Story: Envision

How can digital stories escape the flatland and suggest new ways of seeing in space and time?

Defining the constraints of a medium help you to develop a storytelling strategy (i.e. which media outlets best suit your story and engage your audience); breaking them, however, make for a highly enduring effect that stirs things up.

In Envisioning Information (1990) Edward Tufte argues that the essential task of the information designer is to escape the "flatland." The static two dimensional, surface restricts and confuses. Designing beyond the boundaries, escaping the "flatland," of a medium makes content unique and lasting. Creativity is rewarded, and people talk, post and share; the relationship between form and content re-emerges anew. As Marshall McLuhan (1964) writes in Understanding Media, "the medium is the message" (p. 7).

Prior to the relaunch of the New Museum on Bowery in December of 2011, designer Ji Lee created an advertisement campaign that reimagined the "flatland."† Using the distinct architecture of the New Museum as an influence, Lee designed a billboard with a Calvin Klein ad and dripped pink paint. The paint, which was applied on an existing billboard display over the course of a few weeks, created a stencil shape of the new sleek, modern, and geometric building. Although indistinguishable, random drips at first, the paint eventually created a clean outline (with copy finally added) in the latter days of the campaign — a new lens to look at the now defaced Calvin Klein ad. Just as the new building, as Lee describes, functions to reframe and showcase contemporary art, the stencil provided a new perspective on the billboard. By defying the constraints of the medium in an innovative way, Lee created curiosity, rumor, and discussion, which led to a highly effective advertisement.

New Museum. Image from the website of Ji Lee
↪ Lee discusses his work for the New Museum in his Creative Mornings talk, March 2011.