Esteban Gitton: bringing the world inside

This week, we’re talking to Esteban Gitton (senior lecturer & moving image subject / route leader Graphic Communication Design) who takes us through how Graphic Design is currently undergoing a seismic change due to the many technological advances and cross-pollination of disciplines. In a post-disciplinary era, we hear about the role of Moving Image in the changing nature of Graphic Design and how they're bringing the world inside.


Credit:  Photography - Marco Kesseler, Elaborate Exhibition - curated by Senior Lecturer and Moving Image Subject Leader Esteban Gitton and Central Saint Martins Moving Image students/graduates [source].

My name is Esteban Gitton, I’m French and I came here 18 years ago. I used to be a photographer, then became a filmmaker/animator and am now a Graphic Designer. Here at CSM, I am in charge of Moving image in Graphic Design. 

It is quite important to understand that Graphic Design is a very generic term. Within CSM, Graphic Design is organised into four different disciplines. The choices are between Moving Image, Interactive Design, Advertising and Illustration which students will select in their 2nd/3rd year. To complicate it, we have been through a revaluation of the course. We've organised it into a type of platform so that it is more hybrid. But we can’t go into that now, it would take too long!

We think that within CSM it was more of a case of, you could do film but there was nothing really linked properly to Graphic Design. So, I tried to look at a different way to generate Graphic Communication Design pieces involving direction and moving image, outside of just animation. It’s not because you hate Graphic Design that you do Moving Image, it’s not an animation course either but of course some of my students focus on that purely. It is more about the freedom to involve movement and film in Graphic Design. 

When I first came here I was wondering, ‘what is moving image?’ - I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t like it at first. I thought, ‘I’m a filmmaker and animator, I used to be a photographer’. So, not being a Graphic Designer in the beginning was a good thing, because it gave me a new perspective in which to explore the discipline. What really opened my eyes was when I took the term, ‘Moving Image' literally. An image that moves, ah ok! If we take a piece of paper, physically move it around the room - that would qualify as a moving image. I find it interesting how Moving Image can fit into the discipline of Graphic Design, as it is such a big area in itself. I may look at Graphic Design, Moving Image and Fashion for example - all of these interconnected disciplines at once, because technically a filmmaker could work in Fashion, Fine Art or both simultaneously with Moving Image. It is such a huge discipline, with great applicability across the arts.

We did a brief with Pulse Films a while ago, where we worked with a producer to explore what a music video is. Before, we didn’t have much video - it was on TV and now YouTube. Every single band on this planet basically has a film now. It’s ridiculous because, most of the time, they don’t have a budget. So we looked at what a music video is and figured that it's a commercial for an art piece. It’s basically a form of selling art work. But, it doesn’t really have to have the traditional format of video that we’re accustomed to seeing.

The brief was to work with a band called Metronomy, to create visual interpretations for a few tracks from their album ’08 Summer. We were really excited to redefine what a music video actually is. The decision we came to was to create an exhibition at SONOS Studios, London. We deconstructed the tracks and all of the students pitched their ideas of exploring the music in an immersive way. Those who were invited to the event could see the whole album in a completely different way. 

Credit: Archer Dilunaire, Persiis Hajiyanni, Stefan Lyapah - Exhibited for the "Metronomy - Summer 08 " album launch at the Sonos Studios in London. Metronomy Pinball - Inspired by the retro feel of the Metronomy album: Summer 08, this designed pinball machine has each of its bumpers playing a stem from the hit song: Old Skool. Each player then creates their own Metronomy track as they play the game.

For example, a couple of my students created a bed people could jump on and every time they stopped jumping, they wouldn’t hear the music or see the video. It was like a kid’s room. We used a lot of Arduino and Mac MSP; these are really great software programs, you can use any device within your laptop in an interactive way and also connect sensors to the experience. For example, you can send a signal to the computer for the video output to change. If some people were passing by the computer, it would track their face and perhaps use it to substitute a figure in the actual video. The interpretation of the brief from the students was so broad.

The scope of the brief was to reinvent the function of a music video and what could be next, because YouTube doesn’t really work anymore - there's too much content on the platform. The thing that is really interesting with music, is the idea of live. Nowadays, being able to go to a live music event is not always possible for everyone. So maybe, there is another alternative to creating the feeling everywhere but at the same time, creating some sort of exhibition that brings across a similar feeling. There is a lot of opportunity there. And as I said, moving image could be about just an image but an image could also be live - it doesn’t just have to be still photography.

For example, we did another very exciting brief a long time ago which was with the Guardian (link to project) - it wasn’t a documentary, it wasn’t a film but an article moving image. A couple of years ago they were really in trouble, they had a fantastic website but didn't make enough of a profit from it. So, the idea was to create a series of articles around what happened after capitalism. The Guardian interviewed some bright thinkers from all over the world and shared their point of view. They cut it, gave it to us and the students made an animation with it. It was so cool because it was an article film, not a documentary. You could see it as, reading a moving image; it was in the format of a film but within the website.

Credit: Mary Griffiths Clarke - A Central Saint Martins brief for The Guardian newspaper, in collaboration with journalist, writer and activist, Rebecca Walker. 

In the past, we did something led by my students with my support. We didn’t want to do a show here in the school, we wanted to go out. It was a cross-media project where we invited the dean and called it the DELETE show. The theme was deleting - immersing visitors in the concepts of deletion in the twenty-first century. In this sense, the students are constantly exploring the altering scene in the industry and looking to share their fresh perspectives on the definitions of moving image, by re-innovating its traditional forms and approaches. 

Credit: Etienne Leung - The DELETE Show is an exhibition by Central Saint Martins Moving Image students that immerses visitors in the concepts of deletion in the twenty-first century.

Kid’s are ultimately born with a square these days - an iPad, iPhone, whatever it is. I know for a fact, this needs research but somehow, this generation won’t always be able to comprehend things, unless its in the format of a film. We can already see that animation helps you to better understand what is happening in subjects like history, or at least excite you to go on and learn more. I’m not in any way against books. I’m not against vinyl, I love vinyl! It’s just that there are some tools and applications that are more efficient and effective than others. My angle is, really trying to ensure that my students will find a job where they can sell their knowledge and their craft. And the thing is, we have to replace the great designer. We need to reinvent and this is exactly what Steve Job’s did. He made those people redundant because we didn’t need them and we wanted something else. I don’t want to create problems amongst people and jobs, but we need to constantly reinvent, to create a gap in the market that we can eventually fill. What interests us nowadays, is what we can do to communicate more effectively, in a more exciting, imaginative and personal way. 

When our students graduate it doesn’t say anything on the label, just Graphic Design. It doesn’t say Moving Image or anything. It’s really about the work, this is the philosophy of Graphic Design. Especially with the current revaluation of the course, which unfortunately I don’t have time to explain. The course is becoming very hybrid in its nature as a result. I think we need to challenge ourselves. We like to resolve problems in design. I always say to my students that when you see a trend it is too late, you have to keep innovating.

What’s really key to me in this is, language as a written form and oral form isn’t always that efficient. Visual language is the first language we had, it’s where we come from. The form of language is evolving. There are more efficient ways of communicating. Moving Image could bridge this movement and allow a better form of communication to arise. The idea with our course is for the students to be more entrepreneurial, so they may set a standard eventually. There is a need for something that doesn’t quite exist yet, so we want them to explore different techniques and to use Moving Image in a broader sense. We can then decide what it is that they’ve created. There are already so many talented Graphic Designers, so the students need to create something new to set themselves apart.