Colouring Calvino

Posted by on Dec 5, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments


Recently, I’ve been discussing with a friend the role of colour in communication and emotion, spurred on by a project idea she’s had for some time. Questions of how these might be applied in our day-to-day interactions with devices that have, in many ways, become desaturated with modern industrial design standards, permeate the conversations. Earlier today, a Chromatic Typewriter has been making the social media rounds, and I frankly loved it. The idea of mapping existing systems of interaction (namely, that of our relationship with the qwerty keyboard) onto something as unrelated as a chromatic gradient, is charming, fun, and interesting.

So I decided to see what I could do with that idea. Calvino’s Invisible Cities is an important book for me. It served as the first book in my CityLens.es project, and is one that I am re-reading as I complete my graduate school applications. But I wanted to see what colours and patterns it might describe. Giving myself a time limit of about 30-ish minutes, I quickly wrote a sketch in processing which took the entirety of Calvino’s work, and sketched it out on the screen.

I used the below radial chromatic scale, and programatically overlaid a qwerty keyboard on top, sampling pixels according to their relative position on a keyboard to the below image.

From this, I then assigned each character in Calvino’s work its appropriate colour, and output the map at the top of this post. It’s interesting to see some of the patterns, and the preponderance of reddish, or right handed colours. The odd streaks of orange are another thing I can’t immediately explain, but I’m looking forward to continuing this line of investigation. Though nothing new, the code is easily repurposed to any image and any block of text, and is available on my Github account.