“Turned On” by Brunel Digital Media’s Interim Exhibition

Brunel’s Digital Media students wowed everyone with a showcase of their work.

Words by TREVYN RAYNER-CANHAM

On the 22nd of November, the Digital Media Society at Brunel University launched their brand for this academic year. Co-project manager, Rosie Maddison, explained “This is the first time that Brunel Digital has carried out a brand launch in November instead of during the summer.  We wanted to build more excitement and exposure around our brand throughout 2018 and 2019 rather than just at the end”. 

And boy did they deliver the excitement!  The launch, which took place in Brunel’s event space The Venue, commenced with a bang (and nearly a few pops); for when everyone had finished amassing in the room, a set of double doors flew open to emit a tide of red, white and blue balloons, which flooded the floor.  On one side of the hall stood a screen displaying a highly polished launch video created by Digital Student Leslie Stowe, with the help of Brendan Botrel. The night climaxed with the revelation of their brand name Turned On (a conception by final year Brunel Digital student and naming genius James Hanks). 

Brunel Digital’s 2018-19 brand

“We decided on the name Turned On because we think that it relates well to the students of Brunel Digital” Maddison expounds, “The Oxford dictionary’s definition of the phrase turned on is ‘to cause a device to operate’ – something which most of us do every day.  While on the other hand, Urban Dictionary defines the term as being ‘excited’ or ‘to be sexually stimulated’.  We aim to create human centred products on our course so we thought that this name would represent us well.”

On Friday afternoon Brunel Digital treated us to another stimulating event, an interim exhibition to showcase the projects final year students are currently working on.  “This morning our work was marked by lecturers and seen by industry experts.” enthuses co-project manager, Linda Scerpella, “In the previous years the event would have ended there, but this year we decided to open the showcase up to everyone. It is also a great opportunity for the first and second year students to see what they will be doing in their final year.”  

Upon entering the exhibition hall, it is clear to see how this pioneering move has paid off.  The pieces on show were so accomplished and well-conceived that one could easily forget this was a showcase of work in its interim stages, rather than a final degree show.  The projects were presented in a delightful array of vibrant posters, accompanied by their respective creators who were on hand to further enlighten their audience.

Industry experts attended the Interim Exhibition

The first student I spoke to, Karolína Balogová, is designing an app named Let’s, which “encourages users to get offline and experience exciting adventures with the people they love”.  Balogová explains that her own experience at university inspired her to create Let’s: “As I started studying at Brunel, I began losing contact with my friends from my home country and it became difficult to make plans with them.”  Let’s fosters closer social bonds through the use of an activity planner which includes a bucket list system.  Balogová has employed a delightfully vibrant and refreshing graphics style which seamlessly captures the Let’s brand values of being collaborative, motivational, fun and engaging.  Let’s brings another dimension to the activity of planning, making it an enjoyable and compelling experience.

Aspiring globetrotter, Juhi Khatry, is creating an information based travel app which she has named Traveli.  Khatry explains that even though there are many holiday centred apps on the market, Traveli would be the first to generate quick travel guides for each holiday destination, giving a summary of useful information such as the languages spoken, currency and a weather graph of such countries.  In addition to this, Traveli “helps users to discover holiday destinations and activities based on their chosen weather preferences” and save appealing destinations to a bucket list.  I could certainly do with this app to help me escape this bleak British winter.

The Digital Media students and their work.

Final year student Sebastien Billard-Arbelaez has decided to take on the challenging task of designing a video game.  His 2D game Lost in Sands traces the journey of a Bedouin Arab avatar as he travels through sandy scenes of the Middle East.  Billard-Arbelaez’s project takes inspiration from his own experience of growing up in the Middle East and his dislike of the antagonistic stereotypes which some existing video games subscribe to when portraying Middle Eastern characters.  “I wanted to design a game which does the culture justice” he explains, “And of course I wanted to create a game that is fun to play too”.  So far he has created the game’s backdrop scenes using the programs Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.  His rich illustrations perfectly encapsulate the mysterious and expansive desert landscapes of the Middle East and provide an enthralling environment for his nomadic character, which has been skilfully rendered using the 3D program Maya. Billard-Arbelaez’s goal by the end of the year is to produce one finished level for Lost in Sands, using the cross-platform game software Unity.

Character artist Leslie Stowe has also decided to work on video game assets for her final year project.  Anxious to leave on an urgent mission, Stowe apologised profusely, hurled a magical QR code in my direction and vanished in a flash.  Having recovered from the ensuing concussion and momentary blindness, I have since used her QR code to unlock a treasure trove of intricately designed and madly unique 3D models and illustrations of a livid octopus, imaginatively christened Sangaroa the Coral Assassin by its creator. Stowe has designed Sangoroa and corresponding armour for the existing video game Monster Hunter World. 

A 3D model of Sangaroa the Coral Assassin by Leslie Stowe.

Across from Stowe’s display stood Linda Scerpella in front of her own project Invisible Plastics, which is a motion graphics piece on plastic pollution.  Scerpella’s fantastic plastic awareness campaign aims to increase the public’s recognition of imperceptible pollution such as microplastics in water and toxins in the air.  Scerpella’s clean graphics style, evident from her poster, eloquently reflects her intention to purge the world’s environment of harmful waste products.

And finally we come back to Rosie Maddison, who is using her creative powers to rebrand Brunel Digital – an undertaking I imagine would be appreciated by many, if not most design students.  Maddison has focused on liquids as a motif for her redesign to highlight the fluidity and adaptability of the Digital Design and Visual Effects & Motion Graphics courses. “We come from the same source but produce different outcomes” She explains, “If you splash ink on a page, the result is never the same, much like our work in Brunel Digital.”  Maddison’s swirling water ripple inspired designs are wonderfully kaleidoscopic and elegantly executed.  She asserts that it was her passion for Brunel Digital which made her decide on this project; “It’s a special course, so why not make it special?” she concludes.   

I left the exhibition feeling refreshed and inspired… And dare I say, Turned On?