"Growing up, I have had frequent occurences of the déjà vu phenemenon, but didn't quite know why I experience it; I have always found it fascinating and sometimes a little weird. As I was brainstorming and selecting topics for my research, I had another déjà vu occurence and thought that it would be an interesting topic to take on and hopefully understand about this phenomenon for personal interest and knowledge. Thus, decided that my year long project would be on the déjà vu phenomenon."

Familiar Peculiarity

Familiar Peculiarity

Familiar Peculiarity is my thesis project that is inspired by my personal experiences of the Déjà Vu phenomenon. This self-reflective project explores a scientific study and translates it into an artistic and emotional form through digital and print mediums. Deciding to take on an intangible topic, embracing 'not knowing' became the sole driving force for the exploration and development of the research project which the final print and digital deliverables are documented and packaged as a handcrafted, coptic stitched bounded book.


Research, Copywriting, Brand Identity, 3D Modelling, Illustration, Book Binding, Photography


Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, SketchUp, Watercolour


I first began the research by conducting visual research, which I decided to artistically express the emotions and scenes of my déjà vu occurrences in both states—dream and reality—through the use of watercolour and illustrations (see next section). Along with conducting academic research and literature reviews, it was a straightforward process to find out more on the topics for knowledge purposes. However, the challenge began when I had to apply my research of this intangible subject to develop and design a potentially tactile product.

Visual Research

My visual research, also referred to the visual essay, is a postcard series that convey the feelings associated with my déjà vu occurences through an abstract visualisation of select personal déjà vu experiences. 

The abstraction of various colours versus the black and greys reflects the two environments required for my déjà vu experiences to occur. The black and greys represents the dream environment while the colours represents reality. The illustrations on each postcard are the moments that indicate what I had experienced in reality is exactly how I saw, heard or felt in a dream. These snippets of a moment(s) is the shared connection between my dream and reality.

Discovering how well the approach of visually conveying the déjà vu phenomenon—using watercolour and illustrations—greatly aided and inspired the artistic direction for my final deliverables of my thesis. 


What is déjà vu? And how can we create an engaging interactive experience through the use of different mediums to not only stimulate and understanding, but also stimulate the experience to create the feeling of this phenomenon to the familiar and unfamiliar?

Having conducted both academic research (literature review) and visual research, I concluded that the approach to my chosen topic of déjà vu was one that would be shared through an engaging and visual experience. Not one that uses academic or scientific jargon because I decided to focus on recreating the peculiar feeling that one feels when they experience the déjà vu phenomenon. It is a feeling that can't be translated into words and printed on paper. It is an unexplainable feeling that may vary for each individual, thus I concluded that to get a better understanding of this phenomenon it is important to experience for oneself in order for an individual to conclude their own conclusion of the peculiar familiarity that the déjà vu phenomenon gives. 


To answer my research question, I concluded that the best way to help someone understand a topic is for an individual to experience it themselves. Due to the intangible and personal experience that the déjà vu phenomenon encompasses, I wanted to build a space that would allow people to experience the step-by-step process of the déjà vu phenomenon beginning from the dream stage to the moment one says "déjà vu". Along with designing a visual identity, I concluded that there are 2 main components for the project deliverables: 3D render of the exhibit space, and a printed memorabilia piece. The final project deliverables along with my visual and academic research and process of the year-long journey are documented and presented in a hand-bound coptic book. 


The Exhibition Identity

This compact brand identity is designed for the 'Familiar Peculiarity Exhibit' that is developed upon the tagline PUT TOGETHER but WEiRd. All of my design decisions from designing the logotype, selecting typefaces and the colour palette, to the incporation of visual elements, are based on the 4-word tagline. This tagline does not only sum up the entire brand identity but it is also a reflection of my thesis project. The "weird" intangible topic of the déjà vu phenomenon of my thesis project is "put together" as a conceptual rendered space, and a tangible print piece (this is seen in the two deliverable component of this project).


It's a glitch.
It is sudden.
Split second episode.
A short snippet.
A dream been replayed.
It's exact or irregular.

We know it as déjà vu.


Deliverable 01: Familiar Peculiarity Exhibit

The exhibit is a sequential walkthrough of the déja vu phenomenon. Having spoken to a number of people, I realised that not everyone knows what is the déja vu phenomenon, they are familiar with déja vus but do not experience it themselves, or they know and experience déja vu but don't have the right words to describe and explain what it exactly is. Thus, designing a physical space that allow people who are familiar or unfamiliar and/or people do knows or do not know about this phenomenon, will give a better understanding about déja vu through personal experience. Because déja vu is a phenomenon that is partly based on feeling, I wanted to create a space that could stimulate a scenario to let people feel a certain way. 

There are 2 components to this first deliverable: the 3D space and the visual content of the mock exhibit.


The exhibit space is designed to reflect the sequential stages of the déjà vu phenomenon. Having spoken to a few people who frequently experiences the déjà vu phenomenon, also based on my own experiences, the common pattern of the déjà vu phenomenon begins with a dream, and at any random given day and/or time one would feel that their current moment is exactly what they felt, saw or heard in the dream they had.

This architectural representation of the déja vu phenomenon as a physical space first welcome visitors at the Information Desk (Section 00) that also regulates the flow of people entering the experiential space. Visitors are then taken into the Dream Stage Projection (Section 01) is a projection penetrating layers of translucent materials, where visitors begin to experience the first stage to a déja vu occuring as a dream. The Mundane Tunnel Projection (Section 02) is the second stage is a 360 projection tunnel where visitors get to realise and say déja vu. This would be that random moment one realises that they have felt, saw or heard in a past dream. Lastly, the Information Installation (Section 03) concludes the exhibit with research and fun facts about the déja vu phenomenon. Here visitors will be able to receive a take home piece which is deliverable 02 of this research project.


It's not an academic or scientific study.
It's a visual experience.
It's weird.
It's meant to be felt and seen.
It may be relatable.
It's peculiar.
It's familiar.
It's déjà vu.


The visual content was researched and planned specifically for Section 01 and Section 02 seen the exhibition space diagram. In order to recreate and stimulate the déja vu phenomenon as closely to an actual occurence in regards to what and how you see and feel, it was important find the best suitable medium and method to present content for the first 2 sections of the exhibit. 

The déja vu dreams that one gets is like when a ray of light flickers through a small opening and an image is projected onto a large empty area of nothingness. At every single glance, the flickering of this light are snippets or frames of nonsensical imagery that lasts between 1 to 5 seconds. I realised that the visibility of these snippets of nonsensical imagery is quite reliant on light. Thus, the method of presentation that was most suited to mimic a dream is projection of imagery through layers of soft translucent material. Using the method of projection, I would be able to control how the imagery will be projected and determine the surface that would create a dreamlike effect.

"Light is the medium and catalyst that reveals content, the hidden message, and realisation you don't see at first glance."


Deliverable 02: Known Peculiarity Card

I worked together and commissioned Paperhouse Studio to create this custom postcard watermarked paper for this portion of my deliverable I chose to call, Known Peculiarity. This component is an extension of the exhibit. If the exhibit were to be an actuality, visitors of the Familiar Peculiarity Exhibit would be given this card with a custom illustrated watermark. The illustrated watermark on the postcard is a moment (may it be an image or sound) that is seen in both the dream and reality. It is the highlight indicator of what one is experiencing in that moment of reality had been dreamt before, thus déjà vu.


Final Project Deliverable: When Someone Reads This

'When someone reads this' is my thesis book that documents the whole journey of the year long project and encompasses the final design solution to my research proposed research question. You may find the first stages of visual research, in depth academic research, design inspirations/moodboards, to the development and final presentation of digital renderings of the 3D exhibit, and print pieces of the project deliverable in this book.

Similar to déjà vu, the title is not meant to be understood at a first glance. It will make sense once you have seen and/or experienced it in context.


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Livia Widjaja

Last updated September 2019

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