BRIEF: Part 2. Design a short (less than 30s) motion graphic that maps, depicts or contrasts some statistical information, so that it surprises and challenges how we might think about it.
Present the graphic in a full screen, single, responsive web page. Your graphic will be a critical and creative reflection on the information it uses as a source.
[RESEARCH] Sources of Inspiration:
David McCandless – Debtris: A big source of inspiration for this project is David McCandless’ animated data visualisation titled ‘Debtris’ I like the way he has taken inspiration from the 80’s video game Tetris and reappropriated it as a visual tool for communicating the UK’s debt, as well as some large corporations revenue as well as the cost to save the Amazon rainforest for example as a scale comparison. David McCandless has a website dedicated to data visualisation called ‘Information is Beautiful‘ where there some of which can be seen below.
The Time You Have (In JellyBeans): Here is a more alternative example of a data visualisation, it is a short timelaspse video by the filmmaker Ze Frank, where he uses jelly beans as a method of illustrating the days in which the average American will live and how much time we have left to spend doing things which we are passionate about, once you remove all of the things which take up a large portion of our life like sleeping for example. I like this video because although the subject matter is rather morbid as he is talking about the time we have left before we die, he is using jelly beans as a method of portraying the data in a childlike illustrative way, the imagery he is creating out of the jelly beans looks playful which is ironic considering the videos subject matter.
Average Days Spent During Adulthood: This is an alternative way of displaying the same data used in the video above, it is a purely graphic based visualisation. Interestingly, it also uses a very similar system to the jelly bean video, instead of every jelly bean representing a day it uses squares, which the designer colour codes in categorise the data into blocks, similar to Kamel Makhloufi’s visualisation. This allows the viewer to at a glance, quickly gain an understanding of the data, unlike the jelly bean video which has more of a sense of drama as it spreads out the information over the course of a 3-minute video. This shows how there can be two drastically different methods of portraying the same data with two different effects on the viewer.
The Internet Map: Below is an image taken from theinternetmap.net which is a fascinating project by Ruslan Enikeev. “The Internet map is a bi-dimensional presentation of links between websites on the Internet. Every site is a circle on the map, and its size is determined by website traffic, the larger the amount of traffic, the bigger the circle. Users’ switching between websites forms links, and the stronger the link, the closer the websites tend to arrange themselves to each other.” Enikeev has portrayed the map of the internet like a galaxy of planets and solar systems which it feels like you can infinitely explore, it is extremely interactive. You can get lost looking for websites, learning about the relationship with the websites around them and how they rank globally. Check out the live version here.
SongSim: The example below was created by computer programmer Colin Morris, he created a tool called SongSim where he uses a software to analyse the repetition in songs and then produce a visual image from the data. Check out the interactive version here.
Other sources of inspiration and artistic references include; Damien Hirst, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Terry Frost, Yayoi Kusama, Peter Blake, Gerhard Richter, Piet Mondrian, Kamel Makhloufi, Peter Saville, David McCandless’ ‘Information is Beautiful‘, Barnett Newman and artists from the ‘Washington Color School‘ movement notably; Thomas Downing, Howard Mehring, Gene Davis and Kenneth Noland. All of the artists mentioned can be seen on the mood board below.
Initial Idea Proposal: It’s no secret that arts funding in England has drastically fallen due to budget cuts over the last ten years, unfortunately, this has lead to the decision of Arts Council England (ACE) to withdraw its funding of £750,000 per year for local Bristol contemporary art gallery the Arnolfini from 2018 onwards. A stalwart of the ACE portfolio for 13 years, the harbourside gallery was notable for its absence in the list of Bristol arts organisations set to receive money from 2018, as it was judged to be ‘not viable’ in its current model, that is why I have chosen arts funding cuts in the U.K as my main focus for this data visualisation project, because it has affected me personally and many of the people who also live and visit Bristol as an arts and culture hub. To quote directly from Arts Council England’s ‘How we’ve balanced our investment – Briefing Document’ published on 15 January 2016 “The context for this new National Portfolio is declining income. In 2010 we invested £350m of Grant in aid into the portfolio. Today- for 2015/16 we have £270m – a larger figure than it could have been after the Chancellor protected culture with a relatively smaller cut of 5% in the last spending review. With this reduction in Grant in aid of 36% since 2010, our investment in 670 National Portfolio organisations and 21 Major Partner Museums consolidates a high performing sector, invests in new talent and provides a strong backbone for our arts and culture….The level of funding for National Portfolio organisations and Major Partner Museums assumes standstill funding from Government in 16/17 and 17/18 for later years….58 organisations will be leaving the portfolio. Undoubtedly this will have an impact on the organisations concerned and we intend to talk to them about next steps before we release any details about them more widely.”
Artist Tacita Dean shares her views on arts funding cuts in an article in the Guardian titled ‘What’s the biggest question facing artists today?’ she states, “I think the biggest problem for artists is balancing a need for the market with a detachment from it. The demise of public funding and the overbearing existence of large, commerce-oriented galleries that even museums rely on these days, has distorted the capacity of artists to work freely.” artist Oreet Ashery also shares his views on arts funding, “There’s a lot more demand to find private funding but that can put artists in positions where they’re forced into corporate strategies. There’s quite a finger-pointing culture among artists. That pressure to say the right thing can distract from the battles we actually need to fight.” I believe the increase in demand to find private funding that Ashery is referring to is directly linked to arts funding cuts. However, the paradox of arts sponsorships and private funding is not a new issue, artists have been exploring the ambiguity for many years, namely, German-born artist Hans Haacke who produced a number of works highlighting Mobil Oil’s conspicuous and strategic art sponsorship in the 1980’s.
Below: A photograph from David McCandless’ ‘Information is Beautiful’ book – Moral Matrix a data visualisation which portrays different religions views on difficult topics such as; gay marriage, masturbation, gambling and abortion and uses colour to effectively communicate how each religion would respond to each topic. (Blue: Yes, Red: No, Grey: Condemned, Yellow: Blessed, White: Neutral or don’t know). This visualisation takes the form of a grid allowing viewers to easily read and understand the information provided. This data visualisation is very aesthetically pleasing because of the bold use of colour, solid structure and Mondrian-esque arrangement of blocks. However, the thing that drew me towards this data visualisation, in particular, was it’s resemblance to 8-bit graphics and its visual similarity to the game Breakout, which contrasts with the typically classic style commonly associated with religion.
DESIGN CONCEPT: My idea for the second part of the brief is strongly inspired by David McCandless’s ‘Debtris’ data visualisation and strongly inspired by the 1976 Atari video game ‘Breakout’ to visualise my data, because, firstly I feel that the blocks of colour in the game lend themselves to representing sets of data similar to a bar chart and the score a way of accurately adding accurate numerical data, but bricks could be destroyed by the ball as arts funding cuts data is represented to add a sense of drama. Secondly and rather interestingly when researching more about the history of the game I discovered it was designed by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers when he and Steve Jobs worked for Atari, as a twist on the game ‘Pong’ which he also designed for the company. However, Atari paid Jobs for ‘Breakout’ and he ‘supposedly’ paid Wozniak half the money’ for the project. Jobs wasn’t open or honest about how much he got paid for the game, he took the money and used it to buy a farm in Oregon. The game ‘Breakout’, therefore represents and symbolises the apotheosis of un-transparency, mistrust and losing money, which is exactly how galleries feel who rely on public funding, that is therefore why I believe it is the perfect metaphor to represent data about arts funding cuts in England.
Sketch above inspired by ‘Selected DCMS National Museum and Gallery – funding per visitor (2014/15 prices)’ data source which can be seen in full above.
Atari 2600 Breakout original gameplay (1976).
Below: You can see the raw data sheet I will use to produce my animation, taken from the 2016 ‘Arts Funding Statistics’ document I sourced from the www.parliament.uk website. This raw data sheet will be crucial in producing an accurate data visualisation, as you can see I have highlighted the years and the corresponding income that Arts Council England received which I will use in my animated data visualisation.
DESIGN: Below shows my design process starting with logo development; I took the existing Breakout logo from 1976 that appeared on the front of the original Atari Breakout box and added arts funding in front of it in the same style font as the original logo so it looked consistent and authentic, like the game could potentially have really existed. You can then see the development of how I imagined the Arts Funding Breakout gameplay to look as I went through a couple of iterations, based heavily off the original but also with a few extras that don’t appear in the original gameplay, as the game is very simplistic and there is a lot of black space. The other challenge I had to combat was because the game was made in the seventies, it was made in a 4:3 ratio and I was going to be building my animation in a 16:9 ratio for modern-day HD computer screens. I didn’t want to change the ratio or dimensions of the actual game because that is what makes it distinctively recognisable, so to combat this I added the arts funding breakout logo permanently at the top of the screen as well as a leaderboard on the right of the game, as a tool for logging and displaying the data after the game for each year is over, also allowing the viewer to see all previous years which on a typicall leaderbaord would be the name of the player and the amount of funding which would be the players score. I think this was a good idea because it allows the viewer to really get a sense of the funding in context, across a ten year period, which makes year 2011/2012 extra impactful because without knowing how much funding arts council England received in 2005/2006 the viewer wouldn’t know if it was good or bad.
Above: You can see a set of numerals and symbols which I illustrated inspired by the ‘Breakout’ video game numbers used to display a players score, I had to do this to allow me to display any possible number/value when it comes to animating process of the data visualisation brief.
COMPOSING MUSIC: Below you can see the process involved in producing the music to accompany my animated data visualisation, the original Breakout game doesn’t have any background music, it just uses sound effects when the ball hits the walls, paddle and blocks, however, I felt the animation should be accompanied by some music to really engage the viewer and attempt to emotionalise the animation with somber music, after all, it is representing arts funding cuts. I utilised the help from my friend James who is a talented musician to assist me in the composition of the music. I selected a song which I thought could work it is called ‘Left Bank Two’ by The Noveltones I selected this song in particular because the song was used regularly on one of my favourite childhood T.V shows SMart which was an arts and crafts show which encouraged children to be creative and make art. They used to have a regular section of the show called the SMart gallery where they would show the works that people had sent over the week, they would show the artworks in the SMart gallery and accompany it with the song ‘Left Bank Two’ so I always associate the song with art and art galleries, the song also sounds quite melancholic which I thought was quite fitting. I found the piano sheet music for ‘Left Bank Two’ by The Noveltones and then downloaded an 8-bit plugin for Garageband, we plugged James’ keyboard into my laptop and James covered the song with an 8-bit keyboard effect which I thought would fit perfectly with the retro Breakout video game aesthetic. You can listen to the two slightly different versions we produced below one is a lot fuller and the second is a lot more simplistic and stripped back.
ANIMATION: Below you can see the animation process, I designed and built the graphic elements of the animation in Illustrator, I had to separate all of the individual elements that were going to be animated onto their own individual Illustrator layer. I separated every breakout block in the game onto its own individual layer so that when it came to the animating process in After Effects, it would allow me to potentially destroy any block in the game by locating the correct layer and turning its opacity to zero. This was very time-consuming, however, it meant that in the long term I could animate much quicker because when I exported the animation graphic out of Illustrator, it was already perfectly set up and I just had to locate the specific block I wanted the ball to hit.
To watch the final video embedded in a webpage click the image above or click here.