CREATING AN ALPHABETIC CODE THAT BRIDGES THE DIGITAL WORLD OF
Most know about our history on The Matrix,
it began with a call,
19 years ago.
The agent from Warner Brothers offered that Joel Silver wanted me in his offices, the following morning, to talk to him, and a pair of directors, The Wachowski brothers, as they were known then. I’d sent him a note on our work, my history — and, like many of my projects, a letter became an other letter.
And logos appeared.
Design programs evolved. And it’s like that — design, as a code of being, can be the first place that messaging happens, which spells out the story, which builds out the framing for how people see things, since — many times in my experience — the logo is the first thing that many see to grasp a brand, and years in that evolution, it might be the last delicate detail — the smallest promotion, that, as the story arc of the brand reaches its smallest tail — it’s the logo that remains, tiny: a smallest encapsulation of the storied presentation.
the alphabet is the beginning
of much of what we design.
And it may be,
after we are long-passed,
the last; it could be what we are remembered for.
we have writ.
we have written it.
It’s our alpha.
So we think that the alphabet is far deeper than the mere scratchings of graphical marks on a screen, a piece of paper, a tablet of papyrus, a scroll of parchment.
The markings of the alphabet —
written symbols —
are demarcations of voicing
that can be traced back
thousands of years,
from pads of clay in 4500BC Sumer, hieratic characterizations in Egypt at 3000BC, pictographic renderings in 1200BC China, painted Amphorae with cross-transliterated texts from 500BC Greece
to engraved multilingual sheets of gold in 350BC Italy — and the foundational alphabets of Imperial Rome, the tight-fisted letterforms of the Medieval period, the lightening of the Humanists and the soaring calligraphies of the Italian Renaissance.
Writing holds keys —
it is the code of the time.
The script of each age tells a story of that age.
Some know about the scale of the work in our history as designers of theatrical identity in cinematic and television advertising, generously collected in a blog string at Stuart Balcomb’s wondrous Scream. What we know, in our own experience, is that motion picture design work is an inherently collaborative and evolutionary effort, and that I can count probably several hundred films in my history — starting in the late 70s to the present era.
Mostly, these projects began as a single letter,
that sets the code for another —
the code of the brand,
and the reality therein — might be an alphabet.
Obviously, in our work with the Wachowskis a lot of that legacy was specifically about an alphabet — Larry, speaking to me in one phasing of work asked — “you know that singer Björk, she’s almost kind of alien, like she’s operating on another plain, coming from another planet — and that’s where we are, we need to create a monogram, some new type design — something unseen, a new approach to the alphabet, that will symbolize our whole mission.
So we did that — we went down to LA to build that,
a letterform is
a code that builds a world,
a hidden world —
that you can only see that if you’re
not one of them.”
“The Matrix is a system, Neo.
That system is our enemy.
But when you’re inside, you look around,
what do you see?
Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system,
that they will fight to protect it”.
To not being one of them,
we designed towards the coding as a veil —
a code that separates
If you’re not here, one of us, then you’re there —
on the other side of the code.
But what is the monogram,
what is the inspiration of the code?
It comes down to the layering which is inherent in The Matrix, which isn’t planar, it’s dimensional, it’s multiaxial.
So it goes like this — explorations and studies that are real life [shot and found as points of inspiration] as well as digitally-built studies —
some of which that use
our core final solution code
and other meanders
in the labyrinth of meanings.
See what you will:
What about Grosser’s link,
to a computer watching
SLIDE: 3 / OF 6. Caption: Caption: Here it’s watching The Matrix. As Grosser notes, the output helps us detect broad changes in cinematic style. Newer films have more cuts and more frenzied action. See the full scene with audio here.Photos by Ben Grosser
So, to that digital reframing —
we go back.
The new coding, from the old.
We thought about the idea of rebooting The Matrix Digital Rain font — the design of the coding — as an aggregate font, mixing alphabetic, numeric, syllabic and multilingual fonts. Those treatments were overlaid, in a kind of palimpsest — dimensionalized, layered, coded by hand, one idea on another. We took that, built that as before — and sent it as a gift to Keanu Reeves,
as a re-minding of that legacy.
And yes, we’re big fans of Mr. Reeves.
We hope he likes it.
Where we begin with the alphabet,
there we end.
T I M | GIRVIN
H O L L Y W O O D S T U D I O S
G I R V I N | DESIGNING MOVIES
THEATRICAL BRANDING + ENTERTAINMENT
IMAGINATION: AND THE TOOLS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN
Movie Storytelling design: http://goo.gl/XCBQps