Corporate Warfare

It’s often iconic news images that get seared into our memories. The raw reality that grabs you by the throat from a personal perspective. I recently had one of those moments, but not when reading the newspaper. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t stop thinking about a computer generated image.

Without much explanation, German digital illustrators Benjamin Simon and Dirk Schuster posted the ‘Corporate Warfare’ series on their website. A self-initiated project, aka an experiment, a quadruple exercise to improve their skills. Usually, these guys create ‘eye candy’ for brands like Adobe, British Airways, Hugo Boss, Nike, RedBull and Samsung.

Bizarre eye candy to be exact though, but never as politically charged as this series that brings cyber punk science fiction to life.  Anyhow, in a world in which software like Cinema 4D, Octane and Photoshop make up reality. In this case, weapons that are used to extort power.

Until recently, technological innovation was mainly dependent on an arms race between great powers. Luckily, nowadays more and more innovation comes from creative experiments between big companies and small studios. Like the armed forces who get their inspiration from hackers. Today, the battle for power has almost grown to be invisible; from nations to corporations. These companies have access to means the average dictator would kill for; data, our data. Which is used to influence our behaviour, and by doing so, gain more power- and of course money.

Without realising it, this is our reality. Big companies control every aspect of our lives. Foreal visualises this in an almost plastic way. An intriguing image that fits into a growing genre: visual rebellion. It’s not longer the leftwing activists, but sly pranksters that spread confusion with their crafts, making us open our eyes.

*This column was previously published in Dude, Dutch Designers Magazine

Dreaming of Mass Behaviour

President Donald Trump’s urge to take action has lead to an excessive amount of protests. Beautiful protest signs, both poetically and and visually; I find it fascinating to see how amateur and professional designers respond to his 140-character decrees. One of my personal favourites is the protest sign reading “Trump uses Comic Sans”.

Being against everything isn’t going to help, independently offering an alternative doesn’t make any sense now that everyone has an opinion. An honest and open dialogue is the only way to come to a solution. Designers can contribute to this by creating images that encourage a public debate. A mission for courageous designers.

Traditionally, designers use their creativity to expose political irregularities. From social involvement, or just personal frustration, both appear to be a driving force for creativity. For a long time the activist’s armoury consisted of posters, murals or pamphlets. Modern technology adds another creative boost to this. Meanwhile, the protests have marched from the streets to the world wide web.

For quirky design collective Studio Smack, this all became everyday fare. For years they've been making short, critical films on their own initiative or for clients with heart. By translating iconic popculture images into their own designs, they hold up a mirror to their audience. Their surprising, subjective future scenarios form the starting point of a critical or philosophical conversation.

In the beginning, this idealism obviously didn’t yield much. Their time-consuming, almost artisanal methods did not combine well with the limited budgets of NGOs and cultural institutions. Smart solutions like acting themselves (dancing even), DIY motion tracking suits, voice-overs cut from documentaries and self-recorded soundtracks (including vocals), made Studio Smack one of the leading studios in the Netherlands.

Today, the studio has grown accustomed to international agents, professional tracking suits, render farms and international awards. What hasn’t changed is the amount of urgent matters to translate into visionary animations. I hope that Ton Meijdam, Thom Snels and Béla Zsigmond will soon get (or take) the chance to show their own visionary views again. After all, over 10 years ago, they predicted the current political situation in the US in ‘Bigger, Better’ and they visualised the surveillance state, even before cameras were visibly present on the streets. How long before ‘Branded Dreams’ become a reality?

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*This column was previously published in Dude, Dutch Designers Magazine