Blockchain is a decentralised and distributed digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers with a view to facilitate secure online proceedings. It’s a technology that’s in its infancy, meaning general understanding of blockchain is fairly ambiguous, despite its potential being so vast.
There is now a select group of people who are beginning to speculate on what these uses could be and at this year’s DAOWO, that’s exactly what was discussed. DAOWO is a programme of debates co-run by Furtherfield Gallery, State Machines and the Goethe Institution as an ongoing chance for technologists, theorists, artists, designers, activists and more to come together, debate and discuss alternative and unexpected uses for blockchain technology.
Seeing this “blockchain laboratory and debate series for reinventing the arts” as a chance to bring the blockchain out of purely economic structures into more creative, social and political settings, there have, so far, been two events. Revinventing the Art Lab looked at how we might reinvent the spaces in which we create and exist as artists through blockchain technology. Identity Trouble, however looked at the ethics and security of identifying a person on the blockchain. The task of creating a visual identity for both these events and the upcoming ones was handed to London-based designers Studio Hyte.
Studio Hyte consists of Arjun Harrison-Mann, Ben Cain, Eugene Tan and Jordan Gamble who all met while studying graphic design at Central Saint Martins (Arjun, Ben and Jordan having initially studied at Birmingham Met together). In 2015, Eugene continued his studies at Central Saint Martins but Arjun, Ben and Jordan applied as a group to the Royal College of Art – something which, “apparently, rarely happens at the RCA but turns out, it can be done,” Studio Hyte explains. Since graduating, it has established its own studio space with a view to creating “critically engaged and visually ambiguous work for the people and causes we care about most.”
Studio Hyte’s work spans across multiple disciplines but tends to exist within two veins of thought. The first looks at the role of emergent technology in influencing creative practice and day-to-day life. The second responds to its collective social and political beliefs allowing the studio to address topics such as “lack of social housing, support for mental health and awareness of environmental issues.”
When it came to designing the visual identity for DAOWO, it was the notion of chance and ambiguity found within society’s current understanding of the blockchain that provided a conceptual starting point. As a result, the studio chose to create designs which were technological in their process but that didn’t succumb to the usual tropes of “techy” visualisations. This consisted of two processes.
The first saw the studio questioning “what would it look like for letterforms, that are usually centralised, to be distributed?” The usual means of creating a digital typeface relies on construction from a series of nodes – each node in connected to another two. This means, if one node is deleted then the whole letterform would become incomplete. The blockchain on the other hand, is built on a decentralised and distributed network. Studio Hyte therefore created a series of typographic responses incorporating moments of distribution within the letterforms themselves.
The second process led the studio to creating a series of digitally abstracted icons and repeat patterns. To represent the wide range of themes included in DAOWO, Studio Hyte imported a range of “crude visualisations” into an image trace tool. These were inspired by “commonly used diagrams of the blockchain and the tongue-in-cheek nature of various art world responses.” The use of both this process and the typographic one allowed the studio to create visual which are “intentionally imperfect, ambiguous and abstracted,” as a reflection of societies understanding of the blockchain.
Each colour incorporated across the identity was chosen specifically because it also features on the Google Doc interface. The culture of Google Docs is a common metaphor used to explain the way that the blockchain functions. Before the introduction of Google Docs, if anyone wanted to co-work on a written text without being in the same room, there was no choice but to email one another Word documents. Meaning that any changes made to the document wouldn’t be seen until each person involved saved their version of the text and emailed it back, acting similarly to how databases work today. With Google Docs (and the blockchain), however, there is a shared space where everyone can edit the same document at the same time.
This method of production allows Studio Hyte to create an identity which is at once visually appealing, conceptually sound and adaptable for an ever-expanding programme.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.