What do you get with a book cover that doubles for a mousepad, a user manual, and a CD-ROM that includes 80 fonts, 10 games, 25 screensavers, 55 wallpapers and 98 icons? This is not the start of a joke, but an introduction to Berlin-based Designershock design group's DSOS1: The User's Manual, a guide to their eccentric and abstract world where they're known for their Internet experimental electronic experiences.
Not knowing where to begin except at the beginning, the beginning of the book sets the tone, "Unless you're very strong, please resist the temptation to flick, browse, skip or skim. Start by going from page to page sequentially. Linear experiences are still the most satisfying, and this way you may remain calm and focused."
Using a polyglot of colors, pages splashed with shades of reds, grays, and blacks guide you through three parts (from left to right on the screen):
Electronic Workmates (EWM) - an introduction to the accompanying software, which is the key to accessing DSOS1's online world that is exclusive to owners of the CD-ROM tool.
Electronic Playmates (EPM) - fonts and typographical games to die for and each time you win, you get to download fonts and other tools.
Electronic Decomaters (EDM) - "is about creative control over your environment. Taking it; losing it. How to open the window on the sublime." Create an ambience with screensavers, wallpapers, and icons.
At first glance, this book seems cryptic, threatening and confusing. But remember what the introduction says and take it one step at a time from the beginning. It becomes easier to follow along with the print after connecting online. Designershock successfully leaps into the innovative world of combining print, screen, and typography.
Load the DVD and let Ozzy, the DSOS1 avatar, take you where you need to go to register for the first time and get a four-digit pin number. The user manual also outlines the steps to get started. EWM is on the left column, EPM in the middle, and EDM on the right. Pick online or offline tools, the latter downloads an archived file for playing offline. Offline is the better choice since it takes time to load the online version.
DS MEEK (Modulated Esoteric E-Type Kreator), a Flash program and the first in the book, lets the user manipulate fonts based on grids. The first impression is overwhelming, but the HELP and the user guide clearly explain the background and how to complete the activity. Turn the dials, flip the switches, and press the buttons to transform, morph, and scale a letter and apply the changes to the entire alphabet to create your own fonts. The book shows creations from using the MEEK emulator. One word: awesome!
Saving and loading a previously created doesn't work, at first. The save dialog box won't open, but attempting it another time is successful. According to instructions, "The SAVE and LOAD buttons work a little differently, depending on whether you are using the on- or off-line versions of the tools. Online, every user can save up to 10 modulations and 10 layouts on the DSOS1 server, using a simple DSOS1 file dialog. Offline, users can save and load an unlimited number of MEEK files, using normal system file dialogs." There two types of saved files in MEEK: layout and modulation. After printing a Meryl font creation, the program wouldn't go back to the EDIT mode or any mode. Just stuck there in font space. Despite a few runtime flaws, one could get hooked on this stuff.
Next activity, the DS EWG, has a few added features not in MEEK to increase the complexity. Hence, the user guide's wise suggestion of working through the book from beginning to end.
Expect nothing to come easy when playing the games, but that will make the rewards all the sweeter. This interactive print medium and accompanying Internet webzine slash software is not for the faint of heart or in this case, beginner designers. Like fine wine, give it time, let it age, and get a feel for it. It's not something to be swallowed whole, but instead slowly sipped. Not only can you consider this as a coffetable masterpiece, but also as a designer's interactive toy.
Surf to Designer Shock's Web site or see sample pages at the publisher's Web site.