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Off the page, and off the screen

A futurist shows how augmented reality can influence type

From Magic Leap to Google Glass—from Oculus Rift to Microsoft’s HoloLens, all the biggest tech companies are betting on augmented reality (AR) as the next major revolution in computer interaction. If they’re right, the new internet might be everywhere.

But what will it look like? The transition from print to screen posed its challenges, but everything was still two-dimensional. The next jump poses a tougher imaginative problem, but some designers are trying to solve it—Gerard Mallandrich is one of these such designers.

The Spaniard started his career with such studios as Mayúscula and Summa Branding, before deciding to start my own freelance venture. Since then, Mallandrich has worked with other notable Spanish design agencies Mucho, Lo Siento, Forma & Co, and Domestic Data Streamers, thanks in no small part to his prolific self-initiated augmented reality explorations.

“Motion graphics and animation always intrigued me,” says Mallandrich, whose video-filled Instagram account shows text behaving like liquids, birds, and skateboarders. “In my work, I always held the idea that all things in this world are alive (even inanimate things), and if they’re alive, then they can move.” He thinks of himself not as a pixel-pusher, but as a designer who “brings life to brands and products.”

In mid-2016, Mallandrich started his self-initiated design project “with the goal of learning something new every day.” His desire to animate—in the “bring life” sense—quickly entered this daily experimentation in the form of kinetic typography. With his type-work, Mallandrich says he draws inspiration from “Keiichi Matsuda, DIA Studio, Zach Lieberman, Studio Feixen, Experimental Jetset, and Patrick Thomas.”

These influences show heavily in his work, which includes interactive posters, typefaces which twist to follow pedestrians, bouncing advertisements, and more. If Mallandrich’s animations glimpse into the future, here are some things we might expect to happen (pending some universal AR tech, à la Black Mirror):

Advertisements will no longer require hardware. Think Times Square, but without actual LED panels. You could have bright, vivid, weather-proof billboards on old buildings, floating in the sky, or anywhere else. This could lead to an increase in the blinding number of ads we see each day; however, if ad-blockers exist in the future, a centralized ad-platform might mean we see fewer.

Interactive billboard which turns to face pedestrians.

Environmentally responsive

Way-finding could change in an instant. (“Oh, they moved Accounting to the third floor? No problem.”) Environmental graphic designers know that their work lasts only so long as the current physical arrangement lasts: If a school repurposes a classroom or shuffles the departments, bye-bye signage. With AR, it’s a simple line of code or drag-and-drop.

More interactive everything: book covers, posters, crosswalks, road signs; they could all shift and change according to the situation. Going inside the house, imaging a wysiwyg editor for your walls and tables. It could be so simple as playing sims.

As with most technologies, AR promises a mix of good and not-so-good. Reactive typographic environments sound appealing, but ever-intrusive ads not so much. Most of Mallandrich’s experiments do not use “true AR,” instead simulating AR through post-processing techniques, but they show how the future might look.

Until AR reaches ubiquity and today’s graphic and web designers start working natively in the medium, Mallandrich and his contemporaries will light the way:

“I believe that AR is the future. I try to imagine what it will be like to have AR in our daily lives,” Mellandrich says. ”And what it will be like to find it anywhere and everywhere.” Soon, he won’t have to imagine.it.

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