My Final Year Process – Designing An Experience

As I began my journey into my final year in the School of Art, Design and Media, my heart gravels with great worry for my final year project and my upcoming thesis paper.

While I had been doing visual communications for the past 3 years, I certainly did not see that as a career goal. My interest always laid with artistic practice and examining various curatorial approaches to artworks. Oddly enough, I wanted to melt my various interests together. A story I never told many people, was that I originally came to college because I really believed I wanted to be a visual designer. It’s crazy how your mind can take you places and make you believe in things that you could never fathom. Of course, what made me snap out of it, was the fact that I could not marry art and design seamlessly.

Thinking about it in relation to my final year project, I decided to try and design a visual system to digitally translate exhibitions that were happening physically, online. It was a huge task. I was not used to designing frameworks and systems, and my coding skills were abysmal. I began observing Google Arts & Culture for a start. Google Arts & Culture details artworks from all over the world and aggregates them into specific data sets for categorisation. This means you get to see works based on their: colour, medium, topic, era, or country. They also tried to translate various exhibitions into webpages to show the curator’s writing as well as integrate their high fidelity scans into their virtual exhibition.

At this point, I was wondering “why is no one integrating this during their pandemic show”. From there, I decided to work with my thesis supervisors (Ms Candice Ng & Assoc Prof. Laura Miotto) to design a possible framework to digitise an exhibition and try to maintain the integrity of the artist’s intentions.

Upon further conversation with Professor Miotto, it was quite amazing to see how she moved my mind from doing something so massive and to look at redesigning the online experience. Originally, I was looking at creating a massive framework that would probably be too large for an undergraduate thesis project. In the end, she told me to focus on one exhibition, and be that expert of it.

None the less, I scaled down and chose the exhibition Time Passes that was showing as part of the Novel Ways of Being programme by the National Arts Council in response to the on-going COVID–19 pandemic. Through my consultation, I narrowed down my scope and looked at the intangible experience that was designed in the physical exhibition and how do I reinterpret and translate this exhibition digitally.

Looking at the exhibition and talking to the curator, Samantha Yap, I noticed 3 main points in the exhibition that were vital to experience itself: Sound, Colour, and Distance.


The sound is the sound leaks in the exhibition. From large scale immersive video works, the sound of the air-conditioning, and even the sound of footsteps, walking, and talking. These sounds contribute to an individuals experience within the space itself and it affects how you view the artworks – whether or not the sound comes from the artwork itself. You are either irritated, calm, or even excited depending on the atmospheric sound, and this sound is vital in designing the experience. That’s also the reason why people enjoy Berlin techno for its deep drone sound, creating a ritualistic moment as you get lost in the sea of the music.


The colour of the space sets the mood. Sometimes its too cold, too white, too wooden, too raw. The atmospheric colour changes the mood of the artwork as well. For the modern art institution holding contemporary art, the walls and the flooring just did not fit. You usually see the ornate frames in a modern art institution against the parquet flooring. While in contemporary art, you usually find yourself in a white cube. Figurative and literal white cubes host works to stop you from being distracted by the atmosphere of the space. This hint of atmospheric colour in the exhibition was very important to this particular experience. It changed the tone of the artworks and the new digital framework had to emulate this.


Speaking to the curator, she notes to me the specific placement of certain works. The distance, the dividing walls, the ones you see at first sight. The artworks are intentionally placed to give you breath to think about the others and some to not interfere and distract by others. It is only through space in the physical world can this take place, and it is only proper to find a solution to design a digital exhibition that showcased this distance.

What’s next? 

It is only through analysing the lack thereof various other solutions in the existence that I realised the need to look for or to design a solution that encompassed sound, colour, and distance and yet contained the elegance of exhibitions on Google Arts & Culture (here’s an example).

While my own design is still in prototype, I do hope future exhibition makers think about designing these online experiences with sound, colour, and distance in mind. Perhaps we could one day share these intimate viewing experiences globally with the use of these traits.

HyperEssay – Zul Mahmod

Zul Mahmod is noted as one of Singapore’s leading sound artist. As a sound artist, Zul has been interested in sound-media with a mix of interdisciplinary and experimental approaches. He is known for integrating 3D forms such as his copper pipe installations that are massive and are visually arresting when looked at.

The work that I am examining is a work that is particularly different from the rest of Zul’s repertoire. While many of his soundscapes are made pre-recorded or programmed to sound the same, Dialog is a work that is influenced by the people that are present in the vicinity. The work changes with the audience, with every audience transmitting sound that moves through the Esplanade tunnel. It is essentially like a live version of the telephone game where the sound begins to be displaced post-transmission. As such, Dialog is a work that showcases interactive media due to its interactive nature because the work requires audience response and the results are not predetermined by the artist

When discussing the work of Nam June Paik to illustrate the ideas of interactivity, his work Magnet TV requires the viewer to move the magnet around the TV. Nam June Paik’s body of work, although backs his claim as the “father of video art” with his work – Magnet TV, the breakthrough of it is also due to the incorporation of requiring audience participation. Similarly, Dialog displaces the audiences’ senses by providing and aural and visual intervention at the Esplanade Tunnel. Using the echoey environment of the tunnel, Zul programmes the work to take in sound made by the surroundings to create sound through solenoids and copper pipes. At a default setting, the sound created by the echo already interacts with the artwork. With the added sound by viewers – through their involuntary steps (across the tunnel), or voluntary sounds, the sound changes, disrupting the default state of the work. Conclusively, Dialog by Zul Mahmod fulfils this criterion in which it is a form of interactive art due to its requirement of audience interaction.

Apart from the requirement for audience interaction, another important point to determine if an artwork is a form of interactive media is that it should be unpredictable. As a form of cybernetics, Zul programmed the work to create sound on its own while interacting with the surroundings. It is similar to how Wiener (1954) describes Cybernetics as a term “…the study of messages as a means of controlling machinery and society, the development of computing machines and other such automata, certain reflections upon psychology and the nervous system”. However, apart from it being self-regulatory, Dialog is also a form of Behaviorist Art. As Ascott (1966) defines behaviorist art as “a retroactive process of human involvement, in which the artefact[sic] functions as both matrix and catalyst.” Dialog provides feedback to the human involvement it receives. It develops the sound as  a matrix but is also a catalyst as its site specific nature orders the viewer to walk through the work, creating involuntary walking sounds that react with the work itself. It also reacts with itself.

To build up on the previous point. While Dialog is in its default state, predetermined, the experience evoked per audience provides an independent output. This creates a experience which Ascott (1966) derives as “more variety into the system and leads to more variety in the output.”

If we compared to work to the sound art of John Cage, it is essentially very similar. While John Cage decided on the types of sounds, textures for Variations V, and essentially the work was an interaction of sound and movement with programmed staged lightings to trigger the dancers to move to create the sound, Zul had programmed the solenoids, microcontrollers and copper pipes to produce sound. The reactivity is also similar to Robert Rashchenberg’s Soundings which produces light from pitch of voice. In essence, the similarity in nature of the artworks highlights the discipline of which Zul Mahmod’s Dialog is indeed, an interactive work since it is reactive to an individuals experience and the input given to the work by the audience produces variable output.

Conclusively, we can determine the Zul Mahmod’s Dialog is a form of Interactive Media through the use of interactivity. By producing sound and being on the genre of sound art, Zul expands his repertoire by adding an interactive element to his work.

Following Dialog in 2016, Zul had also made another interactive work, SONICconversation. Similar to Dialog, the work interacts with the acoustics of the environment, allowing the audience to play a part in the work. In nature, Zul’s work at the default state already produces sound that becomes echoed for the work itself to generate a response. While arguable that Dialog is not an interactive work as it is already predetermined by its default state, it however is still interactive as the different audience interaction then becomes another layer of sound for the cybernetic work to react to. Due to the fact that Dialog requires and audience feedback and that the work itself is not predetermined, thus it is a form of interactive media.


References :

  • Smith, R. (2006, January 31). Nam June Paik, 73, Dies; Pioneer of Video Art Whose Work Broke Cultural Barriers. Retrieved from
  • Media Art Net. (n.d.). Media Art Net | Cage, John: Variations V. Retrieved from
  • Norbert Wiener, “Cybernetics in History,” 1954, Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality
  • Roy Ascott, “Behavioral Art and the Cybernetic Vision,” 1966, Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality


History of Design – First Post?!

If we were talk about the history of design, I would think it came from the age of the Roman Empire where the design of column and pillars are not just for aesthetic pleasure but for the stability of their architecture.

Image result for roman arches
Taken from

While it was not formally design, the act of problem-solving and coming up with a designed solution for the problems of these stability issues, are aspects of design.

Reflection on “Rhetoric of the Image”

Barthes’ Rhetoric of the Image aimed to investigate the necessity of context within an image. Whether analogical representation, or a context is required to interpret images and if the interpretation of images could be decoded using a systematic detailing list of practical, national, cultural, aesthetics to be decoded.

Some key terms and concepts introduced was the idea of the signifieds (meaning) and signifiers (image) and how the idea of semiotics is brought upon via the denotational and connotational. Another concept that struck me was the idea of drawings vs photographs and how the relationship of signs contrasted between these two mediums. Expanding further, Barthes also explain how film is no longer a subset medium of photography but a completely different set of signs.

I do agree as the approach taken for image decoding is dependent on the signs and symbols and how the signified is relative to the signifier. Another concept which I agree would be the the choice of mediums. As stated, there is no drawing without style, as such the stylistic interference would already have a connotation within itself. As such, photographs are purer in providing signs and symbols as opposed to drawing, however, with photography comes with manmade interventions like framing.

In relation to the article by Barthes, the denoted image of the print ad is that of a simple burger, namely the BigMac. However, the use of text has transformed the connotations. The rhetoric used challenges the reader on their toughness to tackle the burger. While meat is usually contextualised with masculinity, the idea of the rhetoric is to influence audience to consume the BigMac to prove their own masculinity. This breakdown would have been impossible without the use of text to supplement the advertisement and thus changing the connoted message within the denoted image of the burger.

This breakdown on the connoted message provided by the text used in the advertisement is further augmented by Barthes’ idea of identifying the message through a list of practical, national, cultural, aesthetics.

Practically, a burger is just an item for consumption and sustenance. However the added context of McDonalds’ provides the idea of fast food and a fast paced consumption rate at an affordable price range. This is further pushed through with the fact that McDonalds’ stemmed from American values in which consumerism, commercialism and capitalism thrives on. The cultural context is then put into play when the rhetoric is used to influence buyers to purchase. The cultural association of beef to masculinity and the idea of the challenging the readers’ manliness is put into play. Furthermore, in terms of aesthetics, the photograph was framed to be in a luxurious red bed setting, which provides an idea of luxury and seduction, thus using human intervention (framing and setting) to give a connoted message as well.