Large-scale light projections are a real alternative to oversized print media, as they offer greater versatility, create drama and can produce spectacular effects. Trish Lorenz takes a look
Within graphic design, using projection is still relatively rare – for most designers, print remains firmly the preferred option for larger format work – but some brands and organisations are beginning to embrace the medium, using the power of light and movement to connect with their audience, indoors and out.
Be it bringing to life elements of an exhibition, the launch of a mobile phone or introducing a broad public to poetry, projection is coming to life as an alternative to large-format print solutions.
Effectively targeting a key audience
Motorola and Cake Media
Working with Cake Media, Motorola implemented a global campaign of projections across buildings in Paris, Chicago, Berlin and London to support the press launch of its SLVR mobile phone. In the UK, the campaign targeted five of London’s financial buildings, including the iconic Nat West Tower and the Old Stock Exchange.
Artwork consisted of a series of static single slides that featured the image of the phone, along with the Motorola marque. The image of the phone was changed from black to silver, to enhance visibility on the primarily glass buildings and to contend with light issues (most offices remained internally lit). Two identical pictures were used on each of the 14 projectors to strengthen the quality of the image.
Logistics were the most difficult element of the project, says Cake goup event director Gary Wilson. ‘Finding the right buildings, getting permission and finding places to project from were challenging.’
Projections were deliberately chosen over a print solution because the promotion supported an advertising campaign that ‘played with people’s perceptions’, adds Wilson. ‘We wanted to take that element of above-the-line work, where what you look at isn’t exactly what you get,’ he says.
Connecting with a large public outdoors
For London by Jenny Holzer
For eight nights, starting on 8 April, Jenny Holzer will transform well-known London buildings, including City Hall and Somerset House, into giant, illuminated pages of poetry, as part of the Barbican’s Beckett Centenary Festival.
Holzer uses Futura Bold Condensed in upper case for the project – chosen, she says, because bold and sans serif fonts work best for light projections.
‘Part of the choice is purely aesthetic, but a good deal is also informed by practical concerns,’ she explains. ‘Because the surfaces we project on are so varied – water, trees, neo-classical facades with columns – the font must be simple and bold for clarity.’
There are clearly challenges to working with outdoor projections; light, in particular, poses real problems.
‘Light is the enemy, so turning off as much interior and exterior illumination as possible is a must,’ says Holzer. ‘Reflective surfaces, such as glass, tend to abstract, mirror or multiply the text, which can be good or bad, depending on your objective.’
Holzer recommends choosing shapely, light-coloured buildings without fractured facades for best results, and says that a little bit of fog, mist or dust in the air ‘is a bonus, as you can see the letters take shape in space’.
She’s a firm believer in the power of projections, despite, or perhaps because of their relatively ephemeral nature, and suggests they are ‘more beautiful and more mysterious’ than banners or other printed material.
‘With projections, you are able to fill a space with light and envelope architecture in a way that is not possible with print,’ she maintains.
Enhancing visitor experience
Closer to the Master exhibition at the British Museum, designed by Metaphor
Featuring 90 drawings, this exhibition pulls together one of the world’s largest collections of Michelangelo’s work in 30 years. Among the highlights are three studies for the fresco in the Sistine Chapel, including a preparatory piece for the famous image of God’s hand reaching out to Adam.
Metaphor was tasked with helping audiences make the vital connection between the three 90cm-high drawings and the artist’s final oversized figures high on the chapel ceiling.
To achieve this, the group created a virtual ceiling – at 2.5m high, it is roughly the height of the Sistine Chapel ceiling – on to which a series of full-sized drawings and samples of the finished work are projected.
Using projection enabled the group to show a series of images rather than just one and to deliver ‘fantastic intimacy’, says Metaphor managing director Stephen Greenberg. ‘People will experience the work as Michelangelo did when he was painting the ceiling. The only other person who would have had this relationship with the work is the artist himself,’ he explains.
The group chose the technique because of the sensuality and power of the medium, he adds. According to Greenberg, projections have the power to ‘excite, arrest or slow down’ an audience in a way that is far beyond the capabilities of a print solution.
But Greenberg, who believes using media to transform a space is still in its infancy, counsels that projections ‘can’t just be wallpaper’. ‘Projections can’t be hidden in a corner – they must become the space; become one of the key elements,’ he says. ‘Nothing beats the magic of an image in light – it is a very powerful tool.’