How experimentation led to new creative possibilities in our New World sessions
Over the course of our Virtual Studio sessions, we explored how every medium – from typography to digital design, photography and illustration – can be utilised for creative expression.
Since launching our New World: Creating for Tomorrow series with Today at Apple at the beginning of March, our Tuesday and Thursday evenings have been filled with creative possibilities. Hosting seven Virtual Studio sessions in total, we’ve travelled into the worlds of experimental digital design, illustration, type design, collage, augmented reality and photography, learning from a range of the most exciting creatives within these fields in the process.
As well as the insight provided by the creatives leading each Virtual Studio, we also had the honour of viewing work created by our audience. Given how these sessions all investigated how creativity can help us imagine a better tomorrow, each piece of work shared in our programme has offered insight into the ideas and future hopes of our attendees.
As our collaborative programme has now come to a close, we’re proud to share a gallery of the work created by audience members below. If you’ve missed any of our events but are looking to get involved, head on over to our Studio Shorts. Here you can follow along with a snippet from Cécilia, Moniker and KangHee’s sessions in your own time.
Encouraging a practice of play with Studio Moniker
Opening our New World: Creating for Tomorrow events with the perfect mix of technical precision and unexpected fun was Amsterdam-based studio, Moniker.
Beginning their Virtual Studio with a behind-the-scenes look at how they create such interactive and inclusive projects, Moniker’s co-founders, Luna Maurer and Roel Wouters, revealed the backbone to their work revolved around the concept of play.
Despite the revered visual final outcome Moniker creates, it is actually the process they see the most value in. In fact, as the studio explained, by showing your creative thinking in the final outcome you can enable a project to demonstrate, facilitate and inspire play in the audience. As the founders encouraged, “It is important to not be a machine,” when going through the creative process, and instead embrace “the freedom to decide for yourself”.
“It is important to not be a machine,” when going through the creative process, and instead embrace “the freedom to decide for yourself”Studio Moniker
With this in mind, Luna and Roel helpfully discussed the ways in which they facilitate such playful elements – which, surprisingly, is encouraged by limitations. As the pair explained, limitations (when worked around creatively) can inspire new ideas. This could be within a drawing exercise, or, as their hands-on session showed, using desktop apps as a creative canvas. To prove this theory, Luna and Roel then encouraged our attendees to create an unconventional portrait of themselves using a programme they wouldn’t usually utilise for creative tasks.
Following a further discussion with It’s Nice That’s editor-in-chief Matt Alagiah, we then revealed a global portrait of our attendees and their wonderfully unexpected outcomes. From portraits crafted in numbers utilising shapes and opacity to overlapping text to create texture, each result revealed the extra touches of flair and playful creativity limitations can provide.
For an example of this workshop led by Moniker, take a look at Luna and Roel’s Studio Short: How to create unconventional portraits here.
Reimagining photography’s capabilities with Cécilia Poupon
We then continued our exploration of experimental creative pursuits in a session with French photographer Cécilia Poupon. Teaching the audience how to make otherworldly photographs with household objects, at-home lighting and an iPhone, the results offered us a range of awe-inspiring still lifes.
To aid our audience in understanding the photographer’s unique point of view, the session first began with a Q&A on Cécilia’s practice. Revealing how she began taking documentary photographs, Cécilia became fascinated with still life photography for the inspiration the creative exercise provides. “It’s a relaxing time,” she says of composing her hyperreal imagery, “it allows you to meditate, to discover new things.”
It was exactly this that Cécilia then showed our audience how to do themselves. Walking attendees through how she composes a still life, Cécilia shared how to create impact from the simplest of objects. Instructing the audience to choose something from their own surroundings – “Common objects are interesting” she advised – the photographer demonstrated the process she takes by using a humble onion. Fiddling with its composition, adding detail by zooming for effect in its framing and of course lighting, the final result was truly something from another world, rather than the kitchen cupboard.
Taking Cécilia’s tips and tricks into account – from positioning a desk lamp just the right way, or the optimum type of paper to use as a reflector – the results were so transformative it took us a minute or two to work out the original muse our attendees had picked. From the wire of a matcha whisk creating a dramatic shadowing effect, to a sprouting potato that looked truly alien and a dishwasher tablet that transformed into a rarified object, the evening showcased how an experimental creative eye can reshape the most mundane of objects into art.
For further insight to Cécilia’s practice, take part in her Studio Short: How to light and frame a still-life photo here.
Illustrating personal histories with Nourie Flayhan
In an immensely soothing and personal Virtual Studio session, we were joined by illustrator Nourie Flayhan to dive into old family photographs to creatively honour those close to us.
Opening her session with a discussion on how she creates her personally poignant work, not only did Nourie demonstrate how her medium is the language she speaks “most comfortably”, but also showcased how it’s her way of communicating and celebrating heritage. Having grown up between Kuwait and Lebanon, Nourie’s childhood was surrounded by “really strong women”. In turn, the illustrator became inspired to tell their narratives, particularly those that are “hidden or exposed”, she explained. “It’s so important to look around you and at your community.”
“That’s the beauty of illustration, you’re not drawing what’s right in front of you”Nourie Flayhan
Therefore, after running through a step-by-step tutorial and the tools needed to make one of her colourful pieces, Nourie invited the audience to create their own – inspiring them to “colour an old photograph” and then decorate it with illustrative borders reflecting their own family memories. As attendees dug into their personal archives and camera rolls, the session’s chat room became filled with heartfelt stories of loved ones lost. Mirroring how Nourie first began honouring individuals this way following the passing of her grandmother, it was clearly a sentiment that chimed with the audience tuning in.
A cathartic event, the audience then had the opportunity to submit their work in a celebration moment following an insightful Q&A on Nourie’s wider practice. The result was incredible as the audience used their own family photographs, often shot in black and white and taken many years ago. Illustrated snakes, flowers, hearts and birds were added to the mix – including a series of swallows to represent one of our attendees’ memories, sitting and watching the birds at their own grandparents’ house.
Each was characteristically the artist’s own, but the vibrant tones and colour palettes really brought them together in unison. “That’s the beauty of illustration, you’re not drawing what’s right in front of you,” said Nourie. “You’re drawing what you see with your eyes. Everyone sees things in a slightly different way. It’s exciting.”
Exploring the expressive qualities of typography with Jacob Wise
Our next session saw us investigate the immensely intricate practice of type design, led by Rotterdam-based graphic and type designer Jacob Wise.
One of the most exciting young names in the graphic design scene, Jacob began by taking attendees through his approach of visually illustrating concepts via typography. Jacob originally studied the wider practice of graphic design at Kingston University, before his fondness for typography was ignited during an internship in Munich at Bureau Borsche. The designer recently decided to enrol on a masters program specialising in the medium at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. “I felt I had a lack of understanding of the real fundamentals of type design,” he said of this decision. “So, before I became too anchored, I decided to apply.”
Then, sharing some of the valuable advice learned during his career so far, Jacob took attendees through a guide to understanding the architecture of type design, focusing on “the tool that informs it”: the human hand. In turn, the designer encouraged our audience to put his advice into practice by choosing a word representing their creative futures and designing the letters themselves. His own word, for instance, was “respair”, a term used to describe the return of hope following a period of despair, dating from the 15th century.
Working in Procreate on iPad and using a simple canvas supplied by Jacob as a guideline, our attendees produced their own creations mirroring a range of emotions. Serif fonts were created to demonstrate emotional sentiments, from “unity” to “solace” and even “mellow”, while others used bolder type treatments to capture feelings such as “joyous”, “rumbling” and “bask”. Throughout Jacob offered helpful advice on how these type experiments could be refined (as someone in the chat put it, “like a typographic Bob Ross”). The evening showcased how every creative decision we make, even down to the typography used, can further a meaningful message that’s close to the creator’s heart.
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Work by Mia Angioy created during Jazz Grant’s Virtual Studio
Crafting collaged worlds with Jazz Grant
Following Jacob’s session we welcomed the Margate-based artist Jazz Grant. Actually joining us from the Apple store in Mexico City while on a residency there, Jazz first discussed her route into the creative medium of collage. Finding the practice as “A way to express myself”, the artist found this approach after hopping around a few creative disciplines, namely fashion design which she initially studied. Such honesty around taking the time to find the discipline right for her certainly struck a chord with our audience of budding creatives.
Moving into the hands-on part of her session, we watched Jazz work with a variety of materials by hand, filmed from above with a birds eye view of her creativity in action. Working with a photograph of her dad (chosen for its clear silhouette, necessary for any collage piece), Jazz discussed her love for the physical aspects of creating, but also how collage allows her to work with specific shapes she’d never be able to draw personally. Collage additionally allows the artist to delicately take an image apart, to find elements perhaps less fond of, but then combine with another image to enhance the narrative. Such advice was then translated digitally by our creative pro, Suze, who showcased how the audience could also create such crafted results in digital contexts too.
We then had the chance to look into the collaged worlds of our attendees. Carefully listening Jazz’s advice of silhouettes leading a piece, we saw digital renderings using familiar objects, such as cabbage or flowers, through to archival imagery repurposed to portray one attendee’s dreams for “hope, courage and resilience” in the future. Each submission portrayed the future aims of our audience who utilised the tension working with collage can create to build new worlds.
Above Work by Aleksandra-Bokova created during Leslie David’s Virtual Studio
Turning your mood into a face filter with Leslie David
On the first day of spring, we welcomed Leslie David to the virtual stage. Based in Paris, Leslie defines herself as an artist and creative director whose projects span branding, illustration and motion design. For the evening’s events, she directed her focus onto one of her many skills and showed the audience how to make their own animated face filter using Procreate on an iPad.
Before the practical part of the event, Leslie discussed her inspirational journey into the medium – which, like Jazz, wasn’t all too linear. “As a student, I really didn’t understand what graphic design was,” she said. From fashion to product design, Leslie finally found her feet as a graphic designer, launching her own studio in 2010. Comprising four people, the team boast a mix of skills meaning they can tackle any given brief or project. “We improve each other while working,” explained Leslie.
“The idea is for you to express your mood for today and your emotion directly to your face.”Leslie David
Next up, in the more hands-on part of the session, Leslie took us behind the scenes of her wonderful creations and encouraged the audience to follow along. But first she gave a useful pointer for those joining in: “The idea is for you to express your mood for today and your emotion directly to your face.” Feeling a “little stressed and a little hyperactive” at the time, Leslie’s own face filter ended up being wonderfully playful as she created a purple-hued mask featuring animated, squiggly lines translating her current mood.
The audience’s contributions were equally as vibrant, such as one piece which illustrated hearts on each eye with an almost clown-like backdrop. Another face was covered in chequered patterns and textures; one had snake-like eyes, and another had snowy flowers dotted all over the place. The evening itself showcased the capabilities of merging personality with augmented reality. As Leslie put it: “It’s very time consuming… but pretty satisfying.”
Toying with surrealism in photography with KangHee Kim
Joining us from New York KangHee Kim was next on the line-up, beginning her session with a discussion on her career so far. Known for her surrealistic photography and merging imagery of landscapes, architecture and nature, KangHee explained how her inspiration “always comes from her surroundings”.
The artist’s first step is to photograph various surroundings during her day-to-day comings and goings, telling us how her shoot days often include waiting for that “magical moment” to happen. These moments tend to take shape as sunsets and clouds, her favourite motifs having lived in Korea half her life. “When I came here, I was fascinated by how the skies felt so close and I really appreciated it.”
Moving onto the hands-on part of her session, KangHee instructed the audience to “think about what they want to see in their personal space,” and to devise a personal narrative. While demonstrating the techniques behind her work in collaboration with the Apple host, Han, KangHee shared how she never plans her pieces too much in advance – rather, she lets an image morph intuitively as she goes. Inspired by KangHee’s guidance, Han’s finished image was a blue-tinted portal into a dramatic scene. It seemed familiar a first, but everything began to look a little bit off as she zoomed, blurred and colour-matched the imagery.
“When I came here, I was fascinated by how the skies felt so close and I really appreciated it.”KangHee Kim
To finish off the event, the audience sent in their own pieces and we were stunned by the contributions on display. A few favourites were a desk space and a window featuring a moody sunset (which looked so good it couldn’t have been real), and a sky with a mirror hanging on a crane – meanwhile a person walks across it with a clever use of shadow. Another saw a basketball hoop with an eerie sunset in the middle. “I didn’t know basketball hoops could be this cool,” said KangHee, who likes the game of basketball herself it turns out. We couldn’t have asked for a better final session, and it was an evening of utter fun for all ages and skill sets. This was confirmed by a member in the audience: “The kids are having a blast!”
For an example of this workshop led by KangHee, take a look at her Studio Short: How to compose an escapist collage with KangHee Kim here.