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Meet ‘this place [of mine]’ hub developers Studio Treble

Meet Studio Treble, the brilliant digital design studio behind the build of the immersive and interactive ‘this place [of mine]’ online hub

Since the pandemic broke last March we’ve seen a shift towards how we experience culture in the physical realm to a digital one, with the emergence of new digital, interactive spaces. Now, ‘this place [of mine]’ provides a new immersive virtual experience showcasing the high streets of tomorrow shown through the artistic lens of ten young producers from Greater Manchester.

Launching this month, ‘this place [of mine]’ is a new interactive online hub that blurs the boundaries between the physical world and the online one, bringing elements of a future high street into an online space and showcases the artwork created by the projects Young Producers and Citizen Futurist artists and the imagined future of our town centre high streets.

To create this new immersive hub, FutureEverything teamed up with Studio Treble, the brilliant Manchester-based digital design studio that’s been working hard behind the scenes, creating the dystopian virtual landscape where the artwork created by the projects Young Producers and Citizen Futurists will live.

Ahead of the Young Producer artwork launch on February 22nd we decided to catch up with Studio Treble to find out more about their practice and their work on ‘this place [of mine]

 

Hi Studio Treble, thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves, who are Studio Treble and what you do?

Yeah, so the three of us are Mat, Ali and Alex — we have been working together now for around five years. We first met working at The Neighbourhood and then decided to setup ourselves as Studio Treble. We work in a variety of fields, from more traditional design like brand and animation, to more experimental work like AR and web experiments — more like ‘this place [of mine]’. We like to bring our experimental side to all our work, our projects really benefit from us all asking exploratory questions!

You’ve been involved in some really awesome projects before ‘this place [of mine]’, can you tell us a little bit about those?

We have been lucky to work with some great clients and some really fun projects have come from them. One that jumps to mind is Reach Labs (a new technology that allows batteries to be charged wirelessly from a distance), we helped them to explain their product in a succinct and approachable way, through some short 3D animation. We love working with startups, they have similarities to projects like ‘this place [of mine]’ as they have no baggage, they don’t have a language to speak yet — we get to form it and we love that process.
Another fun project was Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck — we worked with a pre-existing and well known brand to create an experience that reflected a new restaurant dining experience online.

‘this place [of mine]’ is set to launch this month, which is really exciting. What can people expect to find in this virtual world?

The online hub is essentially a space to explore, we hope most of all people get that out of it. As you explore this semi-dystopian, semi-hopeful space you experience an online exhibition of work from the Young Producers, Resident Artists (Citizen Futurists) and in the final phase Tine Bech.
All the artworks were created from the lens of the future of high street, and what that means to each creator. We wanted to push that a little further on the hub and create a place for the users to have impact too. We wanted the hub to be a conversation — not just a statement. From there we created various ways that the user can have their say too. This way it allows the hub to not only show the sentiment of the artists but also the viewer.

You’ve been working really closely with the Young Producers throughout the project, tell us a little bit more about this collaboration, how have the Young Producers contributed to the creative making process? 

Working with the Young Producers has been a brilliant experience. It’s our first time working with a demographic so broad, it was great to get their thoughts and feelings on the web and digital spaces. They have shaped so many aspects of the online hub, from our first workshop with the Young Producers we spoke at length on what works and what doesn’t in online spaces. Some of that feedback helped to shape large portions of the online hub. One example of this is the camera angle or perspective you assume in the hub. We internally thought a first person experience would have been best to explore the hub, taking a more skeuomorphic approach to the navigation, but this was quickly dismissed by the Young Producers through the workshop, as most of them felt that it was disorienting and difficult to use. There is a lot to be said for online spaces at the moment during the pandemic, online spaces might be the only spaces that people get to meet up and socialise for example, they have a lot of importance for people, so getting this feedback from the Young Producers was critical to the online hub.

You’ve been incredibly busy these last months building the online hub, can you talk us through your process? 

We start as we always do, scratchy, illegible sketches of various concepts. We get through plenty of those and then start to make that into a mockup, this will be essentially a video of what the experience will look like (a kind of artist impression) for the user. This is created in 3D and layered with 2D elements — for things like the user interface. We take that mockup, sense check it, discuss it in depth with all project partners and then get it into development. From here we take each piece and mechanic and recreate it in code, this is where we normally need a second pass on design, things that might work in a linear animated mockup might need some refinement once it becomes interactive. Once we have it all working, we populate the hub with content, test, refine and finally — go live!

It’s been great to work with a broad range of ages, skill-sets and personalities – you end up learning so much. These are the kind of projects you get out of bed for”

The hub represents a high street (or place) of the future, how have you (and the Young Producers & Citizen Futurists) achieved this?

We wanted to remain impartial and give a blank canvas for the Young Producers and Citizen Futurists to present their work but it was quite difficult to resist our own biases slipping in and shaping aspects of the hub’s design and aesthetic. We wanted to show a vast dystopia of space, as if the high street has gone and all that remains is the empty space. While that seems quite a dark outlook — we thought with all the hopeful ideas and optimistic thoughts on display, that they would give hope for the future high street, whatever that becomes.
It’s been a great project for us as what started out being a place to hold artwork produced by others, the hub has actually become an artwork in itself.

What has been your favourite part of the project so far?

Mat: My favourite part is always the start, I love that blank page feeling. At that point anything is possible. It’s quite daunting but that’s where I feel most creative.
Alex: I’ve enjoyed the mix of technologies we’ve been able to work with, using WebGL and React to create an immersive interactive experience, and seeing it come together over the last few months has been very rewarding.
Ali: For me it’s been the attitude of everyone involved. It’s felt like this project has mattered to a lot of people and has been important for everyone to get right. It’s been great to work with a broad range of ages, skill-sets and personalities – you end up learning so much. These are the kind of projects you get out of bed for.

What’s your favourite part of the hub? Is there a particular element that you really enjoyed making?

Mat: For me it’s the questions posed to the viewer, getting a two way dialogue into the space really feels important — I’m looking forward to getting a larger sense from the users on their feelings posed by ‘this place [of mine]’ too.
Alex: To be able to integrate the work of talented artists and young producers into the world we’ve created. Each bespoke piece adds something new and unique to the experience as a whole.
Ali: I think I’ve got to agree with Al. It’s the anticipation of all the creative work, from so many different minds all being created for this one online showcase.

What was your experience of collaborating with FutureEverything? Do you have any thoughts about how you might like to collaborate with FE in the future?

We love working with clients that trust us, allow us to explore, play and sometimes fail. It comes with the territory of working in the arts and creatives all the time, FE are used to seeing this process and are used to the exploratory and elastic natures of projects. It genuinely is and has been a pleasure.
We would love to collaborate again in the future. Our hope is that next time we can break out of our homes we’re currently trapped in, meet up and play outside with the team! We’ve got our fingers crossed!

Thank you Studio Treble! 

The online hub is a purpose built environment for engagement with young people in Greater Manchester and beyond, acting as a gateway to start online conversations about the future of their own high streets. It’s an inclusive place for all to explore, come visit this place [of mine] and see what the Young Producers have created on February 22nd and return March 3rd for the Citizen Futurist artwork.

this place [of mine] is a young producer programme, online hub and artwork commissioned by Greater Manchester Arts with support from Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) as part of the GM Great Place Scheme.

Produced by FutureEverything and delivered in partnership with Manchester City Council, One Manchester, Oldham MBC, Link4Life, Tameside MBC, Wigan MBC, and The Turnpike

Its content has been co-created with FutureEverything, young people from Greater Manchester, Citizen Futurists David McFarlane, Jacob Bolton, Joe Whitmore, James Medd & Izzy Bolt, Tine Bech Studios and Studio Treble

With extended thanks and gratitude for the support from the Manchester Tech Fund.