TheÂ modern poster in the 21st century dates back to the mid-1800s whenÂ the printing industry refined colour lithography and made mass productionÂ feasible. Today, a poster can be defined as any pieceÂ of printed paper designed to be displayed on a vertical wall, aÂ creative tool forÂ advertising and communicating a message across to the world. However, in theÂ digital age Dutch graphic designersÂ TrappedÂ in Suburbia, which consists of Cuby Gerards, Karin Langeveld and Richard Fussey, have given the old modest formatÂ of a print designed poster a digital update with sound abilities and simplyÂ called their innovative series the Sound Poster.
The name of the creative projectÂ is pretty self-explanatory: a posterÂ that is designed to produce sounds when you place your hand over it. The ideaÂ was originally inspired by Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky and his ideasÂ surrounding colour and music. Kandinsky is mostly known for creating theÂ worldâ€™s first truly abstract paintings but his artistic ambitions wanted toÂ achieve a sensation that would involve a combination of human senses. HeÂ desired to evoke sound through sight and create a painting equivalent of aÂ symphony that would provoke and stimulate not just a personâ€™s eyes but theirÂ ears as well. Kandinsky is believed to have synaesthesia, a neurologicalÂ condition in which two or more of the five human senses allow a person toÂ experience sounds, colours or words simultaneously.
The Sound Poster series aims toÂ combine digital with analog in a perceptible experience where print media meet digital technology. The interactive poster consists of an Arduino micro-controllerÂ which is connected using a copper wire to a reactive painted medium in order toÂ produce sounds played through a plugged-in amp, delivering a new experience through this experimental avant-garde graphicalÂ sound instrument.
The Trapped in Suburbia designers explain when the resistanceÂ of touch changes, so does the sound, then a soft touch emits a different soundÂ than a more aggressive touch on the interactive poster. The sounds from theÂ poster are currently based on synthesizer sounds but the designers are nowÂ working on a sequel where the sounds are based on real classical instruments.
The series of Sound PostersÂ consists of four different posters and two alternative versions since itsÂ inception in 2013 with Sound Poster 1.0. The posters are a creative response to
the digital loving tech culture, which may sometimes be too afraid to thinkÂ outside the box for traditional and conventional communication channels, suchÂ as print media. The team of three behind Trapped in Suburbia reject the ideaÂ that new technology is expected to compete and replace older forms ofÂ communication mediums. Richard Fussey of Trapped in Suburbia states that “newÂ technology doesn’t need to defeat old”Â and “combining both produces scenarios you would never get if you were toÂ only use one”.
Sound Poster 4.0, which is theÂ recent edition of the series, is similar to the first version, but you donâ€™tÂ have to touch the interactive poster to produce a sound. The latest release of
the Sound Poster family doesnâ€™t have to be touched as it can be played like a Theremin and its sound is controlled by the viewerâ€™sÂ hand motions in front of the interactive poster. The Sound Poster 4.0 continuesÂ the investigation into the new field of interactivity within the idea of aÂ traditional poster, while also mimicking a Theremin. Indeed Sound Poster 4.0 requires aÂ person, for the first time, not to touch the poster but to hover their handsÂ above the interactive placard to control the sound that it is producing. ThereÂ is a conductive layer beneath the printed poster, which is capable of sensingÂ the distance between the user and the sound poster, as a result producing aÂ variety of sounds.
The Shy PosterÂ is another related addition to the Sound Poster series, which allows the posterÂ to stay true to its name as, unlike its noisy counterparts, it doesnâ€™t focus on
sound but rather reacts to the presence of the viewers, closing its shutters onÂ each vertical side of the poster before any bystander can get a good detailedÂ glimpse of it. Trapped in Suburbia likes to describe it as “a poster that gains personality by personifying shyness in anÂ interactive installation”. If the poster is left alone, its colourfulÂ extrovert personality is revealed. However, if someone interrupts its personalÂ comfort zone, the poster immediately retracts its doors, hiding itself withinÂ the conformity of the background wall becoming an introvert.
While the AutoÂ Play poster takes the sound poster public into outdoor territory. As part of theÂ 2015 Graphic Design Festival in Breda, the Trapped in Suburbia team wereÂ invited to create a new interactive installation at the 3Sec.Gallery, which isÂ a drive-by exhibition space located along the entrance of a parking garage inÂ Breda, Netherlands. The Auto Play poster allows an experimental interaction betweenÂ analogue and digital, through pictures and sounds. Auto Play is a series of 25 soundÂ posters that react to passing vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.
The Sound Poster series is full of abstract coloured images and cacophonous and dissonant sounds, and they definitely wonâ€™t be replacing the traditional printed poster format just yet, but the Trapped in Suburbia team are certainly determined to keep experimenting with new design ideas, so it will be interesting to see how this experimental sound poster project progresses over the next half of this decade and the 2020s.
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