Cornwall is not known for its technological prowess. In fact, in a survey of local residents I conducted, not one said they considered Cornwall above average in terms of innovation or technological industry, compared to other UK counties. The perception doesn’t, however, match the truth: Cornwall is, surprisingly, a technology hub, with 500+ businesses (2014) in the software sector alone. So why is there such disparity between the public opinion and the actual facts?
When I asked colleagues and locals alike, only a tiny handful could name a Cornish business in the technology sector. I think that’s an issue — if people are to see Cornwall as a tech hub, they need an example.
This is that example. Based on real proposals to develop Newquay Airport’s kilometre-long runway into a launch site for suborbital spaceplanes, I developed a potential identity and advertising vehicle for the hypothetical Spaceport Southwest.
The basis of Spaceport Southwest’s identity is its logotype and marque. It’s designed to look fast and futuristic, while retaining the flexibility and minimalism of a fairly basic polygon. Its 20° angle gives it a vague similarity to the Southwest Peninsula, while its colour and shape hint at the spaceport’s runway. Spaceport Southwest’s colour palette is entirely monochrome, allowing for subtle colours in photography and vehicle liveries.
Spaceport Southwest’s logotype is set in a custom mono typeface, Chasmata, which can also be used for one- or two-word display purposes. Its legibility is poor, but it makes up for it with futuristic angles and perfectly tessellating ligatures.
Spaceport Southwest’s advertising strategy is twofold: in part, a passive campaign featuring quotes from the golden age of space exploration, designed to inspire curiosity and action within the Cornish area. The second part is called Overview.
You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’ — Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut.
The Overview Effect is the name given to the intense cognitive shift which occurs in many people upon looking back at the Earth from space. An object as large as a planet is so utterly incomprehensible to anyone who has never seen it all at once, to view it from space in its entirety is revolutionary — except, compared to everything around it, it’s tiny. The largest thing you’ve ever seen is a mote of dust in the infinite sunbeam of the universe. That experience is memorable.
From a weather balloon 18km above the Earth, I got close enough to that effect to surprise myself. Except I never left my house — I just put on a VR headset and tried SpaceVR’s high altitude balloon demo. At the service ceiling of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, 110km, I expect the experience could be quite profound.
This is the purpose of Overview, Spaceport Southwest’s virtual demonstration flight. A five-minute seated VR experience, Overview is designed to mimic a suborbital flight aboard a spaceplane, which attendees of trade shows and local demonstrations around Cornwall would be able to try for themselves. The purpose of this would be to trigger a similar cognitive shift to the Overview effect, in order to cultivate a greater appreciation for Spaceport Southwest’s ambition, and potentially to drive donation as well. And if nothing else, to turn heads.
I built a static demo of Overview for trial in VR — ultimately, immersion is a delicate thing, and inaccurate atmospheric effects mean I was unable to perfectly simulate the Earth or the overview effect. That said, I believe a combination of genuine photography like that which SpaceVR plans to produce, and digitally created foreground elements like the interior of SpaceShipTwo, could create a far more realistic simulation.
Listen to this with good headphones.