Charismatic Microfauna: Critters Got Skin in the Game

Core Studio / Summer Intensive

Lawrence Tech University: 2017

This project explores how charismatic form and duotone graphics can perform in tandem to create delightful and versatile new worlds. The project oscillates between two parallel formats: an interactive form-generation gameboard and a series of scaled prototypes.

The gameboard provides a gridded playing field and set of rules that invite "Critters" to move around and hook up with another. Critters are extruded profiles that suggest primitive attributes of fictional vitality and animism. For example, some profiles are articulated to suggest legs or appendages, while others may suggest creaturely features such as a snout or tail. Each profile is generated from the same set of primitive geometric strokes (straight lines, diagonal lines, and circular arcs) that allow the collection of Critters to exhibit individuality but remain cohesive as members of single extended family.

An applied graphic strategy codes each Critter’s locomotion along the lines on the gameboard and amplifies the charismatic features of its geometry. Striped duotone or solid colors applied to the “outer” surfaces of each critter link it directly the striped or solid lanes on the gameboard, enabling orthogonal movement along corresponding lanes. Quirkier, more articulate, or curvilinear graphic patterns are applied to the “inner” surfaces of each critter, which endow the critter with character and personality along surfaces that never touch the gameboard’s coded lanes. These interior surfaces also line up when critters cluster together, creating continuous voids of space between them.

In addition to sliding along the lanes, other graphic symbols on the gameboard prompt the critters to tumble vertically, roll over horizontally into another lane, and mount each other for a piggyback ride. These additional actions encourage the Critters to re-orient themselves and gather together is social collections called Community Clusters. In this way, the gameboard provides a framework for the generation of collective form.

Work by students Dragan Acimovic, Paul Codreanu, Elizabeth Hempsted, Breanna Hielkema, Jeremy Hipp, Rene Kadoo, Austin Loper, Carrie Smith, Michelle Stock, and Lingzi Yang. Photos by Breanna Hielkema.