Reach for the Stars
Within the cockpit of a space shuttle ready to launch, the trip begins to the International Space Station, a place surrounded by vast beauty in orbit around the earth. A place far from human interaction.
Last spring, senior Zach Becker geared up to start his digital design project titled “Isolation” in which he envisioned what it might be like to travel into space.
“Isolation” was Becker’s winning entry for the Adobe competition making him a semifinalist competing for the grand prize in the 2015 Adobe Design Achievement Awards competition.
ADAA is a higher-education competition that gathers creative projects created with Adobe software from students around the world, according to the ADAA website.
“Isolation” was a project Becker completed as part of the second typography class in the design department, Cristina de Almeida, Western professor of graphic design, said.
The assignment was to choose and research a space, ranging from as small as a box to as large as the universe, Almeida said.
Deciding to focus on the International Space Station, Becker’s task was to develop a typographic solution, which are custom-styled letters relating to a particular subject, Becker said.
The letters he created were based upon the word “orbit” with components orbiting around the main letter, he said.
“[The letters were also] broken up into thin strokes to represent the modularity of the ISS,” Becker said.
Becker used the typeface he created to design a poster. He then developed an interactive iPad article using Adobe InDesign’s digital publishing software, he said.
“You’re basically taken on a journey from earth where you get on a space shuttle and you get some facts about how the space shuttle works, and how it docks with the ISS,” Becker said. “As well as some other space related facts and Carl Sagan quotes.”
His fascination with space began at home, as Becker’s home town of Silt, Colorado had little light pollution and always was lit with stars, he said.
“My dad and I used to build model rockets and send them off all the time,” Becker said. “We definitely lost a few into the trees. Doing that sort of sparked my interest in space.”
Amelia Barlow, a fellow bachelor’s of design senior, also submitted in the ADAA competition and was selected up to the semifinalist round, Barlow said.
“I love everything [Becker] brings in for critiques,” Barlow said. “Most of us work in the lab, but he has his own computer at home. He would kind of just go off and do his own thing, but then he’d show up and have an amazing project to show.”
The submissions were judged and selected by professional designers, directors and animators, according to the Adobe Awards website. Once chosen, the winners flew to Los Angeles to compete for the grand prize, Becker said. According to Becker, the candidates even got a sneak peek at the up-and-coming Adobe Software.
“Isolation” combined soft photographic effects resembling the aurora borealis with very fine and precise typography. This contrast helped his project stand out above the rest, Almeida said.
The article uses different interactive elements so that users can tap on parts of the article to trigger different animations, Becker said.
“He integrates his use of motion graphics in a very seamless manner and always has a reason for it,” Almeida said. “He responds to what the problem is and is never just doing things for the sake of doing them. I think that’s what makes his work strong.”
Becker’s interactive iPad article won the Digital Publishing category, one of 13 main categories covering a wide range of disciplines including photography, packaging, web and motion and more, he said.
“Isolation” took four weeks to complete from start to finish, Becker said.
“Just being chosen as a semifinalist is a big achievement because this is a world-wide competition [that judges projects] from thousands of other design schools,” Almeida said. “This is the first time that one of our students has gone all the way to becoming a winner.”
Creating the animations for his project didn’t come without difficulty, Becker said. The Adobe Digital Publishing Solution software does not allow videos to be inserted for animation, so each frame of the animation had to be added separately, he said.
“I have hundreds of folders with thousands of pictures that [the program] has to loop through whenever somebody clicks on something,” Becker said. “The file ended up being gigantic and was really hard to work with.”
Originally Becker applied to the industrial design major, but was not accepted in to the major, and decided to turn in digital design, he said. He found a love for motion graphics and creating an illusion of movement, he said.
Following his graduation in spring quarter of 2016, Becker plans to start working with immersive virtual reality music videos, he said.
“It’s not really a thing yet, but I want it to be a thing,” Becker said. “I think there’s a lot of room for experimentation and it’s a really new medium. I’ve always been very interested in emerging technologies.”
Becker’s work for the Adobe competition allowed him to push the envelope of his animation skills, something that will continue to have him reaching for the stars.
“I find it extremely satisfying working with animation,” Becker said. “Your ideas get to come to life as you press the play button. All the planning and hard work pays off and seeing that final product is amazing.”