Life after the atlas, the next step.

After working with the team to develop two versions of the ‘Atlas of Rotterdam in 2070’ I lost a bit of momentum. Although the Atlas sessions were very powerful in bringing the team together and provoking conversations, it did not ‘magically’ lead to actual design decisions.

So what can I take away from the Atlas sessions?

– Collecting and organizing existing images to roughly ‘paint’ a world is a very low-threshold way of provoking conversations. It is very inclusive and because the images and designs are not ‘our own’ there is not a lot of critical attachment to them. This means everyone can speak freely.

– The responses from the team members were very positive: it was clear to them they were invited to participate at a really essential level of concept development.

– But the next step should be more concrete, and less of a macro-view.

Around the same time I had a conversation with director Simon Pummell, and he reminded me that on the film Shock Head Soul I worked in the opposite direction: the design vision developed from a single object outwards. It started with the ‘Writing Down Machine’ and slowly that logic spread wider. The Writing Down Machine came to represent the logic and esthetics of the hallucinatory world.

The Writing Down Machine for Shock Head Soul was developed in conjunction with the script.

I actually tried to follow a similar approach on ‘Identicals’, developing and designing effects while the script was still in development, but all the scenes I designed for ended up being removed from the script before the shoot.

So with that in mind: can I identify parts of the world that are compact enough for an actual design process, but could feed the design vision and logic of the larger world?

The first obvious candidate is ‘cybernetics’:

– Cybernetic implants are essential to the narrative so there is no risk of having them removed from the script.

– Through cybernetics we can say a lot about the nature of the society in our futuristic world.

– It also allows us to design a ‘history’ of the technology that can shape the world.
– And not coincidentally cybernetics were already part of the Atlas so it is in a way a continued conversation from the atlas.


One of the themes we explored in the Atlas was cybernetic modification.