What ·········· Social interaction installation
Where ········· Oslo, Norway
When ·········· May 2018

Pushwagnesizer - An interdisciplinary journey

In collaboration with Grafill, Bekk conceptualized the theme of the ED Awards, "Making new connections". The goal was to create a unique experience for the visitors by uniting design and technology.


So, where do you start?

In short: outside the comfort zone. Outstanding solutions are often developed at the intersection of seemingly incompatible perspectives and thoughts. When things that usually do not belong together suddenly makes sense.

Or when people from widely different fields end up creating amazing solutions. But getting there is a challenge!

"We had to go through many creative stages and rounds before the idea of a Pushwagnesizer came. Such stages included those immediate thoughts right after the first briefing, many workshops, late nights, early meetings and ongoing testing of prototypes. It was incredibly fun to have so few boundaries, but equally challenging to solve the task within that open framework, "sums up the creative leader in Bekk, Hans Christian Øren.”

In disruptive waters

Friction is an inevitable part of a creative process and it will be a bit painful to dismiss something in order to build something else. Strong personalities and strong opinions that want progress? Great! Tight deadlines and technical challenges throughout. Tiresome, yes, but also very effective.

“It was unfamiliar to work towards such an extremely hard deadline and so short duration. We knew that if we were half a day late, we had practically forfeited the whole chance. It was an incredible pressure, but it also means that you prioritize in completely different ways ”. Joakim Tysseng, developer

Create room for differences

The author and journalist Walter Lippman once said: "When all men think alike, no one thinks very much.”

If you study where the big (and small) creative breakthroughs occur, it happens more often where different opinions, thoughts and backgrounds come together.

It is as Holger Ludvigsen, one of the team's developers, points out that "one of the most important success factors was not just an interdisciplinary team, but also that the individuals were multidisciplinary. If everyone could do only one thing, it would not have been enough to get such a good result. For a multidisciplinary tech guy like me, this was a dream project, because the result was dependent on quality, performance and design in a colorful bouquet of disciplines."

The turning point

There are a few weeks left before the ED Festival will be held. After many workshops, discarded directions and clear vocabulary, the team is well underway to develop a concept that takes analogue hand drawings and turns them into a vibrant, digital experience.

At the same time, Norway loses one of its great artist personalities in modern times. Terje Brofos, better known as Pushwagner, was 77 years old, and his passing affected many, both inside and outside the art environment. The incident also affected the direction the team had worked for a while. "When we learned about Terje's demise, the idea of connecting his art to the concept came. Pushwagner was an influential and respected artist who always pushed the boundaries. A personality that is going to be deeply missed, and which we think deserved this tribute when the ED Festival came to visit his birthplace,” says Nina Inberg, project manager and advisor at Bekk.

From idea to code

Designers will often very much. If it can actually be done, the developers know best. So when the developers on the team were served the idea of animating one of Pushwagner's largest and most complex works, Kings Cross, two days before the festival, no one would have been sad about them.

But; Challenge accepted!

One of the greatest technical challenges with the animations was its performance. Pushwagner was fond of drawing an incredible number of repetitive characters, and he has obviously spent a lot of time, especially in the Kings Cross and Manhattan artworks. But it's something completely different to animate this at 30 frames per second. At the same time, it was this infinity and overwhelming repetition that was some of the most important designers would capture in Pushwagner's style.

The solution was to utilize the parallelism of modern video cards. In the demanding animations, the movements were written in Vertex Shaders, as small programs where each figure, completely independent, calculates its own location and orientation as a function of a common time. The user's drawings are continuously loaded into the video card's ultra-fast memory, and all essential data is transmitted there for use as soon as possible. Then the performance was increased even more by reducing the details that didn't seem so good. Polygons out of sight were removed and those far away from the camera have a lower degree of detail.

"It's easy to be impressed when studying Pushwagner's art down to the last detail. None of his lines are alike, and where he uses repetition, every single form in the entire motif is unique. Reproducing his line required a lot of work, and we went to work, right down to the choice of marker, to make a representative expression.” Audun Stien, graphic designer

The art of simplification

Although the idea is never so good and the technical solution works superbly, it is so important that the usability is in place. It was therefore a priority to make the Pushwagnesizer as little technical as possible. Buttons and screens were unwanted, automatic and direct feedback, yes please.

“Instead of forcing the user to place the drawing in a special place, pressing a button and getting an OK message on a display, we let the pushwheel reader take the heavy and technically complicated job of detecting where the user had put the drawing, find out when a new sheet appeared with hand detection and figuring out what was up and down the sheet. We took a concept people used to from the web, spinner, physical object, and used rotating LEDs to tell users that the machine was working. We used colors to signal success or failure” Joakim Tysseng

Was it a success
YES! People flocked to test the interactive attraction. During the most active hour of the evening, one face was scanned every 30 seconds. A total of 698 unique drawings were drawn, and each one became part of the festival.

- The Pushwagnsizer ended up as a very self-explanatory and user-friendly machine. It was tedious and tiring in the weeks before, but I felt an incredible relief and joy when we were in, things seemed like they were and people were excited. We made an experience people liked and became a natural part of, concludes Joakim.

2018 — Bekk, Oslo