Category: Broken narratives (Berta’s project)

Broken narratives


For the Broken Narratives project, I chose the story ‘Staircase’. As the brief explains, a man is being referred to lower floors for priority reasons but as you get nearer the bottom of the 7 floors, the more ill the patients are. I interpreted this as the man is getting closer and closer to death as he moves down floors, until he can’t go any further and that point is when he dies.

I wanted to portray the story in the shape of the book so you feel like you’re going on a journey down the staircase with the man as you read. I cut a staircase that had 7 steps (one for each floor) in hope that it makes you feel that as you are getting lower down the staircase, you are closer to death, which is represented by darkness in this case. The roughness of the cutting represents the man’s deteriorating health. I also coloured in the sides of the steps to define them, but kept this rough as well for the same reason.


I interpreted my prompt as a family who move into a new house and get stuck trying to navigate their way through to the ending. As you go through the book the pages get darker and more creepy, and eventually it ends with the family finding the unknown victims that came before them. It starts off innocent (as seen in second part) but there are warning signals all around them.

The book has doorways cutout to get through the story but they get progressively more unusual and abnormal for the family to get through. Without time constraints, the goal would be to finish each room in the house and develop the backstory. I would have explored more ways to display the sense of despair in the family’s house and shown that through different means of paper craft, like cutting holes into each page to mimic the feeling of being sucked in.

The brief with the backstory was a great way to practice my physical design.It had little purpose, but a lot of meaning that could be inferred through artistic methods, something I thoroughly enjoy about design.


The warning before the end.

A walk into madness

When assigned this project I wanted to turn my book into a series of immersive chapters that makes the user feel as though they are at one with the story character. I wanted to make the user feel lost and feel like they have lost a sense of clarity. My first decision was to create a stairway leading into the story labyrinth. The stairway is to act as an introduction for the story and it gives a good idea to the reader about what they are getting into. After the reader has completed their venture through the first chapter they will be met with a portal into a deep state of loss. After the portal, I decided to give the reader some pages of clarity. I wanted the reader to feel like some sense of clarity was restored because I thought it would give them false hope into believing the loss of clarity is over. Though of course, it isn’t over. Immediately after tricking the user, I threw them into a state of absolute chaos. On the left page, I used my crafting knife to make twenty vertical lines through the paper. This makes the page incredibly hard to read yet you can still make your way through the text, just like the character would find it hard to navigate a labyrinth. On the right page, I used my nails to scratch at the page and I crumpled up the page. This had the same effect as the incisions, though it portrayed how things become blurry and distorted in your mind. and finally, we make it to the last two pages of my experiment. You find a patchwork page mixed with aged and new book paper. This is supposed to be a metaphor for how time can become mixed up and lost in a labyrinth.
Overall, I was happy with how my experiment went. If I had a second attempt I would experiment more with 3D aspects of my book as I found it to be quite immersive which would entice more readers to use my product.



I chose the obsession brief and decided to take a quite literal approach to the storyline. The beginning of the book appears normal, until a mouse scurries along the bottom of the page, and from here the destruction mirrored in the brief begins through the majority of the book to convey the frantic search for the mouse. This continues up until the tears in the pages reveal a growing blackness, to represent that after all of the destruction there is nothing to be found.


After choosing labyrinth as my selected word for the task, the start of the brief stated that the story started with a family entering a house. This encouraged me to use a scalpel to cut out the shape of windows, a door and a roof to connotate this. As the book progresses the pages start to slowly change and include different textures to link with how each room within the brief all look different, adding to the illusion that the characters are completely lost within the labyrinth.

Floating Comic (Staircase)

I chose this piece from the box as I thought it would give my work a little more variety from the other works with its comic book styling rather than a more traditional book. With this I decided to use the panels of the comic is a unique way in order for each individual panel to stand out and flow with the rest of the panels in a downward sloping fashion. I did this by allowing the panels at the top of the page to overlap the following panels to give the narrative a downwards sloping feel, sticking with my theme “staircase” (a downward spiral ascending into misery at the bottom). With this theme I also picked the prefect spread in the book as it starts with calm and contentless and slowly terns to despair as the characters a violently killed.


For my theme I chose “Obsession”, for each stage of the story there is a section of the book to represent it. 

Firstly the story begins with a woman reading a book in the library, so I left the pages as they were. 

She is alone.

And starts to hear some noises, represented by the concentric circles.

In the later end of this section the reader gets a glimpse of the mouse, but never sees it again.

She starts to look for this mouse, and starts to look under objects, and gets more and more obsessed about finding the mouse and eventually tears up the floor board and carpet.

She finds nothing.


For this mini project I picked the brief of staircases as I wanted to experiment with different levels within a book and how this manipulation would effect the text.

The first thing that I wanted to do was have two different path ways, the best way to do this was to cut the book in half which I did. I did this as I wanted to represent the two sides one being the severely ill and the other more mild illness. I represented the two sides by two different staircases both going downwards. The first staircase has clean lines that go down in an even manner. The string leading down shows that allow although he has a clearer mind it still isn’t perfect and this is shown as adding this has made the pages much harder to read due to the tension. The other set of staircasaes follows a lot more uneven and different variations of steps. I created this by having every step both a different size and different methods, for example one has negative space within the step and another has lots of texture. This staircase represents the people that are most ill so therefore following this path down wouldn’t be a good experience.

Obsession Through Pages

Having looked at the brief lists, ‘Obsession’ immediately stood out to me. I intended to present the gradual progress of obsession, setting in after time and slowly creeping into borderline insanity.

Reflective of the woman happily reading in the library, the first half of the book remains in tact. However, after around half way, I begun to add to the book. I began to scribble over the pages in red pen, firstly just lines and then into words, transitioning from red pencil to red pen and finally a red Sharpie. These became more aggressive as the book continued on, showing the increasing annoyance the woman has in the sounds. As this change is a slow increase throughout the entire book, this is not seen in the images above.

Similarly, I began folding the corners of the pages, becoming more noticeable and regular the further into the book you get. This is to mirror how the woman would keep putting her book down to investigate the source of the noise. Later in the pages, the woman’s written voice appears, first seen in pencil, then pen and finishing with a Sharpie, the same format as the mouse. The coherent sentences quickly turn into almost deranged scrawlings, ending with multiple pages of repeated questioning “Where is it?”, as seen in the first image. In my initial brainstorm, I decided that repetition was a key source of annoyance, which is why every choice is repeated with gradually increasing intensity.

Finally, again mirroring the brief as the woman rips the library apart trying to find the source of the noise, I began tearing the final pages. By  ripping more and more each time, a gradient wave is formed, creating a visually appealing textural difference and adding dimension to the book. The entire back cover is gone, as seen in the final two images, showing this as an endless narrative, the woman never finding the mouse and receiving the closure she desires, pushed to insanity by the noise.

Cambridge Institution

When deciding what brief to choose for Berta’s project I was instantly drawn to ‘staircase’. It was like I had the perfect book to do so, I decided to put my own spin on the project while trying my best to stick to the brief. The front cover is a man looking onto what seems to be nothing, for me this character was at the front of what was the ‘Cambridge Sanatorium’, which is shown from the first two photos.

From there you can see a clean descendance into the 7 floors of the Sanatorium, as you get deeper the darker it gets which is reflective of the on goings. As you get right to the bottom you start to see bars, showing the Sanatoriums darker secrets as it is actually more of a prison then anything else. The book itself is based on slavery so I used this as my reasoning as for why the man is being moved down the ‘hospital’, it is because of his race instead of whether he is ill or not. As a result of this I decided to stick racial slurs right at the bottom of the staircase.