Stage 1: Research:

This project started with simple research on the idea of liminality. To be honest, at the very beginning of it all, I was confused at what it really meant and how would this relate or even be something that could be designed. The research I did on the topic has helped tremendously. If I were to describe what “liminality” is, I would probably say it’s a gray state or middle state. The middle state technically references a state that is different from the initial and final, in which participants no longer hold their initial state, but have not yet started the transition to the complete stage.

The definition might be very confusing at the beginning, but as soon as I started writing down a list related to what liminality could mean, the confusion has cleared out, and the idea made a lot more sense. Here’s my little list:

Ambiguous | Disoriented | In-between | Distorted| Disconnected| Disassociated | Abstract | Void? | Dissolved | Reversed | Malleable | Motion| Movement | Floating | Fluid | Threshold | Time | Transition | Change | Destruction | New identity | Metaphorical

Both Arnold Van Gennep, who coined the term “Liminality” and Victor Turner sort of agreed that during liminality, you basically stand at the threshold, which is a state between your previous way of structuring, your identity, time, or community, and a new way which completes the rite of passage.

  • Liminality creates a state where hierarchy may be reversed or temporarily dissolved. When this happens, it creates a fluid malleable situation that enables new institutions to become established.

The research delves more into what both Gennep and Turner thought of liminality, and it just helped a lot as a starting point.

After researching the term we were asked to put together 10 mood boards on things we thought related to the topic. I didn’t have a particular direction when I curated the moodboards. I just generally researched liminality and then curated a number of random moodboards (they might be random, but they helped me a lot later to decide my approach to the subject.) I noticed that most of my images had 2 colors which were the most dominant throughout all 10 moodboards. Some designs in the images were based on motion, coding, and the impression of ambiguity (this was one of the words I had in the little list of keywords I mentioned previously)

My 11 moodboards. Some of the posters were designed using code, motion, and some were photographs. I also included a couple of my own personal sketches and photographs in the last 2 pages)

Stage 2: Experimentation:

Besides the moodboards and the general research, we were asked to experiment with a number of different tools. One of these tools was P5.js, which I thought was so cool, and I almost ended up taking this approach for my final project, but these sketches were definitely an inspiration to the final direction I decided to take. We were basically asked to create 10 sketches in total using P5.js, here’s what I ended up with:

These little experiments were a good start, and even following Zach Liberman on Instagram seeing his amazing open framework, definitely helped me build some ideas for what I wanted to do.


I finally decided to base my entire project on Anxiety. To me, anxiety is definitely a liminal state, where while you’re going through it, you feel like you’re trapped in another world. A distorted, disoriented, and messy world. At least to me, that’s how it feels. Before spring break, I sat down for like an hour to sketch a bunch of ideas, where I could apply both AR and motion in one project that basically illustrates and communicates what I felt about anxiety. This project was supposed to be displayed in the hallways of 808, and so when I created my sketches I was thinking of some sort of installation or a projection. So, interactivity was the basis of the approach I wanted to take. I was set on that and made most of my sketches around the possibility of creating an interactive installation of some sort.

I even took a bunch of photographs as another approach in case the installation never happens (it’s funny because it never actually did)

I was thinking of shadows, ambiguity, and disorientation when I started my random photography session (I used my phone to take these images + a projector):

Using some images and the videos I did for this one particular session, I created a poster:

The poster as both AR and projection:

Poster with AR layer
The same poster as a video projection

I also took a series of other photographs, and edited them on photoshop using the Camera raw filter:


Based on the images above, I created a series of different iterations:

At this point, I was just creating as many ideas as I possibly can, but I was keeping in mind the fact that whatever idea I was going to go for, it will be displayed in the 808 hallways. My number one goal was to create something along the lines of an interactive installation, but I was also open to other options.

COVID-19 and online classes:

The world is currently going through a lot. The Covid-19 is hitting every country and is spreading faster than anyone had anticipated. No one was prepared for this and no one thought that things were going to end up the way they are today. Classes switched from the traditional classes we are all used to and love to online classes, and it all happened suddenly, but it was definitely to protect everybody and ensure everyone’s safety. The change has affected every MFA student, especially considering the fact that we no longer have access to studios, printers, or any of the facilities we need. Not only did it affect students, but it has also affected faculty, and we all had to work together to make this work. Even this project, which was supposed to be displayed in hallways, had switched from what it originally was, to be displayed on Instagram instead. I do not hate this idea at all, despite the restrictions. I believe this is the time for us designers to start utilizing new ways and new tools to hone our skills.

Furthermore, I’m glad I had so many options and experiments to work with. So, I decided to work with the images I had and create something that’s also relevant to the current state that the world is going through right now. I’m sure we’re all experiencing this state of confusion and anxiety, and so it was pretty relevant to stick to anxiety as my subject.

Stage 3: Working on the final design:

Since the project now is to be displayed on Instagram instead, we were asked to create 3 images + AR layers.

Here are my images:

These are abstract images to represent all the conflict, negative emotions, and the stream of thoughts we have when we experience anxiety. I wanted to use my base layer as these images with no reference to anything, to give others the ability to make their own interpretation. We all experience distress and anxiety in different ways, and so that was my intention for leaving my base layer with just these images alone.

AR Layers:

Image 1:

I chose a quote by Arthur Somers Roche, which resonated with me, and basically worked around that with this image.

Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.

The AR layer is composed of 3 layers

  • Layer 1: Contains the stream-like motion, which was created using both PS and AE (i also discovered that there’s a mobile app that can create a similar effect, but you have to pay for it.) Since I can only add 3 layers to my AR with Artivive, I had to also add my film effect on top of this combined in one file. I used Premiere to edit and export the final layers.
  • Layer 2: Sound + particles effect
  • Layer 3: only contains the quote.
Applying AR

Image 2:

Is also composed of three AR layers

  • Layer 1: Glitch effect. I created the effect using photoshop, then exported the file as a video.
  • Layer 2: Glitchy film effect.
  • Layer 3: Typography; this layer was all done using PR
AR layers
Final AR on top of my image

Image 3:

Layer 1: I basically applied the same method I used on image 1 to emulate the motion of a stream (a stream of thoughts)

Layer 2: Includes my typography. I created the motion with AE to move in a way that somehow mimics the motion of my first layer.

The text reads the following quote:

You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.

— Dan Millman

I tested and edited the layers on PR, then exported each individually

AR layers

I like how this turned out regardless of the struggles and all of a sudden changes that had happened. Adapting to the current situation and moving to online learning was indeed hard at the beginning, but it is what it is, and we all have to work around it and find a way to adapt. I honestly fell in love with AR and I do see myself working with these tools again in a future project.

Reem Alsanea | Grad Studio 1

Professor: James Grady

MFA in Graphic Design student at Boston University