ideation iteration illumination

The frame is a powerful tool that has been utilized by artists, illustrators, photographers, directors and, of course, designers. There are many kinds of frames and framing, both real and artificial as well as temporary and permanent. While designing experiences that transcend single frame types and contexts I’ve been thinking more and more about the spaces between the frames.

The frame has probably seen the most dramatic shift from formalistic device to expressive canvass with maturation of the comic book artists who have harnessed the frame and the space around it to create dramatic and compelling visual narratives. Scott McCloud did a thoughtful analysis of comic book’s frame and gutter back in his 1993 groundbreaker Understanding Comics. I’ve read the book a few times since ’93 and this notion of the space between the frames has hit me as an obvious antecedent to “away times” of digital content experiences that shift in time, context, and form.

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An interesting topic came up today that I’ve had pause to consider on a number of occasions, but one I’ve never done a deep dive on. I’m not sure how deep this dive will be either, but wanted to at least lay the groundwork for some future thinking.

The topic focuses on virtual versus physical media ownership, and specifically the newer streaming model of consumption. Media like photos, music, movies, and video games are all available digitally without the need to occupy actual three dimensional space, on a desks, a shelf, or a living/work spaces. Traditionally all of these items have had a physical component the most recent of which has been the Digital Disk (CD/DVD) complete with jewel case, printed cover art, and bonus added features.

The shift from CDs to MP3s (probably one of the more accepted means of digital ownership) allowed for the transfiguration of physical artifacts into digital ones, thus expanding the physical space allocation of owned content. What was once on CD is now also on a hard drive. The digital version is then capable of being further duplicated onto various devices in an ever expanding footprint of ownership. DVDs have this ability as well, but the DRM (digital rights management) and space requirements often make this a far less likely outcome. The pure MP3 download (i.e. without a CD) has become ubiquitous thanks to iTunes and Amazon MP3 but even then a footprint is felt, occupying a bit of real world hardware space.

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