2.3 Commute

James Grady
3 min readJun 19, 2012

Sometimes the most obvious spark of inspiration is in front of our eyes. Commute was the first studio project I worked on in the Fall, 2010. The assignment stated, “Select an object that inspires you. This object along with one of the categories from Aristotle’s The Organon will be your starting point.” My object was a train ticket stub that I collect everyday while commuting on the train from Boston to Providence, and my category was time. The Organon is about Aristotle’s works on logic. Commuting back and forth from Boston to Providence for school may not be the most logical thing to do, but using the obstacle of an hour-long commute as an opportunity to glean inspiration for my thesis is quite logical. The first time I held the ticket stub in my hand I felt nostalgia for the train. The analog process of collecting money and leaving ticket stub receipts to keep track of the passengers is a uniquely personal experience. The process is an endless ritual of repetition just like the back and forth of the commuter line. The similar horizontal proportions of the ticket stub and the digital time stamps reflect the shape of the train cars. In addition, the large time boards that hang in many train stations, including Boston and Providence, also fascinate me. As I repeat and overlap the forms, I achieve a sense of multiplicity and motion. Adding a random variable to the repetition of the forms creates a bit of chaos within a system that can easily be off schedule. A poster as context for this content allows for the framing of north and south. This provides an opportunity to highlight the first departure time in the morning out of Boston (6:42am) and the last departure time out of Providence (9:42pm), which is the schedule by which I am living.

Frames of Reference
Simple relationships of form applied to the Commute poster allow me to play with our typical observational frames of reference. In particular, filmmaker Michel Gondry, who is noted for his inventive visual style, manipulation of mise en scène and frames of reference, inspires these moves. His films are filled with home-crafted materials and visual tricks. You could almost say he makes films for the child in all of us, and that’s exactly what makes his films a delight to watch. Gondry states, “…childhood occupies the biggest part of your brain, so a lot of my memories subconsciously (and consciously) enter the videos I do.” Gondry creates spontaneous, childlike creativity and an out-of-control imagination, yet he still maintains a fairly calculated approach to his work. This is what I most admire about his work: the balance of sophisticated high-tech visual effects created with low-tech materials and inspiration from our everyday environment.

Michel Gondry, Chemical Brothers, Let Forever Be, 2003

Originally published at http://jamesjgrady.com on June 19, 2012.



James Grady

Principal, Design Axl & Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, Boston University