Friday, April 2, 2010

My Portfolio Website

My portfolio website is up and running!


If you get an error screen, just reload/refresh the page. I'm hosting the site through IUPUI's Pegasus server, for now, and there's something wrong with the URL redirect. Every now and then the page doesn't show up on first load.

But go ahead and check it out!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ergodic Literature and House of Leaves

A few weeks ago, I picked up a book called House of Leaves from the library. I'd never heard of it until I came across its mention in a discussion about Paranormal Activity on The Onion A/V Club. It intrigued me enough to go out and find House of Leaves immediately. Rather than summarize the plot, which is difficult enough, I'll put Wikipedia's description of the book here, for the sake of expediency:

"House of Leaves begins with a first-person narrative by Johnny Truant, a Los Angeles tattoo parlor employee. Truant is searching for a new apartment when his friend Lude tells him about the apartment of the recently deceased Zampanò, a blind, elderly man who lived in Lude's building.

In Zampanò's apartment, Truant discovers a manuscript written by Zampanò that turns out to be an academic study of a documentary film called The Navidson Record.

The rest of the novel alternates between Zampanò's report on the fictional film, Johnny's autobiographical interjections, a small transcript of part of the film from Navidson's brother, Tom, a small transcript of interviews to many people regarding The Navidson Record by Navidson's [wife], Karen, and occasional brief notes by unidentified editors, all woven together by a mass of footnotes. There is also another narrator, Johnny's mother, whose voice is presented through a self-contained set of letters titled The Whalestoe Letters. Each narrator's text is printed in a distinct font, making it easier for the reader to follow the occasionally challenging format of the novel."

The description alone is daunting, though, so far, my experience reading House of Leaves has been more exhilarating (and some nights flat-out terrifying) than overwhelming. It's a really great way to immerse a reader into the world of the story. I would describe it as the adult equivalent of those Choose Your Own Adventure books I read as a kid.

Though House of Leaves isn't as overt as that. The genius of it is that by the very nature of the writing - the fact that, like Bram Stoker's Dracula, it is written as if the characters wrote every word - you feel danger not only for the fictional characters, but danger for yourself for simply reading the book. It's like you're discovering something you shouldn't be seeing. You get wrapped up in the sense of discovery as you interpret hidden messages in the text, refer to footnotes and footnotes about footnotes, and you read the appendices and examine photographs. It's an obsessive and rewarding multimedia experience.

I wondered what kind of novel this could be categorized as, since it has so many elements involved I couldn't even begin to classify it. It turns out, that it falls under the description of ergodic literature. Here's a definition from

"Ergodic literature is literature that requires special effort to comprehend or read, perhaps due to a "non linear" structure. The term is derived from the Greek words ergon, meaning "work" and hodos, meaning "path". Ergodic literature demands an active role of the reader, such that they become "users" who may need to perform complex semiotic operations to construct the reading."

So, by that definition, everything you read online is ergodic literature. This blog entry is ergodic literature. At anytime of your choosing, you can click any of the links I've provided and go on a separate path that will take you to things that I didn't write. And then that may direct you to something else that I haven't foreseen. And so on. The entire online universe is one big piece of ergodic literature.

As for House of Leaves, it's just another example of why I hope physical, paper-bound books never go away. The experience of reading House of Leaves would be miserable on a Nook or Kindle. When you read a book like this, it needs to look like this once you're done with it:

Website Redesign:

Since I talked so much trash about the Musicovery site, I figured I should offer a prospective redesign for their layout.

Here's the original:

Broken down into basic shapes:

And the redesign:

I think framing the web of songs within a dark, circular space would be a great touch, because it would make them all seem like they were floating in space, and you were at some sort of hub, controlling it all, picking and choosing the songs. Maybe the background could change shades with whatever mood you were picking for the music. Almost any color would be better than that blank white space they have now. And the ads could be relegated to the corners to keep things a bit more tidy.

Poster Trends: Footnotes for the future (part II)

There is a theater in Austin, Texas, called the Alamo Drafthouse that is often used for screenings of old cult classics, new movie geek event movies, or sometimes for filmmaker moderated film festivals, such as Quentin Tarantino's QT Fests.

Whenever they have a special screening of an older film, they commission certain designers and illustrators to come up with a new poster to promote the screening. Though the styles have a lot of differences between them, there is an underlying unity that makes me think that there could be something to what they're doing that may carry over into mainstream poster design. I'll start with designer/illustrator, Tyler Stout.

His style of movie poster almost always consists of a massive orgy of floating heads, just piled upon each other among little knick knacks and various stuff from the movie. It's like a big fanboy geekout collage. Packed to the gills with obscure references and frozen moments taken directly from the screen. He keeps everything unified amid the chaose by sticking to only a handful of colors for the whole image. It's a style with a palpable sense of energy and glee for whichever movie is being represented.

If you look closely at the way the figures and faces are outlined, it looks like he's using Adobe Illustrator, or a similar vector-based program to make these images. There are a lot of outlines, which makes everything almost look plastic. Though, the wavy-ness of some of the line work makes me think that he may physically draw a lot of it, and then scan it into the computer for the finished work.

... come to think of it, this all looks like inkwork, now. Jeez. Look what computers have done. Here I am underestimating someone's handiwork just because it looks so precise. "He must have used a computer!" I say. For shame...

Poster Trends: Footnotes for the Future (part I)

So you may have noticed I've been writing a lot about movie posters. Is my only ambition to become a movie poster designer? No, it isn't exactly my highest ambition, but I am sort of obsessed with them. In general though, I'm just very interested in how we choose represent stories in any medium with just one single image. It's not something that's going away any time soon. No matter how advanced technology gets, now matter how far removed our entertainment outlets get from printed media, stories will need posters or cover art, of some sort, to represent them and grab the attention of a target audience.

By looking at so many different design choices, good and bad, and seeing how much of it is repeated, I can get a broader sense of the design sensibilities that will define my generation, and thus I can begin to speculate on what sort of trends may become the norm in the future.

Already I've begun to see some trends among amateur and professional poster designers who are finding new ways to represent older films. Here are some styles I've noticed that could very well become a trend in the distant (or, not-so-distant) future.

A designer named Olly Moss has a small collection of posters made only in black and red and the results are excellent. It's definitely a minimalist approach, but the capacity to get so much across using so little is something that I think more and more poster designers may end up utilizing in future poster designs to set themselves apart. Of course, it will take a pretty adventurous marketing department to put their faith in this kind of design in the current marketing climate. There is a lot to compete against.

More to come in Part II.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Poster Trends: Visual Puns & Metaphors (part VI)

Click here for The Visual Puns and Metaphors intro

The Truth in Shadow variation

Don't you wish our shadows did this in real life? It would be so much easier to cut through all the crap we talk on a daily basis and find out what someone is truly all about.

This has become one of the most commonly used visual metaphors in movie posters, so whether or not one really works depends on the execution. The Phantom Menace teaser poster is a great one. That's mainly because of the iconography involved. Anyone who watches movies knows who that shadow represents. But the positioning of young Anakin Skywalker (that irritating little brat) is also very striking. He looks so innocent and alone and helpless. And yet he will become... him. It's pretty sad when a movie's poster has more emotional impact than the movie. I know, The Phantom Menace is an easy target, but it had to be said.