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Pictoplasma, anime, and DSOS1

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In: Reviews > Book Reviews

By Meryl K. Evans

Published on February 27, 2002

Art books are reaching new heights and Pictoplasma is one of the first I've seen of this new genre. The others are Anime and Designer Shock's DSOS1: The User's Manual. All three books are published by German publisher Die Gestalten Verlag. They're onto something here.

Pictoplasma

book cover Pictoplasma is a showcase of contemporary art created by international graphic designers, animators, artists, and production companies. Thaler states in the book's foreword that "Character design is the most universal of graphic languages. Characters work independent of cultural context and narrative structure. They are entirely self-referential, defined by clearly distinctive characteristics and have a life of their own."

Thaler is absolutely correct when saying the characters have taken on a life of their own. Furthermore, the art attempts to convey the artist's message emotionally while reaching out to its viewer in the hopes of bonding more effectively with them.

The entire book is pure eye candy in every free hand drawing, pixel, vector graphic, 3-D objects, and an encyclopedia of resurfacing motifs. Even non-Internet surfers will recognize many of the colorful and creative designs because they are found other media including television, books, and video games.

The index lists all the titles of the art, contributors' names along with their email and Web addresses. As a confessed non-artist, I'm in awe as I flip through pages of expressive and colorfully rendered art. The book can be much more than just another art book, it can be an inspiration for those in the process of creating. This is the coffee table book for geeks and Web designers and it'll go just fine with the books containing the Monets, Picassos, and Renoirs.

The book has a companion web site and you can view sample pages at the publisher's web site.

Pictoplasma
by Peter Thaler (Editor), Michael Mischler (Editor), Hendrik Hellige (Editor)

Die Gestalten Verlag, November 2001, 224pp.
US$50

anime

book cover German publisher Die Gestalten Verlag continues to pour out innovative and highly spirited books with "anime," which contains a showcase of motion in Web design and goes beyond the limits of the Web by including a DVD of videos created by talented international designers. The high quality book that's neither officially hardcover or paperback fits snugly into its transparent plastic case with a DVD in its own holder.

The book stands alone as a techno-collection of still shots of design, but couple it with the DVD and it takes you away into the diverse world of motion accompanied by sound created with Web technology that leaves you in awe. Think of the best music video mixed with superb art and that's what you get from the DVD.

Even if you're unfamiliar with artistic styles, you'll recognize many of the presentations because they're found in today's media: television, movies, online, art, and music. The influences come from the Beatles, Bubbleheads (think PowerPuff Girls and Super Mario Bros. video game), Japanese manga and anime (comics style like Sailor Moon), and artists like Dali and Mondrian. To experts, these are comprised of grunge, Gothic, transformer robot, duotone, geometrical, and pixelated styles.

There are a handful of interviews with the designers including Hi-Res' Alexandra Jugovic and Florian Schmitt, creators of Requiem for a Dream, Jean Paul Leonard of Angry Monkey, and Matt Anderson of Konstruktiv Politburo.

The DVD has a collection of vector presentations, interactive art, linear storytelling sequences, and motion graphics, and movie clips. The Quick Check Reference card lists all of the projects and their codes to make it easier to find and view on the DVD.

The pages in the book indicate the creator and the title of the artwork, but it would've been nice if it also included the influence or style with a description to educate readers new to these styles.

However, Golan Levin of FLONG / M.I.T. makes a good point explaining, "I hope that my work will not be thought of as conforming to any commonly understood style . . . I'd much prefer that someone could look at one of my pieces and somehow detect the unique mark of my own 'hand' in it." In this case, perhaps the editor could have included a brief explanation of the design.

The back of the book lists all the contributors, the location of the work (page numbers for the book and chapter numbers for the DVD), contact and web site information, designer's location, project description, development platform and software information, and other tidbits. Joshua Davis of Praystation, DesignerShock, and WDDG are some of the talents whose works appear in the compilation.

Students of design and designers will appreciate the journey through the virtual gallery.

View samples from anime.

anime
by Robert Klanten (Editor), Hendrik Hellige (Editor), Birga Meyer (Editor), Mons Nyman (Editor)

Die Gestalten Verlag, November 2001, 192 pp.
US$70

DSOS1 : The User's Manual

book cover What do you get with a book cover that doubles for a mousepad, a user manual, and a CD-ROM that includes 80 fonts, 10 games, 25 screensavers, 55 wallpapers and 98 icons? This is not the start of a joke, but an introduction to Berlin-based Designershock design group's "DSOS1: The User's Manual", a guide to their eccentric and abstract world where they're known for their Internet experimental electronic experiences.

Not knowing where to begin except at the beginning, the beginning of the book sets the tone, "Unless you're very strong, please resist the temptation to flick, browse, skip or skim. Start by going from page to page sequentially. Linear experiences are still the most satisfying, and this way you may remain calm and focused."

Using a polyglot of colors, pages splashed with shades of reds, grays, and blacks guide you through three parts (from left to right on the screen):

Electronic Workmates (EWM) - an introduction to the accompanying software, which is the key to accessing DSOS1's online world that is exclusive to owners of the CD-ROM tool.

Electronic Playmates (EPM) - fonts and typographical games to die for and each time you win, you get to download fonts and other tools.

Electronic Decomaters (EDM) - "is about creative control over your environment. Taking it, losing it. How to open the window on the sublime." Create an ambience with screensavers, wallpapers, and icons.

At first glance, this book seems cryptic, threatening and confusing. But remember what the introduction says and take it one step at a time from the beginning. It becomes easier to follow along with the print after connecting online. Designershock successfully leaps into the innovative world of combining print, screen, and typography.

Load the DVD and let Ozzy, the DSOS1 avatar, take you where you need to go to register for the first time and get a four-digit pin number. The user manual also outlines the steps to get started. EWM is on the left column, EPM in the middle, and EDM on the right. Pick online or offline tools, the latter downloads an archived file for playing offline. Offline is the better choice since it takes time to load the online version.

DS MEEK (Modulated Esoteric E-Type Kreator), a Flash program and the first in the book, lets the user manipulate fonts based on grids. The first impression is overwhelming, but the HELP and the user guide clearly explain the background and how to complete the activity. Turn the dials, flip the switches, and press the buttons to transform, morph, and scale a letter and apply the changes to the entire alphabet to create your own fonts. The book shows creations from using the MEEK emulator. One word: awesome!

Saving and loading a previously created doesn't work, at first. The save dialog box won't open, but attempting it another time is successful. According to instructions, "The SAVE and LOAD buttons work a little differently, depending on whether you are using the on- or off-line versions of the tools. Online, every user can save up to 10 modulations and 10 layouts on the DSOS1 server, using a simple DSOS1 file dialog. Offline, users can save and load an unlimited number of MEEK files, using normal system file dialogs." There two types of saved files in MEEK: layout and modulation. After printing a Meryl font creation, the program wouldn't go back to the EDIT mode or any mode. Just stuck there in font space. Despite a few runtime flaws, one could get hooked on this stuff.

Next activity, the DS EWG, has a few added features not in MEEK to increase the complexity. Hence, the user guide's wise suggestion of working through the book from beginning to end.

Expect nothing to come easy when playing the games, but that will make the rewards all the sweeter. This interactive print medium and accompanying Internet webzine slash software is not for the faint of heart or in this case, beginner designers. Like fine wine, give it time, let it age, and get a feel for it. It's not something to be swallowed whole, but instead slowly sipped. Not only can you consider this as a coffetable masterpiece, but also as a designer's interactive toy.

Surf to Designer Shock's web site or see sample pages at the publisher's web site.

DSOS1: The User's Manual
by Designer Shock (Editor)

Die Gestalten Verlag, December 2001, 176 pp.
US$55

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Meryl K. Evans, content maven, is a WaSP member even though she's far from being a WASP. The content maven writes a column for PC Today and blogs for the Web Design Reference Guide at InformIT. Meryl provides the home for the CSS Collection and she's the editor of Professional Services Journal, meryl's notes :: the newsletter as well as other newsletters, so tell all your friends, families and animals to subscribe. Her ancient blog keeps cluckin' since its arrival on the web in 2000.

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