Transparency: Past/Present/Future

Heather Snyder Quinn

Past/Present/Future, sample spreads
Present, sample spread
Future, sample spread
Fact/Fiction Glossary, sample spread
Augmented reality, sample spread


Researched, written, and designed as part of a body of MFA thesis work, Transparency is a trilogy of the past, present, future. An experimental publication (book) of interactive fiction and speculative design, the text engages the reader with hidden, multilayered narratives via codes and augmented reality. The work demonstrates the ethical implications of emerging technology on society with character-driven stories, but pivots to showcase ingenious methods of creative obfuscation in a speculated future. These methods are both broad and deep and illuminate humanity’s primal desire to protect our privacy with designed solutions. Lastly, there is a large glossary of both real and made-up terms related to the text. Amidst the glossary of terms is a scattering of humorous and philosophical text messages—providing a commentary on society today. 


Throughout history, humans have always necessitated methods for hiding their secrets and maintaining their privacy. Their methods of concealment, however, have evolved with time, culture, and available technologies. Despite more advanced technologies and even the utmost diligence, no secret is ever totally safe—unless kept in the depths of one’s mind. However, a speculated future indicates that not even our thoughts are secure: we are on the cusp of the invasion of the privacy of our minds and the implantation and altering of our memories. In the past, we obfuscated physically with materials—primarily using cryptography and steganography—through redaction, the wearing of masks, and the hiding of physical objects. In the present, we obfuscate digitally with false personas, filters, altered data, and encrypted messaging. In the future, I use design fiction to speculate that we will be internally surveilled—to the very root of our DNA. As a result, we will obfuscate our bodies—our physical and emotional states. Analysis of our methods of secrecy within the silos of past, present, and future, allows for a deeper understanding of our evolving human boundaries. In the present day, we struggle to understand technology’s power on the fabric of our lives. If we look ahead 100 years, what are the ethical considerations of new technologies like ambient and intimate computing, AI, AR, digital fabrication, the blockchain, and IoT? If we imagine the collapse of democracy and a future society lived in a panoptic spectacle, how would we navigate our lives? 

Future section (stories)

Memory Engrams—Temporary Mind Eraser

Anti-Surveillance Mask for Authentic Relationships

Confusing the Biometric Scanner

Identity Replacement Technology

Using Automation Against Itself

Invisibility Cloak Hyper Stealth Biotechnology

The Mommy Makeover—Utter Augmentation

Cloaking Medication—Disguising Emotions

Tricking the Smart Toilet

Teleportation Escape

Hovering in the Blockchain

Interstellar Coded Message Response from Outer Space

Notes on the design and typefaces:

The book is encased in a holographic cover detailed with the geolocations of the author’s former homes. The mirrored cover forces the reader to look upon themselves when opening. Over time the cover becomes scratched up, much like the screen of an iPhone. The book is designed as a visual and structural trilogy with frameworks relevant to each associated time. As a whole, the text is formatted to represent the RGB color system and our obsession with screens. The past is depicted with green (G) and encased in a traditional book format, and uses a physically redacted typeface. The present is illuminated with hyperlink blue (B), with content constrained to the proportions of a Smartphone, and uses a digitally camouflaged/reCAPTCHA style typeface. The future is rendered in infrared (R), with a 360view format and uses a noise typeface. All sections of the book utilize various forms of interaction—from scannable barcodes and QR codes to augmented reality. Some AR samples are available to view on Vimeo.


Typefaces (partial list)

ZXX is a typeface that cannot be read by machine learning

Project Seen is a typeface that redacts words that put you on an NSA watchlist

I am not a Robot is a reCAPTCHA styled typeface designed by the author and is collected from various anti-bot logins


Gas Ink Press 

Designer and Author
Heather Snyder Quinn