Ever wondered how the use of the internet affected our minds? Let it be exactly this question that kept the Scottish designer Hannah Paxton up, leading to the release of her ‘Distorted Reality’ graduate collection. Working with a mix of bright eccentric colours and morphed imagery, every design demands attention only to introduce its audience to the dark side of social media. The Heriot-Watt graduate seeks to represent the negative effects of social media on people’s mental health through twisted photography, flashy and busy prints, something that didn’t go unnoticed as she sees her designs featured in the June issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK as part of our Global Young Talents 2021.
What was your main inspiration behind your recent collection, “Distorted Reality”?
I wanted to explore the idea of how social media in particular twists our views as a society. Whilst I think social media can be a positive platform at times, I think we are subjected to disturbing content that can make us think more destructively, especially about ourselves. I wanted to explore this idea of our ‘Distorted Reality’ that consumes us, from what we can see and read online. Not everything we view online is real, and many things can be faked and warped to make us believe something that is not true, and I think a damaging effect from this is how we then perceive ourselves and others.
Do you think that the way we, as a society, consume social media and the internet is damaging to our health?
I think in some ways, yes. Despite social media in particular offering a huge platform to connect with others, there are still little to no restrictions on what people can post and view online. This triggers an issue of disturbing content being posted which can cause damaging effects on our mental wellbeing. I also think social media has become a huge platform as of recently, and now as a society we are too fixated on how we are perceived online compared to how we are perceived in real life.
What aspects did you consider before designing your recent collection and how did you go about researching the impact of the media?
I knew I wanted to focus on showing this ‘Distorted Reality’ through morphing images of facial features and editing graphic effects to create a computer-like design. I thought that photographing faces and distorting them would be an interesting way of expressing the effects of social media on our society as this shows links to how our minds are altered from the content we see online. I also added binary code that writes my name as this added personal touch, but also because I wanted to incorporate computer effects. In terms of research, I took a personal view on how I think social media has affected me as well as how it has affected those around me, and this was the basis of what aspects I wanted to consider. For my design research, I mainly looked into photographers such as Edward Honaker and Tyler Spangler who use distortion in their work to showcase a darker theme.
“ I wanted to explore the idea of how social media in particular twists our views as a society. Whilst I think social media can be a positive platform at times, I think we are subjected to disturbing content that can make us think more destructively, especially about ourselves.”
You incorporate a bright colour palette throughout your designs, is there a meaning behind this?
I love working with a bright colour palette and expressing my ideas through cheerful shades that can really catch the audience. For this collection, I think a brighter almost ‘psychedelic’ colour palette worked well as it expressed the hypnotic feel of the internet as well as the computer-screen-glare that we look at.
You have a wide varied skill set and incorporate multiple techniques into your designs; which techniques are you favourite to use?
Thank you! For this collection, I tried photography within my designs for the first time, and I really enjoyed this technique. This is definitely a technique I will keep trying within my work to see what else I can create. I also love creating abstract designs using expressive colours and busy compositions, so will continue creating designs and pushing myself further.
“ For this collection, I think a brighter almost ‘psychedelic’ colour palette worked well as it expressed the hypnotic feel of the internet as well as the computer-screen-glare that we look at. ”
Discover Hannah Paxton's full collection
Words by Lupe Baeyens