the rules abstracted from these systems and the geometric relationships of letterforms, a new 26-character alphabet was developed which became the basis for an encryption kit housed in a two-sided box. This box consists of 26 two-sided stamps, an ink pad, and a series of pre formatted message cards. To operate, the user would flip the box to the appropriate side and use the corresponding stamps to create or translate a message.

To expand on the duality of this relationship, from letter form to encoded system and from encoding a message to deciphering one, 3-D printing technology was utilized to develop the formal nature of the stamps. The two symbols were lofted together to formally translate the letterform on one side, to the new symbol equivalent on the other. The formal quality of these extrusions symbolically represented the new distorted layer within the translated communication, moving away from the veil of clear communication to a new experience entirely. The last stage of the project was a testing ground for the viability of this system. The modular system allowed for a form of visual camouflage, enabling the ability to embed messages in abstract patterns. This representation challenges the potential of meaning in our contemporary environments. Do textures, patterns, pixels and information within our environment have embedded meanings we are unable to comprehend? If so, what does that say about the sincerity of our encounters with dictated media? If not, might this provide a place for more in depth and participatory occurrences?

The role of this project is to temporarily disrupt our everyday communication platforms. In doing so, we are able to look back on those platforms with new appreciation. Upon using these systems again, how might the disrupted event influence our understanding and participation in the mediascape?