Glitch art is a visual style characterised by the use of digital and analog 'errors' to create aesthetic features, whether that be intentional (as in, “faking a glitch” and creating a similar aesthetic through the design) or by accident (the true manifestation from inside the device).
Image by Davis Ariel Szauder
These happy accidents (authetic and faked) along with their striking visual aesthetic have created new ways to view products, logos, typography, music and much more. Terrence Morash, creative director of Shutterstock describes the genre as “A controlled imperfection, it’s a reminder of the technical elements of design. It visualises technology, a combination of textures and patterns but without perfection.”
Image by Chad Wys
When did glitch art become a thing?
The glitch visual aesthetic can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century through the distorted forms in cubist paintings and pixel-like rug designs that feel visually similar to the early 8-bit video games on the 1970's and 80's.
Image by Kalliope Amorphous
Rosa Menkmen, author of The Glitch Moment(um), explains the two langauges of glitch art in pop culture: “On the one hand, there are the tactical and critical artists who use the technique to criticise popular culture, and on the other hand the technique now is very much alive and part of the same culture.”
The first appearance of glitch art
Depending who you read, which sites you trust etc, there are a number of people claiming to have started the movement. One of the strongest claims (and the one we believe) is the work of Raul Zaritsky, Jamie Fenton and Dick Ainsworth, who created a piece called 'Digital TV Dinner', produced in 1978.
The team used a Bally video game console. The video was made by striking the expensive (over $300) game console with their fists and fingers while it writes the menu on screen. The on-screen activity was filmed, creating this...
A lot of glitch art involves movement, so many artists work within what we now call motion graphics, creating videos and gifs. Part of the process for some artists involves the use of strong magnets near the computer equipment. The magnetic fields interrupt the machines processing and displays, creating some of the effects we would recognise as a glitch. This is a high risk strategy as the magnet can easily render the equipment useless.
Glitch art is constantly evolving, with new tech - for example, there are apps to help you create a safe glitch on your phone or screen. But the artists themselves are also pushing the boundaries of what glitch art is, here are a few glitch artists that we think you should checkout -
David Ariel Szauder
Nam June Paik
JODI (art collective)
Ben Baker-Smith / Glitchbot
Glitch was the new punk
Glitch art displays many similarities to the punk music/pop art movements of the 1960’s, complete with the anti-system political and consumerist messages. But glitch art has become mainstream, more of a celebration of tech and the recognised vulnerablities that sit around it. Glitch art rose to prominence alongside the digitisation of life. The time post 1993, when the internet was changing everything, with the dotcom boom(...and bust). And of course the glitch has remained an ever present part of the social media landscape.
Image Nam June Paik in his studio
The popularity of glitch art demonstrates how our relationship with tech has changed. We accept that it's not perfect with these tongue-in-cheek, comedic nods to the failure of computer systems and programming.
But there's bigger messages involved, glitch art is an acknowledgement of our own human vulnerabilities, our imperfections and the imperfect world we inhabit. Which may explain the love that exists for glitches.
Image by Sabatobox
What is the glitch aesthetic?
There is a timeless element that we associate with Glitch art. We see them as momentary, unique to this time in history, yet captured and viewed in detail. The glitch is a paradox, a strange mix of what we think of as being the futuristic blended with our love for all things retro.
Let's breakdown glitch art - What are the visual elements? And how do they work?
There are several technical effects that are commonly used within glitch art. If you’re gonna ‘fake it’ these are the things you’ll need to include to make a convincing glitch art design.
AI isn’t great in the glitch space, the algorithms cannot ‘understand’ visual errors, or why we may want to create more of them. Don't get me wrong, there are tools and apps, but they tend to create some pretty basic images. Here's the things to look for, replicate, overlay, distort and generally experiment with.
All screen images are made up of 1000’s of tiny pixels, and when some of these mis-load, you end up with a glitch. The effect of pixelation is most productive for abstract views of the space within.
Recreating the phenomenon where a gap in the body of a film camera (remember those!) allows light to leak into the normally light-proof film chamber (exposing the film with extra light), creating a burnout effect within the design.
One of the oldest glitch effects, layering multiple images on top of each other, creating transparent ghost-like effects. The combination and placement of this needs to be carefully considered, in order to look authentic. It is very important to dial down your use of colour, less is more here.
Noise and grain
Adding noise and grain (stopping smooth colour transitions, adding dirt, or the digital impression of dirt) to recreate the appearance of an old film or an analog broadcast - such as CRT monitors and TV's, projected film or instant camera formats such as Polaroid.
What is best described as liquified and blurred colour is synonymous with a glitch. Sight is our strongest sense, when the colour within an image is distorted, the amount of distortion needs to be finely controlled to ensure the final result isn’t too busy, making it hard to understand.
As with colour, blurred and unpredictable textures, asymmetrical geometry all 'throw' our eyes, giving the feeling that a piece of information was lost in translation, creating an aesthetic flaw which is entrancing within abstract pieces.
Glitch letter forms
There are plenty of typefaces that have been designed to communicate malfunction and glitchiness. Uppercase letters with jagged or wavy lines and fuzzy effects are commonplace.
You can also distort your own text (Typographers are probably going to hate me for this - sorry!) duplicating the letters to create a double exposure, elongating or merging the letterforms. There's really no hard and fast rules, it's about creating a harmonious visual aesthetic. Though the harmony often comes from quite opposing visual features.
Image by JODI art collective
Other glitch things
There's so much more that we'd like to explore and share with you. If you have visited DressCode before, you'll be familiar with our love of a glitch, though it wasn't always that way. If you'd like to find out more about what we do with glitches, here's some links to continue your glitch journey.