Volume 7, Number 2, 1998

Patently profitable art

When UD fine arts graduate Brigitte L. Brown, AS '88, shows people her work, they do a double take-involuntarily.

Brown, 38, who lives near Lums Pond south of Newark, Del., was recently awarded a U.S. patent for her innovative photo display, which shows two different pictures almost simultaneously.

Her patent is the basis for one of two businesses Brown owns, both related to commercial art. She also is a part-time high school art teacher, and is raising six children.

The invention, Brown says, "is a multi-image display. You see one image when you look at it angled from the left, and a completely different image when you look at it from the right side."

"As you walk past, the image seems to change. It's an optical illusion," she says.

The patent, titled "Multi-item display unit," covers use for all photographs, billboards and light boxes for displays in places like train stations and airports, says Brown, who is now trying to market the device.

"I'd be interested in licensing my patent, maybe to a company like Kodak or Polaroid, and it could be used by a billboard company or a hotel chain for advertising displays," Brown says.

At Delaware, she concentrated on two areas, visual communications and textile/fibers, which primarily involved advertising graphics and clothing design.

"I was thinking of going into a medical field when I first started, but Vera Kaminski [associate professor of art] thought I had an artistic talent that needed to come out. She was my mentor," Brown says.

"And, I did a lot of photography with Prof. Ray Nichols. I love taking creative pictures, using all types of filters, and I love the creative aspects of commercial photography."

Brown didn't waste time building a career once she finished her studies.

Two weeks after graduation, she incorporated as Spectrum Design Studios, doing graphic and advertising design, billboards, brochures, business cards and murals.

"I've painted a few billboards by hand, with latex paints," she says.

She also does computer art and has designed a line of boxes she sells to jewelry stores and galleries.

Another business, started in 1995, is Dimensional Enterprises. That grew out of her now-patented invention, she says.

The inspiration for the photo display arose, strangely enough, out of boredom.

"My studio was clean at the time, which most of the time it isn't. I was bored and needed something to do, so I started folding pieces of paper. I had some photos, so I started cutting them up," she says.

"After seeing the result, I decided to patent it. I thought it was such a good, simple idea that if I didn't patent it, someone else would," she says.

"In making customers' displays, which look from a distance like standard pictures hanging on a wall, all they need to do is give me two photographs. It doesn't matter what size because I digitally enlarge them and give back the originals," Brown says.

Once copied, Brown cuts the photos into strips and laminates them under a polyurethane film mounted on a corrugated surface-one image on the left-facing edges, the other on the right-facing edges.

Brown can put them in frames, for wall mounting, if desired.

"And, they can be made from refrigerator magnet size to billboard size," she says.

Billboards strike her as an excellent application.

With her multi-dimensional display, an advertiser could attract attention from drivers in both directions, doubling the number of people who would see the message.

The two-dimensional signs also would be ideal to advertise hair-replacement centers or weight-loss centers-"anything that involves a before-and-after business," Brown says.

-Phil Milford