Escape from the reality to surreal imagery from Visual Citizens

Visual Citizens is an interdisciplinary design studio with an immersive visual experiences, founded by Shali Moodley and Adam Kelly. Digital representation in design started as a tool for designers to describe themselves to better. Apparently, the visual representation of a work in design field and the role of visualization have recently become a main issue. What Visual Citizens do is balancing transaction between conceptual and visual knowledge and create a new kind of surreal imaginary in digital world.

Can you guys tell about yourselves? How did you guys meet?

I am an urban designer from South Africa and Adam is an architect from Scotland. We met in Barcelona while we were both doing an internship at an architecture studio. At the time I was doing my masters in architecture in America and I won a scholarship to work in Barcelona. Adam was taking a year out after his undergraduate degree in Edinburgh.

What originally drove you to create this imaginary, visualization design? And what are your sources of inspirations?

We started off by simply wanting to improve our skills in visualisation but we were immediately captured by the boundless world of visuals. Digital design allows us to participate in a medium not constrained by the usual architecture restrictions. We are able to fully immerse ourselves in the complete design of a space through creating surreal imagery. One of our main sources of inspiration is modernist architecture, we love the works of Le Corbusier, Mies, Saarinen, Loos, and Kahn. However, our work only partially reflects that style of design as we try to translate the lessons we have learnt from Modernism to something more playful through an expanded material selection, wider colour palette and whimsical objects. We are also constantly inspired by our surroundings. We will often go to restaurants, hotels or shops just because we have heard good things about their buildings or interiors. Most recently we were in a restaurant with an amazing curtain, so a version of that appeared in one of our visuals the next week. On the other hand sometimes the inspiration is also less direct and more subliminal.

We figure out that you are using this year’s color palette in your visuals, pretty pastels and an assortment of new neutrals, are you selecting them according to trends?

We don't really pick our colours according to trends: the colours and materials selected in a visual are chosen according to the fictitious spaces we create. If we are designing a meditative space we think of colours and materials to enhance the experience making the visuals an immersive experience. We are also becoming increasingly interested in contrasts and using an atypical palette, so once we imagined a reading room that was entirely green velvet and we are currently working on a hotel lobby that is a pink gradient texture.

How are you collaborating with the other studios?

We have collaborated with some furniture and product design teams combining their products in dreamlike environments. This is always enjoyable because it is an opportunity for us to further enrich the conceptual content of our work. In collaborations it is important for us to know (or discover) what is the essence of the product or object that we are featuring, then we can imagine an environment to contrast, complement, balance or disrupt that idea. We have also collaborated with some architecture studios doing some visualisations for architecture. This is more about 'telling a story' about the design, through a particular stylistic approach or placing emphasis on a partiular aspect of the design.

Which tools and programs are you using to create your visuals?

The process for us is as important as the final visual. We start off by sketching out spaces, picking a program for the space and imaging how it feels to be in and so we build a fictitious world around it. We translate the sketches into the 3D software Rhinoceros and render using Vray. We sometimes switch to Cinema 4D but most of our work is done in Rhinoceros.

Have you ever think about seeing your digital works in real life?

I would love to see our work in real life. We are using this digital medium as a way to explore future spaces, visualisation gives us the freedom to experiment. I am fascinated with function and materiality of spaces of the future. We are currently designing the interior of a flat in Rotterdam, although the space we are designing is not as surreal as our visuals, it gives us an opportunity to see the function and materials of a dwelling space.


Visual Citizens




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