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Looking into Fog. An investigation of fog as a design element

Starting with the idea of observing and translating weather conditions into abstract visuals, the topic was pursued with a focus on fog as it is a unique condition that offers a visual exploration within the design. Fog shapes our environment quite fundamentally and could lead to a very challenging situation, depending on how and where it appears. But how does it affect a human being in detail? And how could these effects be transformed into visuals that are inherent in these aspects of fog?

These questions lead to an investigation of how fog could work as a design element, but also how it would be perceived as such.

Fog not only hides objects, but it also reveals information at the same time and forces us to perceive space differently. Besides the loss of orientation and the horizon, it can cause various effects that are visually interesting, such as the loss of contrast, blur, opacity, or distortion. In an extreme situation, it can manifest as a so-called whiteout, which in Europe is a common phenomenon, though mostly in alpine areas. This dissolving space and the concomitant and complete loss of horizon leave our brain confused.

But how can such a landscape be depicted and what are our conventions to see landscapes nowadays? How abstract can a weather condition and landscape motif be?

In this thesis project, philosophical thoughts on our relationship with nature, as well as statements from the history of art about the development of landscape abstractions were included. During the practice of image creation, this theoretical basis was used for a deeper reflection on existing conventions to identify fog as a design element.

Looking into the arts from 1800 onwards, not only provides insights into the beginning of scientific cloud observation but also describes a crucial period for landscape depiction and its discussion of the sublime. Works of artists from the romantic era were used as references and compared with modern and contemporary works of art.
German artist Caspar David Friedrich was particularly studied in more detail as he used depictions of fog for manipulative purposes. His paintings also provide a base for considerations about the interaction of an onlooker with an image. If we perceive an image as space, the aspect of how we move through an image becomes crucial.

The Western European point of view was supplemented with a study of Chinese landscape paintings and Japanese woodcuts to gain a broader understanding of the topic.

The goal was to develop visuals with design techniques that allow a broad discussion of how fog could appear in images and what its influence could be. That led to new questions, such as the one why fog is related to a mystical impression and when an image is perceived as mystical. As the mechanism of fog was used to design, it showed, for example, how a fragmented space within the image can reflect and enlarge the characteristics of fog.

During the design process, images were created with a mix of media such as analogue sketching, the use of brush and ink, photography, and vector graphics. To be able to visualize a foggy atmosphere, mostly digital collages or image series were created to either focus on a fragmented perception or to enlarge the feeling of confusion by offering different perspectives.
Basel, 2019