Faculty of Architecture and Design, 2018
An often-overlooked aspect of the creative world of design is the intersection of sound and picture; the ability to harmonise two separate yet intertwined mediums of expression. While the connection between audio and visual may be tenuous, it is even rarer to experience a piece of design that fully acknowledges and embraces its environment and space; rather than being confined to a screen, canvas or gallery.
At Victoria University of Wellington, the School of Design investigates the notion of audio-visual space and how this can pay homage to historical concepts, contemporary developments, the work of professional practitioners, and practical experimentation. It is vital that those entering the design industry have an understanding of how audio and visual senses interact with their environment, and comprehend that audio, visual, and space are not separate entities waiting to be independently developed. True design requires harmony and balance of each of these three pillars.
Research and historical design play important roles in influencing the design practices of today. A critical understanding of historically avant-garde works, combined with a contemporary perspective, allows designers to develop new works in spatial context. Before the development of modern-day computing and recording hardware, audio-visual creation posed a great challenge to designers.
For example, design students study the classic pre-computer Doctor Who theme music and title sequence originally developed in 1963, long before the availability of synthesisers or CGI. The main pulsing ‘sci-fi’ sounds were developed by hand by recording a single string being plucked and then rerecording multiple times while being spliced with different notes played at different times. These sounds were then mixed by cutting and splicing each piece of tape onto a new recording by hand.
Although the aforementioned audio techniques are now considered unnecessary with modern recording techniques, they still hold significant weight in influencing the direction of the industry and have an experimental quality that has been lost with digital techniques. The School of Design recognises this and works to combine analogue techniques of physically recording, altering, and rerecording sounds; while also using modern techniques to pare audio, visual, and spatial elements.
Creating a work of design that truly fits its surroundings is no easy task. The work must be built from the ground up with the presentation and surrounding environment being taken into consideration. This creates a very different workflow as the spatial environment dictates the parameters of the project. So why is this important? A work of design must have symbiosis with the surrounding elements to truly enhance the experience of the viewer and to fully utilise its potential.
At the School of Design students learn how to produce media that creatively engage with the realm of sound, video and space. By developing an understanding of sonic environments, students develop autonomous audio-visual works that truly complement their environments. The boundaries between sound and picture are conventions waiting to be transcended; only through true union of picture, sound and space can design truly flourish.