Play & Learn: Part 7 - Interim stage

The illustration course organize an exhibition in February to showcase the student's work in progress. My intention was to finish the game before the show so I could focus more on my IPS and external project. I spent roughly three weeks making bricks in the ceramics studio, experimenting with the laser cutter, ordering paper samples and working with InDesign. I went pass my initial deadline with two days, but I still managed to hang my work before the vernissage.

Even though I worked really hard, I still did not managed to finish all game elements. The game boards are a bit too anonymous, the information text on the cards suffers from too many hyphenations, and the paper I printed the rules on was too thick. I did address some of these issues for the Kolla! competition, but I suspect it will take a while to fix every tiny concern.

One thing that irritated me about the interim show was the lack of interactive space. I really wanted to showcase my game on a table with stools or chairs so that people could actually play it, but had to put it on a shelf as shown above. I mean, it is not the first year the course had the topic Play & Learn, so you think they would be better prepared for this.

Play & Learn: Part 6

How do you make a game less fun to play, but not making it preachy or boring? I did not want to change the game system too much since it was rather balanced and enjoyed by all test players. No, my approach was to work more on the visual identity of the game. After discussing my problems with tutors and other students, I decided to make the game boards separate and more human-like to create empathy and compassion. Another aim was to emulate the graphic design from the time period in the rules and cards, as well as adding trivia about the experiments. Finally, I also decided to add images of damaged teeth to visually emphasize the consequence of the experiments. Some of my discarded ideas include red ID number on each board as well as forcing the players to wear surgical masks during play.

I returned to London about a week before the spring term started. This gave me plenty of time to discuss my ideas with the 3d design and ceramics technicians. They advised me to only make the tokens in porcelain, unlike my original idea were everything but the lips were made in a slip mould. Because of this, I had to come up with new designs that moved away from time-consuming ceramics to something that would be easier to mass produce. I also needed to ensure that the final design would not be too grotesque and off-putting. The minimal board designs would be cheaper overall, but they did not evoke the same emotions in the players as the larger face-shaped boards that I finally went with.

I decided to make the boards out of birch plywood since birch was one of the most popular woods in Swedish design from the time period. After a trip to the 4D ModelShop in London, the silicon lips were changed to plastizone due to time constraint and costs. I also laser-cut a special token tray that I used to make roughly 180 porcelain tokens that was sprayed with an transparent glaze. I order paper samples from G.F. Smith and Paper Back, but ended up printing on some thicker paper from a local stationers due to time limitations. While I did all this, I also read the book Sockerförsöket by Elin Bommenel, which explain the experiments, from the historical and political context to the scientific methods and collaborations with the industry. The book also mentions the consequences of the experiments, the controversies regarding the final report and how it was used to reform the Swedish dental care. It was three intensive weeks to say the least!

Play & Learn: Part 5

I finally had an idea for my outcome, but I needed to research different games to better find game mechanics that better conveyed my message. I originally looked at Kalaha and other Mancala games, since they are both very simple and offers loads of different strategies. I also wanted to make game tokens that represented teeth, so that the players would literally handle other people's teeth while they played the game. I also looked at Operation and Crocodile Dentist since you are encouraged to remove parts from the patients. I even played with the idea to make a disembodied face to collect the tokens from, but it felt way to grotesque and disrespectful.

This is another quick sketch on flimsy newsprint, but this wireframe helped me to structure the rules and visualize what kind of game elements (boards, cards, tokens) that I needed to produce for the mock-up. Since the rule system itself conveys a message, I realized that I needed to playtest it several times with friends and other students.

This mock-up is made of three thin MDF boards that were laser-cut into 9 mouths and 126 tokens, which were used to estimate roughly how many bricks should be collected each turn and when the game should be considered finished. I wrote the first draft of the rules based on these tests and designed 11 kinds of cards the player would use during play. I have played it several times against other students and it seemed fairly well-balanced. Some suggested that I should add some sort of consequence for removing the last token from a mouth, but otherwise it was fun. Way too fun. Honestly, I was not prepared that it would be so fun to remove teeth tokens from minimalistic mouths!

How do you make a game less fun to play, but not making it preachy or boring? I did not want to change the game system too much since it was rather balanced and enjoyed by all test players. No, my approach was to work more on the visual identity of the game. After discussing my problems with tutors and other students, I decided to make the game boards separate and more human-like to create empathy and compassion. Another aim was to emulate the graphic design from the time period in the rules and cards, as well as adding trivia about the experiments. Finally, I also decided to add images of damaged teeth to visually emphasize the consequence of the experiments. Some of my discarded ideas include red ID number on each board as well as forcing the players to wear surgical masks during play.

Play & Learn: Part 4

I discussed my work progress with Jen, one of my tutors. She argued that I should incorporate some of my personal projects, which include 3d design and game design, into my IPS. I personally disliked the idea and felt that it did not suit my intentions, but it did get me thinking more about the Play & Learn project.

Jen’s suggestion reminded me about games for change, a concept I came across at Södertörns Högskola when I briefly studied game graphics. The idea is to use game and their interactive design to discuss political questions regarding environment, equality, civil rights and more. While most of these games were digitally, I remembered a board game named Train designed by Brenda Romero.

Unknown artist. (2013) Brenda Romero's train. Read more about the game on Venturebeat.

The players are instructed to load trains with small humanoid markers and push them to the end of the rail. When one train finish, the game reveals it destination: Auschwitz. The game thus discusses the Holocaust and the moral issues of following orders. While some have questioned the ethics of exploring these themes through a game, most of them who played it have felt an emotional connection that is hard to express through text, images, or even movies.

Unknown artist. (1949) Mongolida män, Vipeholms sjukhus för sinnesslöa, Lund. Thomas Olssons arkiv.

I also decided to focus on the Vipeholm experiments, two studies that took place from 1945 to 1953 at the largest institution for mentally disabled in Sweden at that time. Back in the early 20th century, the Swedish dental hygiene was extremely bad. Some studies estimated that up to 99.99% suffered from extreme caries and tooth decay, which were expensive to treat properly. The Social democrats financed a dental care reform with taxes, but it was costly and controversial. In order to gain support, they initiated an expensive experiment to find what could prevent caries. After two years of study, the scientists have not got any results.

In order to save their – and the politicians - faces and secure financial funds, the scientists decided to rework the experiment. They decided to provoke caries by feeding the patients toffee, chocolate, caramel, and sucrose. Some of the control groups ate twice the average consumption, while also leaving regular saliva, urine, and blood samples. Many of the patients were bedridden and/or unable to communicate, which makes their participation questionable. Furthermore, neither the relatives nor the politicians were told about this change in advance.

The study managed to once and for all show an undeniable correlation between sugar and caries. It changed the dental care not only in Sweden, but also in the rest of the Nordic countries as well as US. Children had to brush their teeth twice a day and limit their candy consumption to once a week. During late 50s, schoolchildren had to check their tooth status regularly with special dentist nurses called “fluorine ladies” to ensure strong teeth.

The Swedish dental hygiene was saved, but only by an experiment that breached the Nuremberg Code. Neither the patients nor their relatives were informed about the study or how they could withdraw, neither were they compensated. Furthermore, it took over a year for two dentists to repair or pull out all teeth that got damaged due to the experiments, and they did not even treat all patients. The scientists and doctors argued that the patients should be happy that they finally contributed to the Swedish society.

Play & Learn: Part 1

Last summer we had to choose between four different primers which would become the foundation for our final year projects. One of these primers was Play & Learn, which focus on creating an interactive and playful learning experience through illustration and design. I choose to focus on thehistory of sugar, mostly because Nordiska Museet in Stockholm had a temporary exhibition on the subject. Here are some of the location drawings I produced during my visits.

Everything was new to me: even though I have heard the connections between sugar and colonialism, I had not yet understood the direct connections to slavery and rise of racism. I did not know that the sugar industry was the 7th largest industry in Sweden during the 1930s. The Swedish government lowered taxes for the industry to create job during the depression, which in turn propagate the cheap and healthy benefits of granulated sugar. I was also surprised to learn that sugar was used in Middle Eastern medicine to create the first medical pills and tablets during the 15th century, and that it was a key ingredient in medicine up to the 20th century. All information excited me, but it also became a problem: how would I ever be able to limit my focus to just one topic?

Independent State: Workshops

We had a ton of theoretical lectures, visits, and screenings when school started. One of the most important things we did was to discuss what a state should provide and divide ourselves into smaller groups or ministries. I joined the Cabinet of Curiosity, a ministry that combined school, museum, research, and philosophy with a local focus. Check out our tumblr for more insight into our work process!

Our first major workshop was to organize appropriate activities and present ourselves in Peckham Square 1st May. We decided to have two activities: a hidden-objects-trail and a question generator. The trail consisted of ten objects, each chosen by its relevance to the area, which we hid in the square earlier. In the question randomiser, the participant took two words at random and stuck them to a question template. They then had to answer the question as best as they could and give us the result. Both activities were way more appreciated than we thought and we got more than 30 answers when the day was finished!

The banner workshop was less successful. We had great discussions and came up with several good ideas, but we were quite disorganized: It took us a while to get started. We might also have been too optimistic about the main banner, since the pole was too long and unstable for the wind. It eventually broke and had to be carried like a jousting lance! At least the eye-shaped pattern is reused in the book that we are currently printing.

You can see our kite-like banners popping up around 0:57.

Independent State: Primer

This project is, without doubt, the most complicated brief we had so far. The intention is to explore the political power of illustration and graphic design, but also get a deeper understanding of how contemporary politics works. The primer was quite simple in itself: Watch a documentary, do individual research, and draw 10 things that a state must provide for its citizens. The last thing we had to do was to enter a political poster competition hosted by The Guardian.

I had some difficult things to handle during Easter, including a break-up from a long-term relationship, a search for accommodation in Stockholm, and wait for a reply on my job application. It was first when I finished my essay I visited the British Museum and walked around the neighbourhoods for my research.

The Guardian competition closed one week before school started. This was something I realized when it was less than 24 hours left. I immediately went home and sketched like mad, but I couldn’t force myself to produce something even passable. Not because I don’t care about politics, but because my main issue was the pluralistic representation system, which I think is absolutely bollocks.

I wanted to show how outdated the system was by drawing David Cameron in a stage costume he wore when he was nine years old: It was the last time a party in UK had support from majority of the voters. I backed out though and have still not produced a finished poster. I will try to do it either this weekend or beginning of next week.

Even though these sketches were a good warm up for the 10 images, I still felt a bit rusty after a longer period of 3D design and project management. I solved this by drawing owls instead of humans. After all, we say a parliament of owls in English. Surely they must have some sort of society to back up that claim?

Affordable Housing

Art Funding

Education

Environmental Protection

Fair Justice System

Independent Media

Healthcare

Libraries

Public Transport

Waste Management

 This is the final versions that I went with. My original idea was to include a full forest and more detailed branches, but I feared that it would take too much focus from the owls. You can also see that some sketches did not make it into final stage. They were too similar to other images, but less striking. I removed them in order to make each image stand out more.

Reportage: Part 2

I screen-printed around 16 different versions of the final illustration in orange, green and purple. I also experimented with different kind of paper and paper colour, since the brief only contained colour restrictions for the illustration itself. I really like the final pieces and want to screen-print soon again, but it was a long and frustrating road to get there!

Reportage: Part 1

Our last rotation assignment was to create a reportage illustration in A2 format, similar to the chronicles of Feliks Topolski. The preparations was to read articles more or less related to the wage pay gap in London, such as gentrification, inflated housing market, food poverty and more. We then went out on a day-trip to Brixton market and sketched everything that would fit the articles we read.

My first idea was to focus on food poverty, that food itself is an expression of socio-economic class. I therefore sketched interior from a Whole Foods Market at Piccadilly as a contrast to the rustic market In Brixton.

There were a lot of misunderstandings between me and my teacher when I presented my idea. I talked about a homeless man that begged for money as a catalyst for my idea, but she assumed that I was going to focus on the homeless and thought it was too obvious. I believed she wanted me to redo all my research and focus on gentrification instead, which made me quite frustrated. It did not get any better that we had to exhibit or final pieces the day after the workshop! Needless to say, I did not finish my piece in time. Anyway, here are some of the experiments I did with mono printing and ink washes over candle wax markings.

I spent some time and read more articles about gentrification around Brixton market and saw possibilities to still use food as a point of view. I also decided to keep my attention to the market and play around with different layouts.

I first did line drawings with a marker and then with a dip pen. I then did the block of colouring on another sheet of paper, before I added my quotations from the articles to the line drawings. These sheets were later scanned ad retouched digitally before I screen-printed them manually.

Editorials: Part 1

Second year started with two editorial illustrations. The first article was about the different living conditions of USA’s richest and poorest. It was heavy on the statistics, but the summary was a bit weak and I had to re-read it several times until I got it. Anyway, we started off with sketching and experimenting with materials and texture. The idea was to make collages that we could improve upon.

COLLAGES

Because the article was so focused on statistics, I kind of wanted to use them to create geometric shapes, cityscapes, or skyline. However, the infographic theme in the first collage was hard to read and most classmates thought they were shark fins.

I and my tutor thought this piece has most potential. Sitting on a shadow’s edge felt like a fitting metaphor for the lower classes’ situation, and it also suited the tone of the article.

I really, really like this guy! He is inspired by Paul Coker, an illustrator most famous for his contributions to Mad Magazine. His main problem was that he did not strike the right tone: He was just too funny for the subject.

The article used the word adrift in such a way that I immediately thought about Huckleberry Finn. I imagined people from the lower classes steering an unsteady raft on a sea of debt.

FINAL PIECE

It was a close tie between the second and fourth collage. It was first when I did some colour thumbnails that I chose the second collage. I also chose to work with warm and cold colours and put some efforts to make the shadow and figure a bit transparent. I wanted to add extra uncertainty to the final piece.

I really like the contrast between colours, use of gradients and shapes. I just wish I added more people in the shadow to underline that this is a structural and not a personal problem. I also wonder how it would look like if it would look better if I added a skyline or not