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The Light-Years


In this project, I read a great short story that would later provide the basis for my design inspiration. This short story, The Light-Years by Italo Calvino, surrounds an unnamed main character who is staring into the sky and sees, in a galaxy millions of light years away, a sign reading “I SAW YOU.” The story continues on with our main character in a constant state of paranoia, fearing that these individuals, and others in separate galaxies, may have seen him doing that one *Unspeakable* thing, that one time, even though it is “completely out of character” for him. He allows these internal echoes of extreme anxiety, restlessness, uneasiness, isolation and fear of the unknown consume him as he desperately sends and reads more and more vague signs, clawing at redemption of his integrity–-integrity that he may never even have lost, but may never know for sure.

My thoughts going in to the sketching stage were that I wanted to try to capture this same sense of restless, anxious watching, and an obsessive, empty fear of the unknown–while combining that with the cool, distant, edgy vibes of skating culture. I didn’t want all my sketches to look or feel exactly the same however, so I applied many different approaches to this design. We decided we could not use any text for this project so I had to find a way to communicate my ideas through image-only, going into the next stage.

At the pre comp stage (shown above), I hinged on the concepts of the teeth swallowing the universe, as well as the indexical and blunt finger pointing signs which I got a kick out of drawing in Illustrator. I also added another design with swirling question marks to communicate paranoia, but we decided in the critique that question marks still count as text. Additionally, I decided to take a step away from the teeth, seeing as it felt overwhelmingly "skater" but had little to really do with the short story other than the metaphorical quote I’d pulled from it (seen in sketches). I also repeated the transparency effect in the hands, indicating motion, which created a cool twist on the story's otherwise stagnant signs the main character was forced to use to communicate with these individuals of other galaxies.

I then took my comp designs much further. I felt most interested by the concepts captured in some of the original sketches. I made my final designs based these images and ideas: like boat sailing through the darkness on a trail of stars (capturing a sort of aimless drifting feeling, like being lost at sea looking for a lighthouse that will never reveal itself), the large pair of wide eyes (an intense feeling of being watched at all times, never being at ease because who knows what “they” will see or who “they are), the pointer finger versus the middle finger (the pointer finger was the main character’s attempt to show the “watchers” his “true” character; he feels paranoid still, like they know the truth of whatever he had done and just wish to ruin him, symbolically giving him the middle finger), the light-year horizon vortex (as if falling into another galaxy with no control and no concept of time), and the universe containing various lonely galaxies, each with signs trying to communicate with each other but ironically communicate nothing.

The resulting skateboard deck set felt successful in it's balance of edginess and intrigue, much like the reader feels in reaction to Calvino's The Light-Years.

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