LIGHT­ING UP

Best known for ma­nip­u­lat­ing light into stun­ning im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences, de­sign di­rec­tor GMUNK is now mov­ing into ar­chi­tec­tural spa­ces

Computer Arts - - Video Insight -

Holo­grams, lasers, psychedelia and light: lots of vol­u­met­ric light. It’s a long way from an­a­lyz­ing shell­fish re­pro­duc­tive cy­cles in the freez­ing cold – the San Fran­cisco-based graphic de­signer orig­i­nally em­barked on an oceanog­ra­phy ma­jor – but in a di­verse ca­reer marked by “a se­ries of breaks”, it’s fit­ting that Bradley G Munkowitz ven­tured into de­sign on the ad­vice of his science teacher.

His most vis­i­ble work is a se­ries of holo­graphic se­quences and UI for fea­ture films Tron: Legacy and Obliv­ion. But Munkowitz, aka GMUNK, has over a decade of ex­pe­ri­ence as a de­sign di­rec­tor for clients around the world, most re­cently cre­at­ing a new hero im­age for Mi­crosoft Win­dows 10 out of light.

He also col­lab­o­rated with de­sign stu­dio Bot & Dolly on 2013’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­jec­tion-map­ping pro­ject, Box. We caught up with GMUNK at OFFF Barcelona to find out what he’s been up to since then. How have you been spend­ing your time since work­ing on Box with Bot & Dolly? Bot & Dolly were bought by Google so I left them last year. I’m do­ing com­mer­cial work now, bal­anc­ing it with per­sonal work and fol­low­ing the for­mula: do client work that pays, take time off and do per­sonal work you love, then that finds you more client work.

Most re­cently I’ve been do­ing a lot of psy­che­delic art. I want to build vir­tual re­al­ity spa­ces and ar­chi­tec­tural spa­ces – im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­en­tial de­signs – in that style, bring­ing the light­ing stud­ies I’ve been do­ing for my short films into real spa­ces.

It’s the per­sonal work that re­ally mat­ters to me. I try to be as pas­sion­ate as I can about client work, but I know it’s not mine. I cer­tainly don’t get hurt when a client wants to make changes. To what ex­tent do your per­sonal projects feed into your client com­mis­sions? A lot of client work has been be­cause of the Adobe logo remix pro­ject, which has fed into big projects for Mi­crosoft and Sam­sung. I re­cently did a free mu­sic video for Eric Prydz, one of my favourite elec­tronic mu­sic artists – I’ve par­tied to his mu­sic for over a decade – which I hope gets me more big client work be­cause there were some ex­cit­ing new tech­niques in that. Clients grav­i­tate to­wards rich per­sonal work be­cause they can feel the energy in it.

What ad­vice would you give to de­sign­ers who as­pire to work with their favourite DJ? First, find the kind of work that re­ally burns a hole in your heart. What is that style, aes­thetic, lan­guage that inspires you the most? And then do that. Add your own flavour and pro­duce, pro­duce, pro­duce. Put things on the in­ter­net, be­cause noth­ing hap­pens if no­body sees it. And just keep at it.

How do you keep up with cut­ting-edge new tech? You can’t re­ally keep up with it. It’s like this end­less grow­ing vine with all these toma­toes on it. You just pick those lit­tle toma­toes off it when­ever you can, or you col­lab­o­rate with a he­li­copter pi­lot who can take you a lit­tle bit higher. I’d rather fo­cus on a small part of it and do amaz­ing work, and then move onto the next thing, be­cause it’s end­less – it’s bound­less.

The beau­ti­ful thing about work­ing in tech­nol­ogy and de­sign is the tools are al­ways get­ting bet­ter. For in­stance, this morn­ing I was look­ing at 360 de­gree vir­tual re­al­ity ren­dered out of a ren­der­ing en­gine. I can take my psy­che­delic worlds and put them into a spher­i­cal space. In five years from now, that’s go­ing to be off the head­set and into a space in front of you. That’s re­ally in­spir­ing. Can you give any ad­vice for col­lab­o­rat­ing with ex­perts across dif­fer­ent dis­c­plines? When­ever there’s con­fu­sion I just draw a pic­ture and show ref­er­ence. I’ve worked with roboti­cists, engi­neers, ar­chi­tects, pro­jec­tion­ists. The com­mon lan­guage is the lan­guage of the im­age. Mov­ing im­age, still im­age, ref­er­ence, clear ideas, clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion. And then just will­ing­ness to lis­ten and learn from them. Col­lab­o­ra­tion is 50/50. I want to plant a cre­ative seed and then see where they take it. If I don’t agree with it 100 per cent, that’s okay. What ad­vice would you give to a graphic de­signer who wants to do more in­ter­ac­tive work? First, study all the great in­ter­ac­tive de­sign­ers. Ask ques­tions; see how the de­sign is taken into the new space. And then just experiment. Col­lab­o­rate with peo­ple who pro­gram and do that kind of work, and ap­ply your own de­sign to it. There needs to be a cer­tain fear­less­ness.

Fail­ure is okay. If you make some­thing hor­ri­bly lame and peo­ple hate it and it hurts their eyes, then you learn why and the sec­ond time you do it bet­ter. You speak at con­fer­ences around the world. How im­por­tant is it to give back as a de­signer? The in­dus­try’s hard. I try to help peo­ple and con­nect peo­ple as much as I can. When you do talks, it’s an op­por­tu­nity to share the wis­dom that you’ve learned, and talk about what worked and what doesn’t work – the why of the work is re­ally im­por­tant.

I’ve done work where I’ll pitch to a re­ally busy celebrity and they’ll say: ‘Hey, I don’t have time to read a 25-page doc­u­ment.” Sure you do – and I can make time to an­swer emails, help peo­ple and do Skype calls with stu­dents. It can be de­mand­ing, but it’s worth it.

What’s the big­gest les­son you’ve learnt so far? You’ve got to be­lieve in karma and luck, and to re­ally make it you can’t go half in. It’s chal­leng­ing, but I be­lieve I was put on this earth to do this.

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