7in7 – 05 – Invisible Cities, “Despina”

The Story
People can reach Despina by the sea or the desert. For each option, the city seem different: from the sea it looks like a camel; from the desert, a ship.

1. Sketches
My attention to this chapter was drawn after I read this sentence from the Wikipedia page about Invisible Cities:
“The book is structured around an interlocking pattern of numbered sections, while the length of each section’s title graphically outlines a continuously oscillating sine wave, or perhaps a city skyline.”
That analogy seemed to fit perfectly the city’s concept. Also, it would give me a chance to work on a visualization about the book structure. So I started to look for this pattern in the titles. The weird thing is that the american titles really seem to draw this curve — except for a slight detour in “Continuous Cities”. But, if that was in fact Calvino’s idea, why don’t the italian titles show the same pattern?

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 3.30.28 AM Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 3.30.25 AM

I also tried to look for it retaining only the themes (“memory”, “desire” etc) instead of the whole title (“Cities and Memory”, “Cities and Desire” etc). It didn’t work either.
At last, it seemed to be even more appropriate for a story. People see patterns everywhere, and they they usually have more connections to their own thoughts than to the object itself.
My idea then was to visualize the book structure as an abstract pattern, pretty much like Stefanie Posavec‘s works once again. I decided to make a physical object, because:
– I couldn’t stand coding for 5 days without stop.
– I missed paper and pens.
– One of my constraints was “interaction design”, not “digital design”.

I bought acetate and permanent markers. I knew, yet vaguely, that it would be made of transparent sheets so that the user could change the patterns. I started working on Illustrator, though:

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 5.58.12 PM

In fact, there is a rigorous structure in Calvino’s book that ends up drawing a pattern — though it is not a skyline. I started drawing a sort of abstract bar graph, using different colors and heights to display each chapter and theme.

despina_v2_01-01 despina_v2_02-01 despina_v2_03-01 despina_v2_04-01

2. Prototypes
Finished with the pattern, I started to test how it would work with actual acetate and ink:

IMG_0270 IMG_0280 IMG_0279

I decided to make the keep the sheets separated, instead of using some binding. That would keep a bigger combination of patterns. I drew a grid in my notebook and began painting the bars, using the Illustrator mockup as a guide. I also made an acetate box to make it feel like a single object:

IMG_0307 IMG_0284 IMG_0296 IMG_0292 IMG_0304 IMG_0311

Works fine as photography filters as well!

4. Final
I was happy with the final result. The transparency allows for the combination of different patterns. The colors produce a great effect:

IMG_5228 IMG_5240* IMG_5241* IMG_5282 IMG_5298 IMG_5269 IMG_5303 IMG_5252 IMG_5250 IMG_5248

4. Notes
If I had more time I would design a better box. This one probably won’t last longer.


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