The Cinematic Mirror  

Christian Faria

Research Questions

1. What is the relationship between trends in Hollywood films and contemporary issues?

2. How is society shaped by cinema?

3. How does film respond to the changing needs or issues of audiences?


Connie Hwang, SJSU Graphic Design Professor
Primary Advisor

Chang Sik Kim, SJSU Graphic Design Professor
Secondary Advisor

Drew Todd, SJSU Radio-Television-Film Lecturer
Tertiary Advisor


Film is perhaps the most widely popular form of entertainment and art that exists. Throughout the history of Hollywood cinema there have been massive shifts in the way movies are made, different styles of film, and the content of popular or culturally significant films. Trends in Hollywood are significant, because they occur based on what mass audiences’ preferences are. Because film is such a popular medium, it can reveal to us the challenges, fears, desires, and issues of our time.

Through this project, I intend to draw parallels between current and historical socioeconomic issues and the trends that occur in Hollywood cinema. By making these connections between reality and entertainment or art, this raises the question of the relationship

between the art of film and real-world issues. By analyzing the historical context of when films were released and the current social or economic issues at the time, we can begin to understand what film’s role is in society beyond entertainment.

In my thesis project, I examine how popular trends we see in film in terms of genre and themes act as a mirror of the issues that their audiences are facing in reality. Furthermore, I examine how film not only reflects contemporary issues facing the world, but how film can help shape public perception of these issues. This is conveyed through an interactive infographic design for desktop, created using Adobe XD.
Moodboard, Sketches, and Early Designs

Determining Topic Range

Through my research, I arrived at the conclusion and the need to limit the range of the subject matter. Rather than focusing on how film changed with the times and public values over the years, I would dive deep into a single time period. I landed on the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center as a significant event in modern history that would frame my entire thesis. This would serve as the centerpiece that would inform my deeper research and my final outcome.


Based on my inspiration I gathered, I tried different ways I may have users interact with and discover information in the interaction design. One direction was to emulate the moviegoing experience and use the curved movie screen as a window for the information. Another concept was to have two “timelines” of real events/issues and films and how they connect or relate. I was also considering how things may change as the user interacts with the design such as a blurring effect or scale changes

Flowchart of interaction narrative


To guide users through this information, I created a narrative that makes the subject and information more digestible. By organizing the order of content, the different depths of information, and the details of the content itself, I created a narrative that would have a logical flow from screen to screen. The narrative takes users on an interactive journey from before 9/11 to after to create a greater understanding of the effects film can have on how our emotional response to real issues.

Design Concept

For the final design, the concept was to guide users through a narrative exploring different responses to real events and how those responses are reflected through film. The colors are muted and a sans-serif typeface is used to convey the serious tone of the subject matter, while the dynamic motions and use of sound add a playful and exciting element.

Motion and Sound

Motion is what makes film the medium that it is. Film is a series of moving images used to tell a story. To best represent the medium of film, smooth motion and transitions was a major consideration.

In the interaction, the circle acts as a “lens”through which content is viewed and the user is guided through the narrative. This constantly moving element makes for a more dynamic way to discover information. 

Sound is a fundamental part of the cinematic experience. Throughout the interaction, users interact with information about different films, and for each of those films, the score from the film will play to set the tone for the content.

“Cinema is a mirror by which we often see ourselves.”

- Alejandro González Iñárrit

Overview of screens


With my thesis, I wanted to create a greater understanding of how deep our relationship with media and film can be. Film can reveal so much about ourselves and can create powerful emotional responses. Much like a tragic moment in time, film is something that can leave an impact long after it ends.
This interaction design is an experiment in not only

finding the connections film can have to reality, but in discovering for ourselves the profound ways film can show us answers and understanding. With this project, I hope to encourage people to find comfort and understanding in film, because it can often help us through the most challenging times

Try the interactive prototype at:

  2020 timeiswhatyoumakeofit