Frans Masereel Centre is a place where national and international artists, researchers and graphic designers reside, meet and experiment.

Masereeldijk 5
2460 Kasterlee, BE

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Heather Snyder Quinn

“Lost in Translation”

Heather Snyder-Quinn is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, educator and writer who also goes by the persona Louise Dana (@Louise451). @Louise451 as an entity uses corporate tools in unintended ways, and as a means to both explore and disseminate her work. Using the guise of persona to work as a chameleon - she explores the dichotomies of design and humanity as well as the ambiguous space in between. She plays with themes of human and machine, and concepts of transparency - including public versus private and reality versus fantasy. Her work entices with multi-layered, playful, coded narratives that touch on both utopian and dystopian worlds. There is no instant gratification, rather the user is invited to interact with the design to uncover and reveal her message, which is usually a mirror upon the self.

Heather teaches design at DePaul University, Chicago. She previously taught at Rhode Island School of Design, where she received her BFA in Graphic Design. She has worked as a designer for over 22 years at agencies including, SapientRazorfish, Fitch and Essential Design. She opened her own design studio in 2001 and has created award-winning work for hundreds of clients including MIT, Harvard, The United Nations, L.L.Bean, Zipporah Films, and OpenPediatrics.

Heather’s original proposal for her residency was to dig deeper into methodologies across design curriculum and industry—to understand the importance of using our hands and drawing in creative making, to make connections between digital and analog process, and its relationship to our ability to experiment, take risks, create authentic works and possibly even work more effectively. Heather umbrellas her residency work under the theme of “Lost in Translation”—as a reference to both immersing herself and her family into foreign culture, as well as her attempt to work back and forth between analog and digital—often using her phone as a device for documenting, collecting and designing.

Heather documented her trip through Europe using both her sketchbook and her phone. Tapping into her previous research, Heather wanted to further investigate the phone as a tool for hacking and creative making in ways it was not intended, and as a portable, accessible “sketchbook”. Heather hand sketched various architectural and ironwork patterns found throughout Europe. She then photographed the sketches with her phone and manipulated them digitally using a variety of apps. She was simultaneously creating patterns for textile designs, and also discovering and analyzing the creative potential of the constraint of “phone only” design. She systematically colorized the resulting patterns in the corresponding country colors where the original inspiration was found. The use of constraints and systems is a method that Heather uses both in her own design work as well as in her teaching. There is empirical evidence that working with constraints leads to greater experimentation.

In addition to the analog/digital pattern studies, Heather also documented her trip by experimentally using Google Translate and by hiding messages on images in Google Street View. Her experiments included Google translations of German to English and French to English in Switzerland, French to English in France, Dutch to English in the Netherlands and Belgium, and Icelandic to English in Iceland. She used Google Translate to assist her and her family throughout their trip with everything from grocery store purchases, ATM withdrawals, automated coffee and beer vending machines, museum trips, bike rentals, and wayfinding through beaches and parks, and captured the resulting translations as screenshots. During her experiments she discovered that Google would translate various shapes and forms into abstract collaged typography, including buildings, landscapes and even cobblestone roads—many of which had reoccurring nonsense type words like naked, fetus, email, ultraviolet, sin and bra.

While at the Centre, she organized these images, extracted the typography and collaged them in a variety of ways. Her initial work included a series of risograph prints that were, in the same vein as her pattern prints, systematically color-coded based on the translations country of origin. The typographic collages were also used to create a series of blind emboss prints using solar plates (a material also used to create microchips) to play up themes of digital/ analog and human/machine—questioning what authenticates our humanness. The texture and 3-dimensionality of the inkless prints entice the senses—in this case touch—and give reference to other coded languages like braille.

In addition to the documentation work, Heather also created a custom wood type alphabet called “Kasterlee” which is an homage to the town where the Centre is located, and where she discovered the source for the letters on an old industrial water cover. She used these 7 original letters as a base inspiration to create the entire alphabet. The letters were hand sketched with pencil, vectorized, and then lasercut into three sizes of wood type. She also modernized and expanded upon the traditional wood type alphabet by adding emojis and Unicode text forms. The resulting wood type was used to create experimental letterpress prints of text message conversations on layered acetate and a variety of other papers. In this series, she explored themes of transparency, privacy and hidden meaning in communication. Kasterlee is currently being translated into a commercially available font (early 2018).

Her last project at the Centre also involved topics of translation and privacy and is still a work-in- progress. She created large-scale (5 foot tall) screen prints of private text message conversations using heat sensitive inks. The work both harkens back to her days as an interaction designer, and explores topics from her more recent MFA work involving cryptography and steganography. She played on the idea of physical interaction—the haptic touch and reveal. The screen prints utilize a thermochromic ink that is activated by the heat of a human body. When you heat the thermochromic layer the color breaks down revealing the hidden layer beneath—in this case hidden text messages. This ink will then reverse back to its original state once it cools again. This change repeats itself again and again. The multi layered narrative references fantasy versus reality, the use of disappearing messages or secret conversations on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and their false illusion of privacy, as well as the interplay between what people say and what they actually mean—particularly in a digital space. She is intrigued by people’s digital masks—the words they use (versus their actions), the images they post for the world (versus who they really are—their inner worlds).

Heather’s forthcoming essay is a combination of fact and fiction. It is experimental in nature and is written partially as a text conversation between herself, her colleagues, friends, x-friends, online chat bots, and her alter ego—Louise. Touching on her love of gaming, play and interaction, she has embedded several coded messages in her essay, references to hidden images on Google Street View and links to her favorite recipes (including chocolate chip cookies with fleur de sel). The essay is a reminder for us to continually experiment and break conventions, find elements of joy and play in our work, use our hands to make, and our intuition to live.

Heather is grateful to the Centre for supporting artists like herself who desire to work and travel with their partners and children, and for allowing her daughters (age 7 and 11) to not only make art alongside her in the center, but to occasionally be part of the weekly artist meetings. Heather recently received The St. Louise, Woman of Spirit and Action Award (nominated by her students at DePaul University), and she is a co-chair of AIGA Chicago’s Women Lead Initiative ( initiative), which celebrates and fosters women’s achievements in design. She is a passionate advocate of supporting women and mothers in the arts, and for raising a new generation of creative and empowered girls.

Essay residency
24.07.2017 - 18.08.2017


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ontwerp: Lauren Grusenmeyer & Raf Vancampenhoudtspatie webdesign, Antwerpen