From Fear To Form

2014 Industrial Design Senior Thesis

Matthew Lew
Portfolio Process
Published in
5 min readMar 16, 2015


I have a fear of balloons:

  1. Because they cause static electricity when rubbed upon, and
  2. Because they pop.

Of course the best way to get over your fear blow up some balloons, rub them on your head, and spray them with black aerosol cans.

Introducing Fear

Four industrial design seniors came to me — an ambitious group. A bit confused and a little unsettled. They were in charge of creating and running the CCA Industrial Design Senior Show in May of 2014. An identity campaign was needed to promote this year’s show; last year, the thesis word was comfort, and the previous class got away with designing a poster with a beer keg on it.

And this year’s thesis word was: fear. How could fear be represented without the clichés of Halloween ghosts and ghouls? I kept thinking about the unknown — a black hole, a void.

The materials I settled on were black spray paint and white balloons. The balloon is under pressure — the boiling temperature of fear expands. Using spray paint directly relates to the medium of choice when it comes to painting prototypes. The spray paint is flat, while the balloon takes up volume. 2d sketching to 3d form.



I looked for graphic visual elements with strong contrast and simple forms.

Bold + Abstract Form.

I started off with a bag of white latex balloons from Party City and blew them up to smaller-than-normal size. I created cut-out stencils of geometric shapes — triangles, pentagons, and circles to create spray patterns. Although the shapes are basic, they represent vast prototypes of ideas, and only a few are used in the end.

Using spray paint for the geometric markings allowed the balloon to manipulate the visual surface of the balloon. But early on, I learned that spraypaint’s acidic chemicals eats away the plastic. My photoshoots were short-lived.

The balloon’s black shapes were made to look like camouflage, but distinct enough to add visual depth to the composition.


The first posters were typographically driven, with the title starting off as Collective Futures. After several weeks, it switched to Next And Noteworthy. These titles kept switching as the clients were not satisfied with them. These posters had a simplified color scheme to mimic offset printing.



Four 18"x 24" were created with different pastel image backgrounds. Each color represented the four major categories of industrial design projects: play, home, health, and education.


Along the outside walls of the venue, I created a continuous ombré strip of the poster. The pastel colors would contrast well with the black exterior walls.

Email GIF

To promote the email campaigns, I created a simple email GIF to compliment the invitations.


The clients wanted visuals on a large screen to fill the atmosphere with the visual identity.


These 4"x6" postcards were sent to prospective employers in the Bay Area. All the information from the poster was translated into a smaller form.

So the final question: was I able to get over my fear? Let’s just say that I’ll always be willing to use balloons in my work. Just not balloon animals.



Matthew Lew
Portfolio Process

Design Infrastructure @DoorDash . Previously @GametimeUnited @Medium & @Eventbrite . I go to way too many concerts. 🏳️‍🌈 Love Brutalism.