During 2018-2019 I volunteered as an art director for the KVIT conference (a Cognitive Science conference in Linköping, Sweden). With previous work experience in the media industry I primarily contributed with strategical insight on how to approach various aesthetic aspects – probably closer to a “Creative Director” rather than an “Art Director” as most of the actual aesthetics were developed by a fantastic team of graphic designers (Linnea Karnel, Amanda Sandberg & Linnea Tjernberg). That said, I was highly involved in the copy writing, communication strategy, design of posters – as well as the audiovisual experience during the conference itself, most of which I am going to talk about in this pseudo-portfolio blog post.
The “Us too” campaign
I like graphic design that says something. That conveys a proper message, that get people to think. There are very few graphic designers that can do that. Most are stuck in this “aesthetically pleasing”, trendy, kinda- I don’t know. To me, most designs you see on dribbble and so forth are purposeless and far from timeless. Design that has to be constantly rehashed to look good – is not good design.
Needless to say, I am not a “dribbble designer” (if it’s not already coined, I did it just now), nor am I one of those highly skilled graphics artists. But I am pretty good at communication and writing. Due to this, the KVIT campaign were pretty skewed towards typography and copywriting.
The KVIT conference, as already stated is a Cognitive Science conference – but what exactly is cognitive science? Asking that question is almost on par with opening Pandora’s box – in essence it is an interdisciplinary field that combines the study of Psychology, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Linguistics, Anthropology and Artificial Intelligence. Those who study cognitive science mostly end up working in UX, Human Factors, Computational Linguistics, amongst other things. The conference covered topics such as communication with robots, preventing mental illness with the help of AI, Development of cockpits in fighter aircrafts, Interaction design in VR, and more – the ethos of the conference were “Assuring the quality of the future”.
We needed a theme that conveyed the sentiment of all this. Early on in the project I sketched down a mindmap on “What KVIT is” – which was the sentiment of the organizers. I then structured the early creative process as “What KVIT is” -> “What I interpret KVIT as being” -> “What you interpret KVIT, and my interpretation of KVIT as being”. “You” in this case referred to the team of graphic designers.
What KVIT is:
- Show what a cognitive scientist is
- International reach
- Assure the future
- A safe future
- AI, UX, etcetera
- A Part of the Cognitive Science program
How I interpret KVIT:
- What is cognitive science? + Reply
- A safe future conveyed through color and shape
- Typography and illustrations (here we go)
- Aesthetically, a part of the Cognitive Science program
From this point the graphic designers were involved, and they started off by doing their own workshop with the organizers to get a better overall understanding of what needed to be done.
I continued my work with the “customer journey” and the campaign for the conference. Being 2019 and all (well, last year), I was keen on making a campaign that intersected analog and digital. Where the customer started their journey in the real world (analog) with one question in their head – “What is X?”. The concept was basically – making a potential visitor curious, by asking them a question in the real world, which then led them to visit the homepage, where they were assured that they could satisfy their curiosity by going to the conference.
The final posters ended up being more self-sustained, eg. with all available information on the posters themselves about the conference and all. However, the core concept with a question that instills curiosity being asked – remained the same.
KVIT as an audiovisual experience
You see, this is me and my friend Sergej, we were DJing at the conference. Which was part of the audiovisual experience, but definitely not all of it. I was responsible for the playlists in the hallway, and I performed live music mixing at mainstage as well. Where I had also been responsible for the lighting. This may sound trivial, as lighting is probably something that most people don’t think about – but in contrary, we got many comments on this during the conference.
Each topic on mainstage had their unique color scheme, shapes and audio which was cued 15 minutes before each talk. This was designed to prime the audience into a specific mood that related to the topic, and solely based on my intuition – so I didn’t do any real research before, but I got some interesting insights afterwards – which I will talk about after presenting the concepts.
Daring Technology is the most technologically focused theme, best suited for highly technological, futuristic and slightly edgy topics.
Meaningful future are a slightly toned down variation of Daring Technology, and is suited for topics where the future is bright or “soft”, for example in the convergence between AI and healthcare.
Warm communication is the most humanistic and organic theme, best suited for topics about language, culture and communication.
This led to some interesting feedback, most visitors I spoke to reported that the music was good, but they hadn’t really thought about it explicitly. Same with the lighting – people noticed that something was special about it, but they couldn’t put their finger on what, so in essence there are no evidence that my intention was conveyed to the visitors, but the extra work put into the experience was at least appreciated and noted. However, one of the speakers reported something interesting. She asked for the music to be turned off because she got tense – and the music was tense, because the topic was one of those “daring” topics, but when I selected the music and the visuals I didn’t think of the speakers, I only thought about the audience. Which was an oversight, and maybe I would try to avoid picking such music in the future if I ever do something similar, because it could make the speakers nervous – which will lead to a lesser experience for both the speakers and the audience. So that was unintentional and unexpected, but at least some proof that my attempt in conveying feeling through visuals and audio actually worked.
Some final words
We had a very talented team of light designers implementing this in practice under my guidance. I’ve done some light design on smaller events, but never anything this big – however I think a key to the success were that we were speaking the same language. And that I think is universal to just about anything you do. If you’re a cognitive scientist working in app development, you have to know some things about app development, else you’ll just be that pretentious designer who does things nobody can implement anyway. When I work I try to make realizable concepts that people can understand, and I think this was really my main contribution during the KVIT conference – being some kind of strategical person with insight in most creative crafts ranging from film production to graphic design, communication and even light design and music. Add some psychology to that, and that is all I’m about – and most of all where I thrive the most. Working together with equally talented people, doing things that isn’t possible to do alone.