A n a h a t K a u r
Topo-Analysis of Space: A lived Experience
The concept of home is a vast one. It encapsulates our whole being in a limited space – expanding and contracting with our needs. I unfold the nature of domestic space through a topo-analysis of my apartment building in Basel, Switzerland. Faced by the inevitable process of the gentrification of my own apartment, I conducted visual and tactile experiments of my home in order to dissect, abstract, and capture the nature of space. I am interested in its dynamics, its materiality, in time and the relationship of people with a space. My research and experimentations are based on my own life and experience. As well as the seminal works of a few philosophers and artists such as Gaston Bachelard and Rachel Whiteread that guided my enquiry into intimate spaces.
A house that has been experienced is not an inert box. Inhabited space transcends geometrical space. My house has been a home for many people before me and will host many others yet to come. On 23rd March 2021, residents of Joahnniterstrasse 3 were told to vacate their apartment. This is also my home. The aged building carries ghosts of the past, memories of the present and dreams of the future. I play with key concepts of time and space; reality and imagination in order to explore, dissect, and abstract the building. Each floor inhabits a different life even if they share the same blueprint. My project derives meaning from this multi-faceted nature of domestic space. I am highly inspired by the works of philosophers like Gaston Bachelard and Carl Jung; Filmmaker and essayist Georges Perec and hands-on artists like Rachael Whiteread and Toba Khedoori among many others. Bachelard coined the term “topo-analysis” as a study of human identity as it relates to the places in people’s lives. These concepts of intimate spaces are closely related to that of “psychoanalysis” by psychiatrists like Jung. Bachelard pushes against the intangible complexity of the subconscious and changes it into a physical reality by transcending it into our intimate spaces. He turns his attention to the simple localization of memories and defines topo-analysis as the systematic psychological study of the sites of our intimate lives. Rachael Whiteread, a British artist who primarily produces sculptures, which typically take the form of casts, deals with the form and nature of everyday objects. The scale of her sculptures often reveals the very nature of the “vessels” we live in. By filling up an empty room, she reveals not just the hidden characteristics of the space but also the sheer volume of the rooms we inhabit. These objects have little to do with our conscious reality but have a great influence on our subconscious. She captures an open space and condenses it into a solid form. But what she really reveals is all the space around that object, an endless and vast space. The physical weight of her works are nothing compared to the space she offers us in return. Playing with the contrast of the two, she captures the infinite. Toba Khedoori does the same with her paintings. She works with largescale canvases but she never fills her canvas, she only occupies a small space of it. What we are then left with is vast, open emptiness. The use of wax coated paper captures traces of her physical surroundings like dust, hair and studio scraps. She not only shows us what she captures but, in turn, asks us what she has left out. My aim is to document the building as I experience it and use different mediums such as clay, audio-visual narratives, found objects and other mix-media approaches to capture distinct features of my home. The object has no end or beginning. Rather, it is freezing a moment in time. At its core, our relation to space is an existential one. Space does not ask for attention, it is omnipresent. We are faced by the need to divide space, claim it, distribute it, name it, protect it, etc as a mere attempt to find something to hold onto. What we end up with are traces of life, living, ageing, changing, growing, adapting, fixing, breaking, and making. A trace is a mark, object, or other indication of the existence or passing of something. The very nature of a trace is abstract. It is not the whole object, neither is it a part of it. It is an abstracted form that is perhaps, in some ways, a residue of the object. We leave traces but we also collect them. It is an intimate relationship between the container and the contained.
1 – Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1969.
2 – Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1969.
3 – Whiteread, Rachel. Gagosian. (2018, April 12). (https://gagosian.com/artists/rachel-whiteread/).

B i o g r a p h y
Anahat Kaur, a final year student at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design comes from Bangalore, India with a background in identity and packaging design. Her creative practice is non-linear and involves continuous experimentation with a conscious effort to stay authentic.

A u b r e y P o h l
Non-Fungible: An observation of the NFT phenomena, a study in data abstraction.
This project takes an experimental approach to information design, data visualization, and the topic of NFT (non-fungible token) based digital artworks, spaces, and culture. From the perspective of a designer, this research explores the pros and cons of these spaces, and visualizes relevant data sets through the method of data abstraction, which functions as an intersection between emotional design, and practical data visualization.
In regard to the recent rise in popularity of NFT-based (non-fungible token) digital art markets, there is much to be said. There is, in fact, too much to be said. Among a vast sea of pros and cons, I can only offer my criticism and focus on a selection of issues. For the purposes of my research, I explored two main points: the displaced environmental impact of the excessive use of energy by cryptocurrency systems and the potentially toxic and confusing environment that is created for artists in the digital sphere and digital medium. These issues are mostly unseen or unfelt by the general audience engaging in these spaces and raise questions of rarity, object value, and the aesthetics of the digital medium. What does it mean to be a digital artist? What have we gained from these spaces? What have we lost? What have we given? What have we taken? What then, is the role of the designer in identifying and visualizing these issues? The factors of emotion and data come into play, two concepts otherwise found to contrast. How can the abstraction of data (data relevant to the topic at hand) be used to evoke and activate the empathy and attention of onlookers? This practice of abstracting data as a design method is one that requires paying great attention to the context of the data, the emotional value of the data, the environment of data, and the tools used to manipulate the data. Although the specificity of my topic is core to my experiments, hereby known as Data Scapes and NFTVS, my goal is to extend these practices with data abstraction to include the methods of information visualization and design.

B i o g r a p h y
Aubrey Pohl is a designer, researcher, pseudo-digital artist, and forever student of design and visual communication. As a designer, but more appropriately as a human, his ultimate goal is to create work that is both visually engaging and outstanding, but also affects positive change in our world. Aubrey is from Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, USA.


F a n n y D e m i e r
Creation Under Constraint
the Potential of Restriction
With this thesis project, I am investigating our relationship to constraint in the creative field. As an integral part of the practice of graphic design, I was interested in understanding the characteristics of a creation subject to limitations and what impact this could have on the creation itself. Observing both voluntary and involuntary constraints, my thesis is based on the sociology of games and the philosophy of a unique but limited creation (a spatiotemporal framework with a predefined design and rule) open to interpretation. The aim of this research is to offer a playful and experimental practice of design, allowed by a process of creation under constraint: a work setting open to a creative potential that encourages the search for innovative solutions.
In public imagination, constraint is equated with something negative, hindering, and reducing. Yet our environment is filled with involuntary constraints that we hardly ever notice because they are part of our daily life. The environment in which we have evolved since birth has shaped us and influenced our thoughts and actions. These rules of society have allowed us to shape our cultures and to live in community. Rules organize, structure, and guide. Constraint is an integral part of the practice of graphic design. Through a commission, the designer has to manage parameters that are inseparable from the project such as a deadline, a budget limit, a defined format, a given space, etc. Faced with these restrictions, a skilful work between limit and possibility begins. Designers have to be creative in order to interpret these rules and use them to their advantage to deliver an original design. Considered as a creative potential, a constraint can lead designers to reinvent themselves and to think things in an innovative way. With its inclusion in the creative process, the constraint, whether voluntary or involuntary, becomes a driving force and a stimulant for the one who faces it: limited as to freedom, an artist has to develop a lot of ingenuity. This thesis questions our relationship to constraint and the creative potential that can result from a playful approach of design. “Playful” because the creative space offered by the setup of a working framework governed by rules is an invitation for designers to “play” with their practice. An approach of the design which seems to me close to that of a game, the two having a defined framework, a time limit, constraints and an interpretation of the rules opening up the creative potential. From the existing connection between constraint-creation-game, my work is supported throughout by an interest in board games. The personal use I make of the board game as a research medium has enabled me to analyze the characteristics of a limited creation in a concrete way. The philosophical and sociological approach to play has led to a different understanding of creation, where human beings can “replay” their relationship to the world. The defined spatiotemporal setting (design and rules), open to interpretation, invites players to reinvent themselves. This thesis, in additional to being a particularly relevant subject after the last two years of global restrictions, aims to take a look at the practice of graphic design. The implementation of creative processes governed by constraints not only enriches creativity, but also allows one to make sense of and enjoy a certain legitimacy of graphic choices, justified by this established framework of design work. The instinctive complacency of the aesthetics of a project gives way to a desire to accomplish the rational creative process as a purpose. Through a series of experiments, I “played the game” of producing under constraints, following some rules of time, medium, layout, etc. My work ended up on an experimental typography inspired by the checkerboard pattern present on many board games. Investigating the field of possibilities and the notion of exhausting these possibilities, this typography had to be rational as well as functional. My role as a player was to respect the rules that I had set for myself. My role as a designer was to find a way to unify this alphabet to have a common aesthetics. This thesis aims to contribute to design and its graphic practice through the exploration of an experimental and playful methodology, supported by the implementation of a constrained creative framework.

B i o g r a p h y
Fanny Demier is a multidisciplinary graphic designer from Paris, specializing in visual communication and the editorial world with a recent interest for motion design. After studying in France and in Germany for her Bachelor in Graphic Design, she decided to enter the International Master of Design UIC/HGK programme in Basel, hoping to meet people from all over the world, exchanging ideas and learning from them.

K w a k u D a p a a h O p o k u
Kenteverse: Studies on the Visualization of Rhythm and Creation of Kente Designs
Kenteverse is a multifaceted art, design, and music project exploring the innate power of Kente to create. I primarily use sounds sampled from the loom during the weaving process to generate new Kente designs and experiences. My research has involved a handful of disciplines such as language, history and, fashion in figuring out the role rhythm plays in the final results of their given tasks. Kenteverse is about finding ways to visualize rhythm and see how it plays a role or not in several creative processes. During this time, I also reverse engineered this process to see if I could create sounds that could become mediators and creators of visuals specifically for patterns and cloths such as Kente.
On the surface level, Kente is a traditional hand-woven cloth from Ghana. On a deeper level, it innately transmits stories, concepts, and history. Its life and inception start way before I was born, but its feeling, visuals, and rhythmic patterns are eternal. From my Great Grandparents, Great Grand Uncles, Grand Parents, Parents, and now me, there’s always been a connection to this cloth. This thread has run through my family for years. However, it’s not unique to my family but many others. Over time, I have mainly been concerned about how Kente garnered so much importance over the years. Initially starting as a cloth made solely for kings and royalty, I wondered what made it come to life to reach its current International status of value? This curiosity fueled my zeal to want to understand more about this cultural asset. Further, it pushed me to document my journey to uncovering more about Kente than I ever knew. I wondered if there was anything within these designs that could tell me more about who I am? I needed answers to this question, so I took a closer look at what brought this cloth to life and what seemed to be a constant in all the different forms of Kente during its weaving process – weavers and rhythm. I needed to explore and experiment with the innate rhythm during the Kente weaving process. I recorded the loom’s sounds; basically, I sampled different weaving sounds while the Kente was weft. These sounds formed the foundation on which I made music and also generated designs. Further, I broke down my investigative process into three main parts, context, materiality & technique. Using rhythm and sound as a vehicle to further understanding Kente, I worked on several experiments within the bounds of context, materiality & technique. Doing this helped shape, guide and ultimately bring multiple perspectives to Kente. When I started this project, I thought I was merely observing and dissecting the anatomy of Kente. I wasn’t aware of the fact that I was peering into a whole universe, the Kenteverse. Music drove me here, and it’s been my main point of contact in understanding the numerous locations within this universe. Language, history & fashion are just some of the areas I’ve gained access to during my time here. In trying to understand these sites better, I’ve conducted several experiments. From digital to analog and from visuals to sonics, I also ran tons of experiments within these bounds. Although these experiments have dramatically varied in approach and outcomes, music has tied everything here together. As far as language is concerned, I worked closely with two musicians from Ghana, Pure Akan & KLab. With the samples I recorded and chopped up, KLab and I were able to carve out several beats that Pure Akan used to tell very insightful stories about his relationship with Kente. Using Twi rap as our vessel, we could speak directly to the cloth because this is one of the languages the cloth speaks. This further diversified the project because now we had begun engaging Kente in many languages. This gave birth to ‘Dame-Dame’ & ‘Ɛse ne Tɛkerema,’ two short stories. We built further from this pilot experiment and extracted more from the cloth by using the loom as an instrument. This quite ambitious experiment pushed the bounds of rhythm in Kente, by now making it the sole driver for coming up with designs. While Pure Akan performed spontaneously, Aminu weft the backing track. Literally. Concerning history, I’ve been looking specifically at some Kente motifs. I’ve concentrated my efforts on building a motif library as well as a motif picker. Both of these will effectively bring more understanding to some of the existing Kente designs and also make way for new ones to be created. Looking at Fashion, one of the main reasons why Kente exists, BalmLabs and I are coming up with the first concept store that exists within this universe, GLOOM. GLOOM is only the beginning of many such fashion concepts here. With GLOOM, we are designing garments that exist only within this universe. As the name suggests, GLOOM is a Generative Loom; we’ve brought designs made from an analog process into the digital space through music. Interaction with these locations, language, history, and fashion, wouldn’t have been possible without music. By sampling sounds from the loom, while weaving, I’ve been able to develop new designs. This initial experiment of creating these designs has essentially set the tone for more experiments in these other spaces. Hopefully, more locations will open up in this universe as I continue experimenting and exploring. I’d love to extend a special thank you to Aminu & Mandela and all the weavers in Africa, specifically Ghana, who are keeping the knowledge alive. I am grateful and hopeful, knowing that this knowledge will keep flowing into the minds and hands of the next generation.

B i o g r a p h y
I am Kwaku Opoku, an artist, designer, musician, and environmental researcher. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to start conversations with my skills. I believe that conversations are needed to create experiences conducive enough for understanding and unity to flourish within any community. Further, I’m a proud Ghanaian and African.


S a b i n a L a n e r
How Fuzzy Thinking Emerges the Way We Look at Pollution
The concept of fuzzy thinking, with its indefinite, vague, and intangible character, forms the basis of inspiration for this thesis, and was applied as a principle to the field of visual communication. This thesis concerns itself with pollution in various forms: air, land, and water pollution as well as the less obvious and disturbing forms thereof such as noise, visual, and information pollution. The objective of the respective research is to raise awareness and disseminate information by hypothesizing new and unusual visual paths suggested by this different way of approaching the topic.
I should like to make pollution visible and the theory of fuzzy logic seems to me to be suitable for this representation. In fact, fear, anguish, and uncertainty of the future are such fuzzy categories, because they are not clearly quantifiable feelings. In particular, fuzzy references the theory developed by Lofty Zadeh1, who in the late 1970s explained, referring to the scientific and decision-making field, that fuzzy is something undefined, uncertain and halfway between two extremes. It contemplates the space of doubt and the indefinite. Therefore, there are several similarities between fuzzy thinking and pollution. The theory of fuzzy logic as well as pollution considers what is elusive, blurred and often invisible. An example is radioactive pollution; it exists, and we are affected by it, but we do not see it because it is dispersed in the atmosphere and has no clear boundaries. It is difficult to draw a clear line of separation between pollution and its absence, between the impure and the healthy, between degradation and growth, between the dark and the light. In my opinion, the accentuation of these hardly perceptible differences leaves space for creativity and for new areas of representation whose interpretation is free and open. I should like to merge these two themes and render explicit the urgency and seriousness of the issue of pollution through fuzziness. Besides, although pollution is an increasingly discussed and sensitive issue, I believe it is closely linked to mystery and to those fields where science still has no certain answers and, in particular, lacks descriptions of possible scenarios. We are very much aware of different types of pollution as scientists hypothesize its consequences, but we are not yet completely affected by it. It is a constant and slow process, but for now remains somewhat invisible and hidden. An epochal change in the Earth’s environment, climate, biology, and even geology itself is taking place. Scientists have called it the Anthropocene. As the name implies, it is “literally the age of new human, a term that recognizes the degree to which we are full actors in the natural systems of the planet”2. In this new, human-dominated era, we as humans are faced with new ethical, political, and social responsibilities, but we also have the extraordinary opportunity to be able to explore, understand, and shape it. I believe, as a communicator, that the task and responsibility of shedding light on and communicating current and impactful issues, such as pollution and other wounds to the Earth, are critical. After a documentation on the theme of pollution in its many forms and a thorough research regarding artists who have focused on this theme, the experiments aim to address and explore the complexity of the pollution theme through a multimedia approach (photography, video, animation, typography, projection, installation, etc.). The fuzziness manifested itself when my experiments became ambivalent and both ambiguous and undirected, therefore uncertain. For example, one type of direct method could be to manipulate the image to make it blurred, unsharp and, therefore, visually fuzzy. On the other hand, if I consider the metaphorical sense of the word fuzzy, it would mean experimenting with the accidental, the random and uncontrollable and, therefore, the uncertain. In this vein, multiple outcomes can be imagined. Sometimes my images are rendered abstract to further allude to the fact that pollution is a very broad and intangible subject. It is not clear what kind of pollution I am presenting, but what is certain is that it is something destructive and harmful. Interpretation is free, and fuzziness is a space that can be filled with different reflections and thoughts. This kind of approach becomes the trigger that unleashes and moves the curious thoughts of the audience, pushing them to reflect on a theme that is itself doubtful and mysterious. I have tried to represent the fragility of the world we live in with unconventional methods and elaborate experiments. They are often striking for their aesthetics, but a moment later, when the dramatic nature of the theme is clear, they become irritating and disturbing. Beauty becomes provocative. This thesis aims to provide the generalized feeling of unease, apprehension, and fear that pollution can cause in each of us with a graphic form. It is also an attempt to render even the most hidden forms of pollution visible.
1 – Kosko, Bart: Il fuzzy pensiero, Milano, Dalai Editore, 2010.
2 – Kastner, Jeffrey: Nature, Cambridge (Massachusetts), The MIT Press, 2012.

B i o g r a p h y
Sabina Laner is a graphic designer from Italy. Everything about communication attracts her interest, as does the search for harmony and beauty. Therefore, after a classical high-school education, she followed her passion and acquired a Bachelor in Communication and Graphic Design at IUSVE in Venice. Before pursuing the MDes programme in Basel, she also worked as a graphic designer in Amsterdam.

S i m o n e M a r i e
Flowing Nature
on Translating the Visual Qualities of the Rhine River
Water – arguably the most important resource. Its crucial vitality to life on Earth is both humbling and concerning as we cannot survive without it. In its riverine form, it takes on new meaning, becoming symbolic of connectivity and change over time. In Basel, the Rhine River offers solitude, sanctuary, and community space. This thesis utilizes the Rhine as a creative starting point and explores different ways in which it can be translated into graphic abstractions and visual potentials, narrations and metaphors. It is both an exploration and celebration of nature in the form of the Rhine and a project about translating an abstract notion into a visual form.
Water shapes its environment over time; rivers carve out landscapes, meandering different courses, constantly moving, never the same but always remembering. “With the formation of the river systems there is a certain paradox of priority; rivers shape the landscape, and the landscape contains the river. But, like the egg and the chicken riddle, it is unclear which came first. There is, in fact, a distinct sense of the inevitability of such forms, a view, which if carried through, credits them with the almost platonic noumenon of pre-existence.1” The magnitude and connectivity of water is revealed through a river network. In Basel, the Rhine River flows in a slow, distinctive knee bend through the city. It originates high in the Swiss Alps and meanders its way through six countries, eventually splitting into tributaries that cross over an immense delta before emptying into the North Sea. The Rhine is essential for commerce, recreation, and various ecosystems from microorganisms to large-scale weather patterns. It carries the history of Earth and insights into the forming of our planet, on country borders and wars, culture and folklore, destruction and rebirth. To me, the river offers an escape - mentally, physically, and emotionally. It feels as though the river pulls that which needs cleansing out of me and gives me back an abundance of energy. It gives me a space to think and to be. What does this look like? How do I capture this visually? A river is many things, which in relation to design begs the question: what are the visual qualities of a river? And how can these be translated visually? Sitting by the Rhine is a form of rebalancing, it is meditative, the flow of the river is constant. The river is energetic, it recharges, life gravitates towards it, things move alongside it. It is symbolic of encounters, cultures, and ecosystems. But what remains over time? What memory does it hold onto? It is this sense that the Rhine exudes that this thesis explores and aims to translate into a visual form. Using the Rhine as a creative tool for the experimental research part of this thesis allowed me to explore ways in which something as abstract as the Rhine cannot only be a source of inspiration for graphic design, but also an investigation into translating the less tangible things in life into a visual experience. The process of experimentation through a direct input from the Rhine guided the visual outcomes, where the approach turned scientific by utilizing data-derived points as starting points, such as cutting-edge Lidar technology from various sources as design tools. It aims to shed light on the intricacies of the riverine network of the Rhine, as well as what happens when translating the less visible (vastness, magnitude, and metaphors) into a graspable outcome as well as translating the ephemeral into the concrete, the metaphoric into a visual representation thereof and the possibilities of a cross-disciplinary approach in graphic design.
1 – Wade, D. (2003). Li: Dynamic Form in Nature. Bloomsbury: Walker Books, p. 18.

B i o g r a p h y
Simone Marie is a multi-disciplinary Swiss-American designer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from St. Olaf College (2015) and enjoys combining the digital with the analog, abstracting the scientific and specializes in photography and videography. After graduating, she worked in the field of healthcare first in patient care, then in communications, before enrolling in the MDes program.

Thinking Outside the Box in a Pandemic
This year’s thesis projects were, for the second time in a row, written under very special conditions. As at all other Swiss universities, the 2021 spring semester at HGK FHNW was mainly conducted in a distance-learning format. Students and lecturers proved highly flexible and accepted the restrictions necessary because of the pandemic. It is thanks to this flexibility on the part of everyone involved that the thesis semester of the International Master of Design UIC/HGK (MDes) degree programme could be completed in an orderly manner. From surveys, we learned that students particularly missed the exchange with others, getting to know the design processes of their colleagues and the inspirations that came with it. This exchange which, under normal conditions, takes place at the studios of our institute, is severely restricted by distance teaching and learning. What do the results look like under these conditions?
It is well known that professional qualifications are accorded high priority in the degree programmes of the universities of applied sciences and arts. But what does practical suitability mean for the graduates of an International Master in Graphic Design? Is it, perhaps, this much-mentioned agility that this year’s graduates have demonstrated particularly well? Obviously, many competences and skills can be listed that belong to the prerequisites of a successful design practice. But since it is hardly possible to deal with all subjects equally in-depth, a clear accentuation of the educational goals is required at both educational levels – Bachelor and Master. Within the scope of the Bachelor programme, design competence in everyday situations is the most important goal of teaching. Design processes are tested in practical applications based on drawing, photography/film, typographical combination, or algorithmic descriptions. Based on this, the MDes graduate degree programme focuses on conceptual, analytical, and scientific questions. Positions in image and media studies, scientific theory and philosophy are used to support an analysis of design processes and their results. The question always is how anything new, unexpected, surprising, and convincing comes about. Descriptions of successful design processes often show that a break with a familiar or predictable starting point initiated the subsequent “thinking outside the box”. With this in mind, we may interpret pandemic-related restrictions as an impulse that has the potential to stimulate students to come up with unexpected solutions and steer their creativity to adopt unfamiliar approaches. This year, influenced by the experience of the pandemic, more topics were focusing on issues dealing with environments on a micro and macro level. Other topics addressed basic entities of design processes – constraint, abstraction and rhythm – and experimentally explored these processes in digital and analogue media.
The website nextgeneration.hgk.fhnw.ch expanded due to the pandemic, the present catalogue of theses, and the respective exhibition on the Campus of the Arts make it possible to test the thesis that unexpected conditions can promote some quite surprising results. We congratulate the students of the Institute of Visual Communication on their successful participation in this experiment and are convinced that, due to the special circumstances, many processes have led to surprising results that are far beyond what could be expected.
Prof. Michael Renner, Head of the Institute of Visual Communication