Tactility in printed matter

Ane Thon Knutsen, Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Department of Design

My artistic research is an exploration of tactility in printed matter. I will research this subject through combinations of analog and digital manufacturing techniques. During the project I will produce a collection of physical collateral and processes that will serve as a reference book for practical experience and tactile expression. In addition, it will contribute to the conceptualization and understanding of the interface between the analog and the digital.

This is an artistic research that examines the significance and understanding of the tactile aspects of graphic design. Tactility, in result, process and education, has largely been abandoned and undervalued during the digital revolution. New technologies have been developed, but meant for limited applications. Screen-based work is generic and represents the absence of tactility.

The aim for my project is to achieve a deeper understanding of the role tactility plays in printed graphic design today. The project poses questions about screen based work, if this one tool is considered graphic designers only expertise, and is this limitation what graphic designers really want? When the practitioners’ tactile experience is no longer a part of the design process, which consequences will this have on printed matter in the future? Which potentials do tactile means and processes have to provide multiple layers of communication? The project seeks to find insight and awareness of the production process. The significance it has on the creative process, and the quality of the finished result. My aim is to contribute to an important discussion about how graphic designers work, and how we want to work when performing printed matter.

The way I can acquire a deeper understanding of the subject is to physically explore combinations and possibilities in the workshops, combined with critical reflection. The method I have developed is to work in layers, back and forth between analog and digital techniques, combining hand borne knowledge with digital tools, treating all tools as equal. To give a short example of which technologies and traditional tools I use, I typically work with laser cutters and CNC-mills combined with letterpress and woodcuts. This makes med able to push the materials physical limitations and try to move the boundaries by using digital tools.

The artistic outcome of the project will be a collection of printed matter and visualization of important processes. Thematically I want to illustrate tactility, as tactility is a tacit, bodily and poetic subject. It is hard to put into words, but has the quality of being a language one can understand outside/inside the verbal world. This challenge may be met in combining the artistic work with the critical reflection, as a part of the final result.