Horizontal key visual / graphic only

Horizontal key visual / graphic only

Individual author maps 1/3

Individual author maps 1/3

Individual author maps 2/3

Individual author maps 2/3

Individual author maps 3/3

Individual author maps 3/3

We have been commis­sioned by one/one and Boris Müller to create the visual iden­tity for the poetry fest­ival Poetry On The Road which is held every year in Bremen, Germany.

The words of all literary works which were presented at the fest­ival form the basis of a compu­ta­tion­ally gener­ated key visual used across different media and formats. Thousands of words in four languages have been placed on a map using Yahoo’s geocoding service. The resulting points are then recon­nected to form a graph­ical map of a fictional poetic landscape.

We have created two versions of the visual. One version is based on a vertical Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion map for use in the poster, a second version is based on the Albers Equal-Area projec­tion for all hori­zontal formats, such as the website or projec­tions during the fest­ival. In addi­tion to these two formats, the compu­ta­tional process allowed us to generate maps for each single author, with every map being an abstract visual iden­tity of its submitted works.

The commis­sion was meant to continue a much respected series of more than 10 years of work in which the basic prin­ciple remains the same: all works which are presented at the fest­ival must be repres­ented in the key visual in some form. The literary works provide the ›data‹ for an abstract illus­tra­tion and thus the frame­work for a proced­ural design process. In its 14th iter­a­tion in June 2013, Poetry On The Road presented works of 25 authors from 15 coun­tries in 4 languages.

Process

Lemmata distribution study

Lemmata distri­bu­tion study

Lemmata distribution study / work gradients

Lemmata distri­bu­tion study / work gradients

Lemmata distribution study / work gradients

Lemmata distri­bu­tion study / work gradients

Geocoding

Geocoding

Early voronoi map study with geocoded lemmata

Early voronoi map study with geocoded lemmata

Map & SVG gradient study

Map & SVG gradient study

Map & SVG patterns study

Map & SVG patterns study

Given that natural language processing, visu­al­isa­tion and exper­i­ment­a­tion with liter­ature is one of our many interests, we have decided to approach the project from a data visu­al­iz­a­tion perspective.

We were espe­cially inter­ested in how word occur­rances vary between the works, a method that was inspired by stylo­metric research of one of our collab­or­ators in the TransVis project: Jan Rybicki. Together with his team, Jan basic­ally develops stat­ist­ical methods that allow the iden­ti­fic­a­tion of authors in arbit­rary collec­tions of books. His research on author finger­prints provided the starting point to our approach.

A second interest during the design process origin­ated from our fascin­a­tion with maps. We were fascin­ated by the idea to create a spacial rela­tion­ship between the words through data­bases of place­names. Every time we search Google Maps for a place, such a rela­tion­ship is estab­lished. But what happens if the search term is a single word in a literary work as opposed to the name of a busi­ness or known location?

To follow this idea we have first lemmat­ised all words to norm­alise their count­less vari­ations. All lemmata were then geocoded using the Yahoo geocoding API. Interestingly, the resulting map showed a nice distri­bu­tion across the world but with clear foci in Europe and the Americas. Whether this is the result of the bias in the place­names data­base or the actual correl­a­tion between the language and areas of its cultural influ­ence remains open. But the resulting distri­bu­tion was a good basis for the next steps.

In the visual design phase, we have moved away from familiar map displays due to the fact that one of the many require­ments for the key visual was a clearly abstract form. Based on the exchange with the client, we have moved away from our exper­i­ments on the use of patterns and maps and looked into other ways of creating shapes from a collec­tion of dots on a map. We finally decided on the creation of contours shapes, which are a known visual element in topo­graph­ical maps. This enabled us to keep a map-like formal language while not displaying an actual map, but rather the shapes resulting from isoline-based terrain gener­a­tion process. We based the actual imple­ment­a­tion on onformative’s excel­lent example of how to use a blob detec­tion algorithm to create contour lines. With some minor tweaks and manual correc­tions we were then able to output the terrain graphics to PDF using Processing. In a final step we have added multiple dashed lines on top of the terrain as a visual refer­ence to mapping grids.