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updated: October 2019
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Non-linear is a portal of design inquiry established by Michael Hersrud. His creative practice explores algorithmic, audiovisual, digital drawing, language, layering, looping, sound, surface & systematic structures to translate & transcribe liminal spaces. Through the act of making, his work investigates graphic attributes of shapes, patterns, illustration and images, and how they can be remixed into new visual languages for printed materials, publications, wearables, screen-based environments and interactions.



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extended bio ︎





Michael’s work is primarily process driven and generated through ‘planned intuitive accidents’ by misusing common design software and pushing the limits of programmatic features and effects. Although his studio practice requires rigorous iterations and attentive editing, the work often brings into question the relationship between the hand of the maker and automated digital tools (design by improvision).

His design endeavours often respond to, and draw from, a mash-up of interests involving intersubjectivity, cultural literacy, borders, identity, global networks, speculative technologies, automation, transhumanism, religion, cosmology, economy, synchronicity and tracing precedent. Additionally, Michael’s dérive global travels and life as an expatriate residing in the Middle East has a continuous reflexive impact on his perceptions of humans, behaviors, artifacts and architecture.

Currently, Michael is collaborating with his colleague, and Director of Foundations, Simone Muscolino to prompt an interest in sound design culture in Qatar and the Arab region. Together they have initiated
Sonic Jeel a start-up record label as an umbrella for experimental audiovisual production.

Recently, he has exhibited grant funded work at W+K+Gallery (Wieden+Kennedy) in Tokyo, Japan; Doha Fire Station in Qatar; Dubai Design Week; OFFF Market in Barcelona, Spain; and Tasmeem Doha International Art & Design Festival in Qatar. He has participated in the letterpress Typographic Summer Program with Dafi Kühne in Näfels, Switzerland; and the Gamma Music Institute in Torino, Italy. He is a member of People of Print.

Michael graduated with an MFA in Graphic Design from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2006 and completed coursework in association with Multimedia and Electronic Music Experiments program at Brown University. He is currently an Associate Professor at VCUArts in Qatar — an international division of VCU Richmond and part of Qatar Foundation — for over 10 years with 13+ years of academic experience. Michael grew up in Minnesota (USA) and has worked as a freelance designer and digital/analog graphic artist for 20+ years.

In addition to Michael’s creative practice, his scholarship investigates
student-centered teaching and making through pedagogical-based examination. Domains of inquiry are revolve around curricular development, modes of student engagement and critical analysis, cultural production, experimental image making, precedent inquiry, playful interactions, sound design, and 'extra-disciplinary’ design praxis.

Michael has participated in academic conferences for the Design Research Society
(DRS Bangkok), AIGA Design Educators (Nashville, TN), TypeCon (Buffalo, NY), Design Principles and Practices (Institute without Boundaries, Toronto, and St Petersburg University, Russia), and the College Art Association (CAA Los Angeles).

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Minus 162 Doha Tokyo.


This project explores the economic connections that are driving the rapid growth of Qatar as it prepares for the world cup in 2022.


At -162°C natural gas becomes liquid, reducing in volume by a factor of over 600, the key innovation that makes it an economically viable trade commodity. LNG is Qatar’s main export, with Japan being its largest customer and a primary source of revenue for this small yet influential gulf nation. Although mostly economic, this exchange impacts the culture, lifestyle, and geopolitics of both countries.

This kinetic installation consists of an array of 40 printers suspended from the ceiling. The array is controlled by custom software that choreographs the printing of text and images extracted from the internet and synthesized into graphic compositions. The resulting performance ebbs and flows in varying intervals, exploring the constant exchange that feeds the economies of both Qatar and Japan.
As this project explores ties between two countries, it was conceived as two exhibitions taking place in each nation's capital city, Tokyo and Doha. The installations occurred in sequence, 3 months apart, and took slightly different approaches (both formally and conceptually) to exploring the economic, social, and cultural implications of the energy trade between these distant neighbors.

The Doha exhibition was the result of a collaboration between faculty and students at VCUarts Qatar, Texas A&M University In Qatar, and Tokyo Metropolitan University’s AIIT. The work was made possible with support from the VCUarts Qatar/Qatar Foundation Faculty Research Grant program, The Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology at Tokyo Metropolitan University, Tasmeem Doha, the Qatar Museum Authority / Doha Fire Station, and Arakawa Tokyo.

Hammett, Levi., Giovanni Innella, Simone Muscolino, Michael Hersrud, Maryam Al Homaid, Nathan Davis, Hind Al Saad, Sarah Elawad, & Reham Ahmed. -162°C, Doha. (Installation of 40 printers outputting procedurally generated visual content). The Fire Station, Gallery 3. 14 - 25 March, 2019. Special thanks to George Paul, Adam Cath, and the Sophomore Graphic Design students at VCUarts Qatar.

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Below are images from instagram captured during the opening of the -162 exhibition in Tokyo, Japan.


Below are some of the happy accidents that resulted from the printing process. The 40 printers randomly pulled from a pool of approximately 15,000 images that had been scraped from the internet into a database using keywords from news articles about the Qatar & Japan relationship. For each cycle, the printers would print one of three specific image databases; (1) Qatar, (2) Japan, and (3) LNG, and would randomly select a word or image file.
After each cycle, the printed pages were reloaded into the printers and overprinted. Each A4 sheet was printed 6 times, three overprint layers on the front and three on the back. In theory, each print should be a mash-up of text and images from Qatar, Japan and LNG to create an abstract narrative with a satirical twist on cultural difference and similarities.


Birth of a Star, Compositions 1-4.


A series of graphic vector illustrations created for both static and kinetic environments poetically transcribing the formation of a distant star.


These compositions emerged through a collision of various matter inspired by a mash-up of photographic images from the Hubble Space Telescope of ‘Pillars of Creation’’ and various artists renderings of deep space. Drawing upon sonic notations from Bastl’s “softPop” portable analog noise synth, the static work is intended to be paired with bubbling electronic vibrations and nebula soundscapes.

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Decoded.


An ongoing series of abstract digital drawnings resulting from procedural manipulation of Photoshop images and misusing algorithmic automation features in the software.

In total, there are approximately 30 image experiments currently in progress. Decoded materialized through a multiplicity of perspectives. The compositions evolved from a unique process of analyzing and extracting digital artifacts from upscaling and downscalling compressed JPG images. The geometric patterns that emerged evoked a mash-up of Arabic Kufi Script and Atari 80’s 8-bit video game landscapes, and is also reminiscent of John Cage’s graphic musical score ‘Notations’. The Decoded drawings are made from scalable pixel elements that can be resized and transformed infinitely. As the work evolves, new patterns emerge.





Eye of the Barber:
and Other Souq Wanderings.


This project investigates and borrows ‘street’ vernacular language from local market areas of Doha to be sampled and remixed into new graphic interpretations.


As a precursor leading up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the city of Doha is undergoing large scale transformations. Many older areas of the city are disappearing and being replaced with new modern buildings. In reaction to these changes, my colleagues and I (and students) engaged in several explorations to uncover the more authentic, nostalgic, unkempt and underground parts of the city. Here is where you can find true blending of cultures; Indian, Pakistani, Sudanese, Yemeni, Egyptian, Syrian and others from the Arabian Gulf.
There are barbershops catering to low and high income customers; passport photo shops for immigrant workers; tailors specializing in abayas for all occasions; jewelry and accessories for weddings; and any low-tech gadget you desire.

The storefront signs often feel ‘homemade’ with hand-painted typography, ‘borrowed’ imagery from pop culture (if you look close some barbershops use an altered image of David Bowie on their signs), and semi-professional signs with misspelled vinyl-cut words that are slowing peeling off. 

This project explored the concept of place as cultural residue. To some degree, through experience and documentation, the work attempts to preserve lowbrow vernacular culture that is quickly being replaced by high-end malls, restaurants and VIP experiences. The series of three prints shown here are just a few of the more refined outcomes from those explorations, however, it should also be mentioned that these wanderings yielded many images and sketches to be used for future work.

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The translation of these prints are: The Eye of the Barber, Mermaid Abayas and (Photo) Studio.


Sheikdom 2022. 


The FIFA World Cup is going to be held in Doha, Qatar in 2022. Leading up to this moment over the past 10 years, the entire country is in a state of transformation, both physically and ideologically.


As an American expatriate who has lived in the Middle East for over a decade, I have witnessed this transformation firsthand, and experienced many of the positive and negative implications the FIFA decision has had on the economy, culture and law. 
Something I find peculiar is that each year Middle East governments (Sheikdoms) issue a decree of societal expectations, and put forward future visions (Vision 2020, Vision 2030) with the anticipation to shape culture from the top-down. These future visions are byproducts of Ministries (Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Sports, etc.).

Typically, the Ministries create ‘official seals’ that borrow curious local vernacular consisting of Arabian swords, falconry, odd orbs, Arabesque patterns and all-seeing eyes. Sampling the semantics of that visual language, these compositions (prints) attempt to create a fictitious banner that is both satirical and syntactically convincing, with a subtle historic nod toward posters celebrating Mao-era Chinese Communism and Illuminati.

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