Star Wars is not simply a film franchise, or as a cynic might state an effective marketing machine for a merchandise industry (which is doubtlessly why the rights were acquired by Disney), it is a phenomena that has left a deep impression in the cultural landscape. It is inaccurate to simply dismiss it as a cult for geeks, although I accept it is a stretch too far to classify “Jedi” as a new religion.
I must confess that I was a massive fan as a child, and the story, themes, ideas and characters, were a source of happy memories and points of reference, which I have since been able to indulge with my own children. So where did this source of inspiration come from?
This is attributable to the ideas, of George Lucas (Director), Ralph McQuarrie & Joe Johnson (the visual artists) and John Barry (production designer), working with a large team of visual and effects artists, that executed this vision through their attention to craft and detail, right down to the special effects team of model makers and film technicians.
It is no accident that this shared vision, led not only to industry plaudits, huge box office returns and fantastic commercial spin-off’s but also led to commercial offshoots such as Lucas’ company “Industrial Light and Magic” who pioneered film effects and indeed computer technology for years (more of which in future posts).
My greatest fascination however lies in the extraordinary achievements that Star Wars created in the field of design- not only in costumes, technology, structures, transport and urban design, but in the design of new environments and even genetic species.
I was transfixed by the considered attention to detail in every aspect of the concept. To support the plot and drama, rounded characters had to be developed with not only a personality and interesting back story, but often from a whole new species and planet. This is where the designers flourished, developing an entire fictional natural history, evolving the new species in response to their environment, showing a consideration of how the natural selection in that eco-system would “design” not only the physical characteristics of the species, but also their behaviours and traits.
It is perhaps telling that the richness of detail that led to the creation of this alternative organic world, continues to be an exceedingly valuable intellectual property, which is still being mined for new commercial opportunities. This is where the inspiration of the exhibition “Star Wars: Identities” at the O2 begins. They have an enviable collection of the usual memorabilia, from costumes, props and numerous models of the spacecraft, which are supplemented with concept art and development sketches for different planets or characters. What is unusual is that they have constructed an interactive exhibition, where the subject matter is broken down into thematic exhibits, to provide an inspiration for creating your own character. You interact with the exhibits to input data such as background, genetic and evolutionary traits, environmental influences even personality types into your smart wristband, to generate your own character’s identity.
Through this interaction, there is a quasi-educational process which runs parallel to the investigation and learning experience, gained through close examination of the artefacts.
Star Wars had been a massive influence on not only the pop-cultural reference points, but I believe the design approach and design philosophy of generations. It has taught us how to create, how to use our imagination and craft ideas into a vision for how things should be.
Star Wars has taught us how to use this force of creativity for good.
‘The Force’ is an allegory for good design.
Star Wars Identities- The Exhibition- What forces shape you?
At the O2 until November 2017. @swidentities