Dventures in Type Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Shakespeare’s Garden: An Immersive Typographic Shakespeare Experience

Meaghan Dee, Chair of Visual Communication Design, Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech

Using spatial audio and video projection, a team of designers and performing artists created an immersive typographic Shakespearean experience.

Using spatial audio and flexible video projection, a team of designers and performing artists created an immersive typographic Shakespearean experience to reimagine traditional theater. A typographer created a series of motion graphics, designed to work together in an installation alongside audio recordings (utilizing both spatial and locational audio). Each piece uses the text from selected Shakespearean works (including passages from a Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, and Merchant of Venice as well as Sonnets 12/ 18 / 73/ 98 / 99 /130) to create engaging visuals, which are projected onto a series of hanging scrims. During performances, audience members follow a meandering path through the installation, actively engaged in their own exploration of Shakespeare’s garden.

The aim of this project was to explore ways of bridging the physical and digital domains for both art and design. This project was a pilot for future exploration and experimentation in immersive theater, and is going to be exhibited at the Cube (a four-story state-of-the-art theater http://www.icat.vt.edu/content/cube-0) in March of 2018. Future incarnations include an exhibition of this work to AR and VR environments.

This project also addresses form generation as a vehicle for sensemaking, by helping viewers interact with Shakespearean texts in a new way. In the Designer of 2025 trends, New forms of sensemaking states that “people seek meaning and clarity in an environment oversaturated with data and images” and “they need tools for finding patters in big data” and for “discerning underlying stories.” One goal of this project was to help users better understand Shakespeare. In the era of smart-phones and constant-internet-access audiences have a significantly reduced attention span. Yet studies have shown that it takes the typical listener approximately 10-15 minutes for their ear to become attuned to the archaic anomalies of Shakespearean language. As such, our team wanted to find a way to engage viewers on a multi-modal level, as their ears adjusted. Shakespeare can be a bit overwhelming, so our team helped present visual themes and pull out phrases (via typographic projection) that help illuminate patterns within the texts.

In addition to showing this project as a case study, I will incorporate examples of other contemporary graphic design works that link the physical and digital, with a particular emphasis on those using projection or augmented reality.