The magic of digital design isn’t all on the screen. It’s also what students learn roaming the Manhattan street grid and the even more colorful places like Coney Island and the Highline.
Students in Professor Lauren Zodel’s Digital Design Studio class learn Photoshop and Illustrator techniques specific to fashion design. Course assignments emphasize sketching, color, line planning, silhouette, and fabric design.
Three of her students this fall chose iconic images from New York City for their projects. “The common thread for first-year students is being new to New York, and their expectations versus the city’s reality. With so much going on here, they miss a lot…the small things within the big picture.”
Says Mary Perrone “I was most nervous about this class; I’m not one to spend spare time on the computer.” But it turned out to be one of her favorites she said. “Prof. Zodel played off our individual styles very well. She understands your vision and instructs you to that end.”
“I was watching the Business Channel – at the bottom of the CNN screen in the FIT dining hall,” said Perrone. “I took a financial course in high school and we developed our own stock portfolios. It was considered a life skill. It fascinates me that I can be a part shareholder of something so big.”
For her project, Perrone, who is from Flower Mound, Texas, explored Wall Street and took photos of the bull across from the New York Stock Exchange. In stocks the highest share price of the year is called the 52-week high, she said. “It gave me my project title.”
She posterized everything using the Photoshop filter. “The bull looked 3D at first, she said. “The squiggles are the stock prices. I took a picture of a scatterplot representing Bank of America’s current stock price and superimposed it on the images.
Students in this exercise first make a “mood board” to set the tone for the image collection. Then they explore a “color story, ” the colors that will be featured in the garments and fabrics. The yellow in Perrone’s project is chipped paint coming up from the subway.
“The colors I wanted were very commercial,” she said. “I borrowed from Facebook, Shell Oil, and Pepsi – companies that produce on a very wide scale. A lot of details in the clothes are taken from menswear, such as the collars and structure of the garments. All the garments are easy to wear and to produce, which are important to a public company.”
Anabelle Hernandez wanted to represent the components of one’s personality. “The overall instruction was not to do the cliché thing, to go beyond. I took that seriously. I couldn’t find that within Manhattan,” she said.
“I wasn’t that inspired by things I see everywhere in Manhattan and the business attire people wear. So I went to Coney Island looking for something more colorful. I’m from Miami and am used to Florida colors. I saw prints, colors, many people dressed for fun!”
She used Photoshop to superimpose murals with snake scale patterns from a picture she took of a floor, and added a photo of a snake in a zoo to mirror the snakeskin and emphasize the idea.
For her mood board, she imposed the people of Coney Island where the sky should be, and used a photo of Zeus holding a lightning bolt, also from Coney Island.
In Manhattan, Hernandez took photos of a neon sign in a bar window, which shows the playful side of people, and titled it Cyclone. “I’m showing both a serious and a more playful side of people,” she said. “I used a photo that I wasn’t initially keen about but became interesting when I added color, which surprised me. Keep your originals; you never know!”
The last image is a photo she took in Times Square facing upward. “The background was sky, which I changed to yellow, which is my main color for the collection.”
“The first thing I considered was the contrast between nature and the city,” said Amanda Hoffman. “I tried to portray this by combining elements from both. I took pictures of buildings and streets to capture what everyone thinks is New York.”
The next part was to find some nature. She found it at the Highline.
“Among my images, I found a wall closeup. I used it to overlay with pictures of wildlife and structures. I turned down their opacities, making them visible without taking all of the viewer’s attention. Lastly I chose a title to reflect the different perspectives, nature in the city, and buildings. I warped the text to give it a different perspective.”
She picked three warmer green tones from the plants, two basic cooler tones from the buildings, and one accent color, the purple from the flowers. “I used the same background to keep the pages cohesive. I created three prints. For two of them, I went into the original background in my mood board and created repeats out of sections of buildings. For the other I used a section of a building that had lots of windows. I took this and turned it into a repeat. This gave more of the linear feel of the buildings, creating almost a stripe.
“I then created three outfits that went well together but also worked on their own. The angular and soft silhouettes emphasize this contrast. Shading them made them look more three-dimensional. Learning different tools in Photoshop helped me improve my work, especially my figures in the project.”