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Morse Code

There is creativity in abundance when designers and musicians pair up. For the Electric Deluxe label, the Dutch designers of Studio Hands have applied morse code to produce images from sound waves. 

By Cassandra Pizzey / 08-08-2013

Working from their creative hub in Arnhem, the graphic designers of Studio Hands were approached by Electric Deluxe, a record label owned by techno DJ Speedy J, to design a series of merchandise in the form of printed T-shirts. 

“We were introduced to the label through one of the creatives at Sequence Zero, our creative hub in Arnhem, and immediately felt a connection,” says Sjoerd Verbeek one half of Studio Hands that he forms with Hilmer Thijs. 

 

We learn that Electric Deluxe is a label for experimental music fronted by DJ Speedy J, himself known for his characteristic sound. This unique sound is created in a recording studio where he alters sounds and customizes hardware to create elements which are then used to build tracks, albums and live sets. 

“We decided to base our project on experiment too,” says Verbeek. “We explained how we planned to build an installation to send designs through sounds and they were immediately enthusiastic and gave their unconditional support.”

 

“Sound waves allow music to travel from a musician to his or her audience. We thought it would be cool to apply this principle to the design of new merchandizing, so we built an installation that does just that.”

 

So how do you transmit audio into visual and where did this idea come from? Verbeek explains: “Utilizing our creative hub again, we asked interaction designer Martijn Mellema to write a programme in two parts. The first computer contains the first part of the programme and sends an image pixel by pixel through a speaker. We used morse code to send 3-D images of Speedy J’s head, the Electric Deluxe label and the Speedy J logo. These images are essentially made up of x, y and z coordinates. The other computer contains the second part of the programme, it captures the sound via a microphone and translates the signal into image points.”

 

This technique however isn’t without its hiccoughs. “As the microphone is sensitive to the morse code bleeps, it can be difficult to filter our background noises. We would have people walking into the installation room talking on their phone. In the end though, this interference made for interesting glitches in the image.”

 

After an eight-hour wait, the morse code images are finally ready. With this being a super digital project, Studio Hands decided to take the opposite approach to making the T-shirts. Silkscreen printing was chosen as the printing method, a very hands on approach in which the end result is completely in the hands of the maker. 

 

“That is our favourite part of this work,” says Verbeek. “We love being hands on and enjoy each step of the design process. The great thing about this project in particular is that it’s based on an experiment and therefore is always unpredictable. Who knows, with this technique we could soon be seeing actual music tracks hidden in 3-D portraits.”


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