Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘data visualization’

07 JUNE, 2010

Color as Data: Visualizing Color Composition


Abstracting glossy magazines, or what pie charts have to do with the Mona Lisa.

We love data visualization and color. So what happens when you apply the former to the latter, visualizing color composition like you would any data set? Today, we look at three projects that take the color composition of familiar cultural artifacts and break it down visually.


Computational artist Mario Klingemann, a.k.a. Quasimondo — who by the way authored the brilliant Peacock pattern generation tool for free Adobe creative suite killer Aviary — combines circle packing with data visualization to visually analyze the color composition of famous artworks in a technique he calls “pie-packing.”

The pie charts represent the distribution of dominant colors within a circle area.


Designer Shahee Ilyas‘ amusingly minimalist deconstruction of country flags by color composition is an absolute treat.

Besides the playful irreverence, the project reveals some curious patterns of color choice, raising even more curious questions about color symbolism. For instance, we couldn’t help noticing the overwhelming dominance of red and white, in almost equal parts — the former traditionally associated with violence and the latter with peace. Food for thought.


Data viz superheroes Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viegas have taken their visualization magic to the world of fashion photography. Their Luscious project distills the color and light of fashion photographs and ads in glossy magazines into abstract compositions.

To create the images in luscious, we began with a series of magazine advertisements for luxury brands. We then used a custom algorithm designed to extract “peak” colors from any picture. A random arrangement of concentric circles fills the plane, representing the essential colors of each region. The resulting image hides context and representation and lets the viewer concentrate on pure color.

By abstracting away content, the project reveals interesting patterns of color choice for specific fashion designers and even entire product categories — from the luxurious reds and blacks of eveningwear to the bold blues of hard liquor to the rich earthy tones of makeup collections.

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28 MAY, 2010

Spam as Art


Flowers from junk, postmodern poetry, and a beautiful way to invite Nigerian scammers into your living room.

Spam. The very use of the word sends most people cringing. (Not to mention its use here pretty much ensures our weekly newsletter won’t reach its recipients this week.) But count on artists to take life’s most cringe-inducing lemons and make beautiful lemonade. Today, we look at three fantastic spam-inspired art projects.


From London-based illustrator Linzie Hunter comes Spam One-Liners — a gorgeous, colorful set of hand-lettering based on spam email subject lines in Linzie’s inbox.

From your usual slew of local chicks, weightloss aids and humorously poor euphemisms for ED to more the more cryptic, let’s-try-to-trick-you-into-opening-this-by-confusing-you efforts, the series is as wildly wonderful as its inspiration is maddeningly annoying.

Much to our delight, Hunter has published the illustrations in Secret Weapon — a collection of 30 terrific hand-painted, spam-inspired postcards that transform junk mail into a kind of postmodern poetry.

Select prints are also available on 20×200. (Which continues to top our list of places to buy affordable art.)


Romanian artist Alex Dragulescu creates “dynamic for the people.” His Spam Plants series consists of incredible generative sculptures based on the text of spam messages.

His work reminds us of binary sculptor Paul Prudence, whom we featured more than two years ago.

See more of Dragulesco’s projects for even more generative fascination.


Instead of sweeping junk mail under their proverbial carpet, design getup ToDo decided to put it on their literal wall. Spamghetto is a gorgeous typographic wallpaper rendered via generative software and completely customizable so it wraps around any objects and shapes on your wall’s surface.

Spamghetto is like a designer Wordle for your junk folder. We’d actually love to get a version based on real, personal emails — how lovely would it be to have emails from your friends and family covering your walls with typographic goodness?

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26 MAY, 2010

LAxNYC: Creative Takes on a Cross-Country Road Trip


Typographic travel, or what 4,129 miles have to do with the new art of lifestreaming.

More than four years ago, before time-lapse had become the exhausted animation cliché it is today, one guy lived every reluctant Los Angelano’s dream of escapism — he spent seven days driving from LA to New York — and compressed it in 4 brilliantly time-lapsed minutes.

Now, two French designers, Minh Anh Vo and Victor Schuft, better-known as PaperCut, are upping the creative ante on this very same premise. Last October, the duo left Los Angeles to move to New York, driving cross-country for two weeks straight. They covered 4,129 miles through 14 states, sending 94 postcards along the way.

Then, they created this beautiful typographically-driven visualization poster about the journey and the locations of the postcards, a neo-map of sorts.

A closer look:

Besides feeding our own dreams of escapism, the project is a wonderfully artful take on the now-familiar lifestreaming-and-personal-data-visualization movement. (Nick Felton, we’re looking at you.) We’d love to see more.

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