Finding Our Visual Language (Part 1/)

by Holly on November 16, 2018

Holly here, and hold onto your lumbar support pillows. This is going to be one rambling, artsy-fartsy post.

In art school, I learned there’s a very fine line between making something look child-like without looking childish. I always interpreted the “child-like” part as something that looks naive, not because the person creating it is naive, but because it’s presented using a lens of the world that the viewer’s never seen before.

A Child's Drawing
Drawing (c) Probably A Kid

One of Picasso's Sketchbooks
One of Picasso's Sketchbooks

I think a lot about this SCP “file” I read years ago. For those of you who like to sleep at night, SCP is a website that compiles a bunch of fake anomaly, paranormal, extra-terrestrial, and cryptid reports that are dressed up to seem real. From what I remember of the report, the SCP agents had met some kind of alien and were trying to communicate with it using pictures on cards. In one deck of cards, they had simple shapes that were supposed to look like the alien. In the exercise, the alien communicated that only some of the shapes actually represented a member of their species.

A Pedestrian Sign
Walking or Moonwalking?

This story got me thinking about all the different ways humans recognize human shapes. In modern western worlds, we’re so used to identifying people using silhouettes like the pictographs on a bathroom door or pedestrian street sign. So when we see something further removed from our cultures, such as a fertility statue, we need a moment to digest the new visual information. The amazing part of this experience is that, after digesting, we all can still see the human in the fertility statue. It may seem lofty, but that moment of discovery is what I want to create in Project Thunder’s visuals.

Maybe the arrow isn’t like an arrow you’ve ever seen before, but at second glance it’s arrow-LIKE and definitely functions like one. Maybe your initial reaction to the backgrounds are that they’re a messy jumble of colors and lines, but upon closer inspection you notice the shapes of windows. Maybe your first impressions of the characters are that they appear alien or other-worldly, but once you get to know them you see the humanity in their faces.

Our Flooded City Background Art
Can you see it?