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Universal Sound | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

Universal Sound

Map - image and design by Matt Ell

Last Thursday I managed to take a break from work and head over to the Art Directors Club to attend the SVA 2008 Senior Graphic Design Portfolio Review. Having never been to one before I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly I was slightly overwhelmed in the sheer number of students with portfolios wanting to show their work. There was a couple reasons why I actually wanted to attend – part out of curiosity to see what young designers were up to, and also in part b/c I need some help where I work. I wasn’t timing things, but I was probably there for just over an hour and saw six or seven books.

All the work was quite impressive though there’s only one that I’m going to mention b/c it was quite different from everything else that I saw or heard. The project that Matt Ell showed me (vs a portfolio of work) was comprised of experimental audio and visuals that combined together. What was interesting is that I was flipping through a book of visuals that documented environmental sounds, yet as I looked through it I was hearing the background noise of the portfolio show. It wasn’t until I downloaded the audio files at home did I know what I was looking at. At itpc://feeds.feedburner.com/EchoUniverseAudioAndVisualPodcast you can download the five tracks. There was a variety of sound recordings from around New York and one from the ocean overlayed with music that worked well together. What I liked about the combination of ambient noise and recognizable notes was that it reminded me of my first trip back to Canada after visiting New York before I moved here. One of the not so subtle things that I missed was all the noise of New York. The taxi horns, the squeaky bus brakes, over worked air conditioning units – they all make a hum that I was starting to associate with a place that I wanted to be at.

While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that every designer leaving school do a project like this, if you have a pretty good idea of the direction you want to shoot towards – why not explore it fully? You can check out more of his visual and sound work at http://phantomlimbscollective.com/echo-ohce/index.php

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