Postgraduate Design Research Series: Maxi Quy

by on 19/11/2012

This is the third installment in our design research series. Each month we talk to a postgraduate student, from postgraduate diploma level progressing through to PhD level. Each student gives us a brief overview of their research—how they ended up in that research area, what they are working on, what they have learnt, and if this has changed their design practice.

This month we speak to Maxi Quy, recent graduate of a Bachelor of Art and Design (Honours) at AUT.


Tell us about your research project.
My honours’ research project focuses on the sub-genre of ‘Weird fiction’ that was written mainly during the 1920s and included authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe and Algernon Blackwood. I wanted to take a contemporary approach to the genre in the form of a graphic novel. I developed an original storyline from scratch, using inspiration from my own environment and experiences.


How did you get into this area of research?
I have always been inspired by stories and films that take a subtle, restrained approach to the supernatural. Weird fiction often used ordinary worlds and created unease out of the mundane. Instead of relying on slick, digital painting, I wanted to use a clearly hand-rendered approach to illustration that might suggest something more ‘realistic’ but also enigmatic. I wanted the pictures to tell the main story with a kind of ‘quietness’. In this world, the escalating horror was designed as something you could not immediately put your finger on.


Where are you at so far with your research?
My graphic novel is now completed. It was assigned an ISBN number and will be published as a limited edition in December. However, at the moment I am still making small changes to the script and cover artwork.


What did your final submitted work include?
The novel is called Apt. 41. It tells the story of a student moving into a new flat who gradually uncovers something sinister about its history, and an unexplained ‘residue’ that still remains there. The novel is divided into five short chapters, and each of these begins with a diary entry.

To maintain a sense of restraint in the design I limited the work to black and white watercolour paintings that are often more suggestive than detailed. Written text is embedded into the illustrations rather than allocated to conventional text boxes. This helps to give a more ‘interior’ feel to the story.


What have you learned from this design research, and has it changed your practice?
This project has allowed for me to develop a more consistent style to my illustrative work. It gave me a chance to experiment with telling a subtle narrative that pushed conventional approaches to the graphic novel away from its often explicit, comic book influences.

Moreover, it showed that the unpredictable, unadulterated, hand-made mark still has something unique to offer contemporary illustration.

For more information visit Maxi’s website.

Keep an eye out next month for more postgraduate design work. If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out the previous posts looking at Leanne Miller’s photographic research and the design research of Jayesh Bhana and Morgan Tahapehi.

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