As a preface, Ambience is the light-gloving club and class at UC Berkeley. I was introduced to their class (the only of its kind in the world) through research into extracurricular activites upon arriving at Berkeley. For those not in the know, light-gloving is an art or dance-form in which light-shows are given to music using LED microlights inside the tips of gloves. Much like LED hula-hooping, glow-sticking, or fire shows, light-gloving is a unique method of self-expression. Ambience has chapters across the world, but its flagship location is in Berkeley. It was not long into my attendance that I was invited to join their 3-person executive team of graphic designers. Below you will find promotional material that I created for the club, and how it was integrated with input from the other designers.
As a part of the executive team, I was provided all of the club’s previous .ai, .psd, and .indd files. To give you an idea of Ambience’s aesthetic, I’ve provided a collage of some of their previous flier, shirt, postcard, and poster designs. The font used in the logo is New Drop Era, a unique font that combines modern sharp edges with rounded curves for a space-age, futuristic feeling. The N and C have been kerned to correct a spacing issue when using the font.
Every year at UC Berkeley, the university hosts an event called “Calapalooza.” There, clubs members showcase their extracurricular offerings to attract current and incoming students. As an executive designer, I was tasked with creating a new poster for our club table. This project was a solo effort. The main guidelines were to make something with accurate information and to convey our club in an interesting, fun light that was true to our long-standing style. The old horizontal banner can be seen at the top of the left image, and below it is my vertical rework.
As one of my first big projects, my choice of program was Photoshop. As an aside, I would have used Illustrator for the second half of the process if I were recreating this today. The elements included were the original New Drop Era text logo, the original Ambience color palette, vector light balls, a model with light-gloves, a second typeface for supplementary information, and a purple bottom banner with key information in the primary face.
After writing down some ideas, I had an image of what I wanted the end result to look like. The poster would feature a light-glover, a punned slogan (“The Power is in Your Hands”), and a hierarchy of information about the club. The issue was that, as a niche topic, there were no stock photos of light-glovers online. My solution was to photograph myself wearing the gloves and later integrate a white mask onto my face.
I was able to obtain a stock photo that appeared to fit most well with the photographs I’d taken with my hood up. The white mask was meant to communicate to students that the person underneath could be anyone, including themselves. There is a common trend of light-glovers wearing masks to bring focus to their show, which was an added connotation that worked in my favor.
After merging the stock face onto my photograph, I adjusted the lighting and added a found “bokeh” background that seemed to fit our aesthetic. I blended the model image in using a simple soft black brush.
Next, I added the text. The logo was done in large gray-white text with a purple border to offset potentially jarring edges. The script typeface (Darleston) underscores the logo in light, curving contrast. As a note, I may have chosen a less fancy typeface today to ensure the focus was on the model.
The slogan was also done in gray-white to keep attention on the subject. The bottom info bar uses Ambience’s same signature purple with contrasting white text for better readability. Using New Drop Era ties the bottom information back to the logo.
The sizing of the poster, color of the gloves, and placement of objects was adjusted several times during the process to for better printing and unity of the overall image.
I further communicated with the other designers over Facebook towards the end of the process to ensure that the info was correct, and that the printer would receive files in the right size and format for the poster and postcard.
Event Banner and T-Shirts
My next objective in Ambience was to create a banner for the upcoming Glovecon 3, an annual off-campus competition and party for light-glovers. It was a volunteer project done in Photoshop that I offered personally to the club president. The image would be the basis for t-shirts we would sell shortly after the event. We had a few variations of characters for past merchandise and promotional material, including a robot, a ghost, and an octopus.
The octopus intrigued me, but I felt it was more removed than the other two characters that sported gloves. An octopus wearing gloves seemed to be the obvious choice: not only would it present something entirely unique, but it offered a visual pun that would take the routine two-handed light-show to an extreme.
To the left, you can see a penultimate copy of my character atop the previous edition. Rather than add gloves to the old copy, which in itself would be difficult, I opted to bring more realism into the design. What would an actual octopus look like giving a light-show? How could I make it look friendly yet oddly memorable?
As there are very few clear photos of light-glove poses online, I took screenshots of several videos of shows to determine hand positions. I looked for anything that seemed interesting, symmetrical, or fitting for a tentacle.
Next, I sifted through online images of real octopi to study their body composition and forms. I quickly sketched an octopus and picked four hand poses that seemed to fit the general posturing of its arms (for a total of 8 “hands”). Below, I redrew the octopus with clearer arms and labeled each level with the number corresponding to the numbered .jpg file I’d be using.
First, I used the sketches to create a general purple form (similar to the Ambience purple). I next added a simplified outline for arms, eyes, face, and gloves based on the .jpg cutouts. Finally, to add realism, I added soft shading and highlights for the eyes. The glows on the light-tips were created using an inner glow. The different colors resemble real LED lights and add variety to the image.
The design was sent to the rest of my team, where one of the other designers took charge of preparing the file for t-shirts. She simplified the shadows and cut down the number of colors as per the printer’s specifications. White circles and trails were meant to mimic true light glows. She also added purple droplets behind the octopus as homage to the common art-style used in older Ambience designs, but I would have left them out as I feel the main design is eye-catching enough.
Here you can see the process I went through to get to the final banner. Most elements were handmade, aided in part by online tutorials. I created a planet using rust textures and shadows, a blurred asteroid, a drop-shadow with nebular lighting effects on the Ambience logo, and the event name featuring a glowing font.
The stars were made in three layers to add complex realism to the depth of the backdrop. A cloud texture and different shades of color make up the nebulae. The colors were important to communicate fun, LED lights, and wonder.
The logo text was done in three layers for brightness, depth, and consistency with the background. The “Glovecon” piece was done similarly, using a spaceship-like gradient to further impress the mood of the event.
These decisions were made to enforce the themes of oddity, futurism, and outer space—a tone that remains consistent throughout Ambience’s identity. The light-gloving octopus, a rare sight on its own, seems at home floating through the galaxy in its alien fashion.