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How To Set Trends

By Tina Touli

Tina Touli is a graphic communication designer known for experimental work that mixes analog and digital. When we asked her to create an original artwork using Adobe Stock assets, we assumed the results would be unusual—and we were right. To make the final piece, Touli used Illustrator, After Effects, a camera, an empty picture frame, and eleven small glass domes.

   

Tina Touli didn't use a 3D app for this animation—the effect comes from her experiments with small glass lenses!

Below, Touli explains her process in her own words and screen-capture videos (no sound). If she inspires you to experiment, begin by downloading 10 images from Adobe Stock for free. 

THE CONCEPT

As a designer, you can either be a creator, an influencer, an innovator, and a trendsetter, or you can be one who follows the "current wave" of trends set by others.

Living in the digital age, we tend to research and design in front of our screen. Inspired by this fact, this project blends the digital world, the pages that we are non-stop scrolling, and the physical world, which we humans belong to. The glass lenses in the project represent eyes, the key to everything for a designer, staring at the screen, simply reflecting without absorbing the content. They repeat the current trends rather than create something new.

A great inspiration for this design was "Becoming Leonardo: How Great Designers Think" by the author and designer William Lidwell. In that speech, he says, "Everything in nature can be seen by other things in nature, and so, you either want to be camouflaged against your surroundings, so the things that can eat you can’t see you, or you want to broadcast your presence. You are alerting the world basically that ‘I am poisonous and if you eat me you will probably die.’"

This project, a perfect loop, shows the dilemma of whether to follow the current trends, represented by patterns inspired by classic camouflage, or evolve them and start a new wave. Do you reflect the current trend, get camouflaged and hide yourself in it, or do you broadcast your presence by creating a new pattern that the others will follow and eventually get camouflaged in?

MAKING THE BUBBLES PATTERN IN ILLUSTRATOR

The first pattern was inspired by classic military camouflage, but I made it new by choosing colorful vector images with shapes that reminded me of camouflage and altering them in Adobe Illustrator CC.

I opened the gradient vector files in Illustrator and cleaned them up, deleting unnecessary elements. I modified the remaining shapes by adjusting the vector curves and used the Mesh and Eyedropper tools to recreate some of the shapes.

I copied and pasted the shapes into a new Illustrator file. Using scans of a new pattern design I drew by hand as a guide, I resized, rotated, and re-positioned the vector shapes. I also created a few new shapes using the Pen, Mesh, and Eyedropper tools. 

I wanted the artboard to be a long vertical, so I resized it and duplicated the composition until it covered the entire artboard.

I created a background using the Mesh tool, picking the colors from one of the shapes with the Eyedropper tool.

This is the Bubbles pattern design.

ANIMATING THE BUBBLES IN AFTER EFFECTS

To animate the bubbles, I created a new composition in Adobe After Effects CC and dragged in the shapes composition. I navigated to Effects & Presets > Turbulent Displace and applied the effect to the first layer of shapes. I opened and revealed the Effects options of the layer, and then the Turbulent Displace and Evolution Options. I enabled the Cycle Evolution option and placed a value on the Cycle (in Revolutions). I added a keyframe to the Evolution at the beginning and end of the timeline and changed the value of the Evolution to the same one I used on Cycle (in Revolutions). I then repeated the procedure for the rest of the layers, using a slightly different value on the Cycle (in Revolutions) option every time. Watch the above video to see the remaining steps I took to create a scrolling composition.

This is my final Bubbles pattern animation before joing it with the others.

I made and animated three more patterns, all of which were inspired by different classic camouflage patterns and began as Adobe Stock assets.

ADDING THE EYES WITH ANALOG ANIMATION

To add the lens, or eye, element to the piece, I first moved a plastic magnifying glass in front of my computer screen and then tried holding the lens steady and scrolling the screen’s contents. The distortions were engaging, so I was ready to move onto glass lenses. To temporarily stabilize them in front of the computer screen, I positioned a frame in parallel to the monitor and secured the lenses with tape. 

My final solution was to rest the lenses on the glass of an empty picture frame. Two stacks of books held the frame with its lenses a specific distance above the screen of an upside-down laptop. I connected a second keyboard and mouse to the laptop to give me better control over the animations.

I used a tripod to suspend a Fuji XT2 camera with a 10-24 f4 lens above the picture frame. It allowed me to keep in focus both the distortion on the lenses and the computer screen. I turned off the room’s lights to avoid light reflections and began filming.

These are the outcomes of filming the four patterns under the magnifying lenses.

RETURNING TO DIGITAL TO COMBINE THE CLIPS

Back in After Effects, I created a new composition and dragged in all four videos. Using the Opacity option, I carefully repositioned each layer until the lens locations perfectly matched. I duplicated the composition four times, renaming it and deleting a different one of the four layers each time. Watch the video above to see how I masked the “eyes” in the Stripes composition.

Watch the video above to see how I used the Effects & Presets panel to change the Papers composition’s Vibrance, Saturation, Color Balance, and Brightness & Contrast.

Watch the two videos above to see how I fine-tuned the compositions’ settings so they work together.

   

The completed, combined animation.

It is important to follow the evolution of trends but find your own special way to incorporate them in your work. In this design, I used boomerangs and cinemagraphs as tools for research and investigation, rather than design outcomes. Boomerangs allow you to observe perfect loops of a moment in real and reversed time, creating a dilemma, showing the two sides of the same scheme. Cinemagraphs allow you to focus on small things that you would rarely give attention to—for instance, the way in which people stare fixedly at their screens, with the screens’ reflections on the people being the only thing that changes.

It is up to you to choose whether you want to be camouflaged and hidden within the trends or to just monitor them and broadcast your presence by creating something new.

To see more of Tina Touli’s inspiring work, visit her Behance page