Flag about a flag
The initial, static version of this piece was designed for my typography class for an assignment in which we designed a graphic for an assigned month to be featured in a collaborative “Calendar of Protests and Proclamations”. I was assigned to the month of June, which is Pride Month for the LGBTQ+ community. With my existence as an American gay man in mind, I considered how existing as a minority is inherently political in today’s United States, especially if one is proud of their identity and unwilling to compromise it. Therefore, I made a graphic meant to represent the waving of both an American flag and the LGBTQ+ Pride flag. This graphic equates existence to resistance, wherein a refusal to hide oneself means resisting the norm, and where fighting the injustices one faces is an act of self-validation.
The main central graphic was typeset in Gilbert, a font which was inspired by the creator of the Pride flag, Gilbert Baker, after his passing in 2017. The text surrounding the central graphic is set in Bureau Grot by Font Bureau, a type foundry based in Boston; this font was chosen for the fact I have come to terms with my identity much more since moving here from a Chicagoland suburb where being “different” was not exactly the best thing to be.
A new layer
When prompted to use ideas established in our Interactive Design class in relation to already-existing content, I was initially thinking about content which did not belong to me. I was also eager to work with AR technology again. However, when that idea proved to be incredibly user-unfriendly, I started to think of content of which I was the sole owner of with the original, unblemished files. This aforementioned project sprung to mind, as it was one of my favorites of the semester. I figured since this piece alluded to the motion of a waving flag, I wondered what if it was actually a flag? Can a flag have motion both in its physical form and in its design?
In pursuing these questions, I dug up the Adobe Illustrator files for this piece and starting tinkering with the animation, using the original 8.5" x 11 dimensions as a starting point. I began with the colors of the animation; since the red and blue of the static poster referred to my identity as an American, I chose to shift the hues in the animation to allude to the rainbow of the Pride flag. I then isolated each of my proclamations in my graphic in various ways, such as isolation the I’s in “exist” and “resist” and simple callouts of the phrases, “Existence is resistance,” and, “Resistance is existence.” Finally, to drive home the idea of the motion of the flag, I applied a a distortion effect to make the flag wave in just its 2-dimensional form.
Once this started to work, I went ahead and changed the dimensions of the flag to 5x3, the same dimensions as the American flag. With the AR component in mind, I wanted to take advantage of the 3D studio that Artivive had to offer. One of my initial thoughts when designing the static piece back in September was the idea of letting myself take up space as a minority. I figured it would be possible to bring back this notion via the use of layers in Artivive, letting the text protrude at varying degrees.
Soft launch and moving forward
Eventually, I printed this once-petite graphic at a larger, 5' x 3' scale to present to our class. Since we had already used Artivive in the class, students were prepared to point their cameras at the screen and see what I had come up with.
Some issues I ran into while proto-typing, as well as when witnessing the audience activating the animation using the Artivive app was the different files loading at different rates, causing a loss of sync. Though technically an error, I was not too upset with the result, as the messages I wanted to convey still felt relatively clear. In addition, this abnormality has a relation to my decision to overlay the text the way that I do; while this piece speaks to my identity as a gay man, this experience and philosophy can and should transcend sexuality.
Moving forward, I would like to install this in a relevant space related to activism, such as the Center for Gender and Sexuality Activism in Boston University’s George Sherman Union or the soon-to-be-opened Howard Thurman Center at 808 Comm Ave. To activate the animation, I will have instructions with a QR code to download the Artivive app, as well as an alternate option to open the animation via YouTube.