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Gradients are everywhere from Facebook to the New York Times - Vox
"Here’s why The Daily, Coachella, and Facebook all use backgrounds that look like a sunset."



"What it is: A digital or print effect where one color fades into another. Typically rendered in soft or pastel tones.

Where it is: Gradients are seemingly everywhere in media and marketing. They are part of a suite of Facebook status backdrops introduced in 2017 and the branding for the New York Times’ popular podcast The Daily, which displays a yellow to blue gradient.

Gradients have taken over Coachella’s app and website (if you watch carefully, the colors shift). Ally’s billboard in A Star Is Born is a full-on gradient, and so was the branding for the Oscars ceremony that recognized Lady Gaga.

On Instagram, they provide a product backdrop for popular Korean beauty brand Glow, and have been embraced by indie magazines Gossamer and Anxy — both designed by Berkeley studio Anagraph.

On the luxury front, Brooklyn wallpaper company Calico has released an entire collection of gradient wallpapers called Aurora. Meanwhile, Spanish fashion house Loewe has introduced a version of their trendy Elephant bag in a spectrum of pink to yellow.

Are gradients drinkable? Heck yes, they are. Seltzer startup Recess has gone all-in on gradients in their branding.

Why you’re seeing it everywhere: Gradients are the confluence of three different trends: Light and Space art, vaporwave, and bisexual lighting.

In the art and design world, Light and Space — developed in the 1960s and ’70s — has been experiencing a revival thanks to its Instagramability. Light and Space pioneer James Turrell has been embraced by celebrities like Beyoncé, Drake, and Kanye West. Drake’s Hotline Bling video was inspired by Turrell’s light-infused rooms called Ganzfelds. The Kardashian-Jenner-West crew posted an Instagram in front of one of Turrell’s works in Los Angeles. (I was yelled at by security for taking a picture there but it’s fine.)

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Most recently, West donated $10 million dollars to the artist.

James Turrell’s works come with a warning because the visitor quickly loses all depth perception. Soft gradients are alluring because they cut through the noise of social media, but they also are disorienting. The Twitter bot soft landscapes operates on a similar principle, but some days the landscape all but disappears.

“It’s nice to see calming things amongst all of the social ramifications of Instagram,” says Rion Harmon of Day Job, the design firm of record for Recess. Harmon compares the Recess branding to a sunset so beautiful you can’t help but stare (or take a picture) however busy you are. Changes to the sky are even more pronounced in Los Angeles, where Harmon’s studio is now based. “The quality of light in LA is something miraculous,” he says. The Light and Space movement was also started in Southern California, and it’s in the DNA of Coachella.

Gradients might be a manifestation of longing for sunshine and surf. But they also belong to the placeless digital citizen. 1980s and ’90s kids may remember messing around in Microsoft Paint and Powerpoint as a child, filling in shapes with these same gradients. It’s no surprise that this design effect is part of the technological nostalgia that fuels the vaporwave movement.

Vaporwave is a musical and aesthetic movement (started in the early 2010s) that spliced ambient music, advertising, and imagery from when the internet started. Gradient artwork shared by the clothing brand Public Space is vaporwave. So is this meme posted by direct-to-consumer health startup Hers.

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When Facebook rolled out gradient status backgrounds in 2017, they knew what they were doing. “They have so much data into how the world works,” says Kerry Flynn, platforms reporter at Digiday. “They had a slow rollout to the color gradients … Obviously they could have pulled the plug anytime.”

Flynn goes on to explain that Facebook realized they had become their own worst enemy. There was so much information on their platform that personal sharing was down and they had to make it novel again. “Facebook wants our personal data, as much as possible. Hence, colorful backgrounds that encourage me to post information about myself and for my friends to ‘Like’ it and comment,” she says.

It’s ironic that in order to do so, Facebook borrowed from a digital texture most millennials associate with a time before Facebook. But it also mimics a current trend in film and television: bisexual lighting.

As Know Your Meme explains, “bisexual lighting is a slang in the queer community for neon lighting with high emphasis on pinks, purples, and blues in film.” These pinks, purples and blues often fade into one another — appearing like a gradient when rendered in two dimensions. Bisexual lighting shows up in the futuristic genre cyberpunk, which imagines an era in which high technology and low technology combine and cities are neon-bathed, landmarkless Gothams. (Overlapping with vaporwave.) Mainstream examples of cyberpunk include Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, and Black Mirror (specifically the “San Junipero” episode). Hotline Bling makes the list of examples for bisexual lighting; the gradients come full circle.

Tati Pastukhova, co-founder of interactive art space ARTECHOUSE, says gradients have become more popular as computer display quality increases. She says the appeal of gradients is “the illusion of dimension, and giving 2-D designs 3-D appeal.” ARTECHOUSE is full of light-based digital installations, but visitors naturally gravitate toward what is most photogenic — including, unexpectedly, the soft lighting the space installed along their staircase for safety reasons.

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Before gradients, neon lettering was the Instagram lighting aesthetic du jour. Gradients are wordless — like saying Live Laugh Love with just colors. “There’s an inherent progression in gradients, you are being taken through something. Like that progression of Live Laugh Love. Of starting at one point and ending at another point. Evoking that visually is something people are very drawn to,” says Taylor Lorenz, a staff writer at the Atlantic who covers internet culture.

Gradients are also boundaryless. In 2016, artist Wolfgang Tillmans used gradients in his anti-Brexit poster campaign. Through gradients, designers have found the perfect metaphor for subjectivity in an era when even the word “fact” is up for debate. “Gradients are a visual manifestation of all of these different spectrums that we live on,” including those of politics, gender, and sexuality, says Lorenz. “Before, I think we lived in a binary world. [Gradients are] a very modern representation of the world.”

At the very least, gradients offer an opportunity to self-soothe.

Calico co-founder Nick Cope says the Aurora collection is often used in meditation rooms. He and his wife have installed it across from their bed at home. “The design was created to immerse viewers in waves and washes of tranquil atmospheric color,” Cope says, adding, “Regardless of the weather, we wake up to a sunrise every morning.”"

[See also:
"Is 'bisexual lighting' a new cinematic phenomenon?"
https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-43765856 ]
color  gradients  design  socialmedia  jamesturrell  2019  light  space  perception  neon  desig  graphicdesign  ux  ui  wolfgangtillmans  nickcope  meditation  colors  tatipastukhova  artechouse  computing  bisexuallighting  lighting  queer  knowyourmeme  pink  purple  blue  cyberpunk  future  technology  hightechnology  lowtechnology  vaporwave  bladerunner  ghostintheshell  blackmirror  sanjunipero  hotlinebling  kerryflynn  facebook  microsoftpaint  rionharmon  sunsets  california  socal  losangeles  coachella  depthperception  ganzfelds  drake  kanyewest  beyoncé  anagraph  ladygaga  daisyalioto 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Digital Sunset
"We all know the magic feeling of a cell phone pic of a sunset. But what is better than a picture? The real sunset, duh. But a close second might be the precise digital gradient you can make with the Digital Sunset app. Recreate the fleeting mystery of the sunset on your dumb smartphone.

Sunsets are ephemeral, but PNGs are forever.

Digital Sunset is for your phone.

Try it there.

Put the biggest most impossible thing into a little digital square.

What is worth looking at?

If you look at the sunset, will it hurt your corneas?

Will it hurt your psyche?

If you take a cell phone pic of the sunset, does that make it less special? What if you send that cell phone pic to your coworker, or your sister, or the person you want to be your boyfriend? Does that make it more special?

Is this notetaking or souvenir gathering?

If photographs are experience captured, then what is a picture of the sunset on your Instagram?

Digital Sunset is an app project by Alex Harris and Nicole Lavelle. It is at once very important and totally useless.

Get to it. Tag your digital sunsets with the hashtag #digitalsunset so we can peep your gradients."
nicolelavelle  alexharris  iphone  applications  sunsets  digitalsunset  webapps  ios 
march 2014 by robertogreco
The City with No Heart (Aaron Swartz's Raw Thought)
"Unlike every other city I’ve seen from the air, LA has no gradient surrounding a downtown. It just suddenly appears and then is simply there."

"Instead, I wonder about the fractal nature of coastlines — does their length grow with out bound or simply converge as you measure them more finely? (It grows without bound.)"

"The reflected sunlight before me refracts to form a perfect rainbow, strips of dark red fading into orange fading into yellow then light blue then blue. And for one beautiful moment, before the whole thing fades away into an inky blackness, the colors are laid out perfectly, just the way I’ve seen them in prisms and diagrams so many times before, a beautiful sympathy of color. And then my head really does explode, the beauty sending shockwaves through my body.

That is how I will remember LA: this beautiful strip of sunset."
losangeles  2006  aaronswartz  light  sunsets  colors  color  beauty  gradients  cities 
january 2013 by robertogreco
Eternal Sunset - Backstage - All current sunset webcams, interactive and real-time maps, and webcam contribution
Eternal Sunset endeavours to ensure you can enjoy the sunset live from any location, at any time. As the sunset moves westward, Eternal Sunset continuously tunes into different webcams, chasing the sunset around the globe. This service is currently provid
geography  images  world  international  sunsets  photography  video  webcams  web  online  travel 
november 2007 by robertogreco

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