Writer and typophile. I feel everything.
I’m an interdisciplinary creative with a passion for words. My interest in both typography and writing can be traced back to a series of stories created at an early age, littered with overzealous Microsoft Word Art. While my taste has evolved considerably since then, my work continues to operate at the intersection of design and creative/critical writing. These days, I’m happiest with my nose in the books. Whether I’m doing academic research, curating content for a project or reading poetry for fun, I’m most at home when I’m learning something new.
How would you describe your design style?
Playful, human, and type-driven.
What is the most useful piece of design advice that you have received?
Making is a way of thinking.
What is your favourite typeface?
Other than design, what creative fields interest you most?
Poetry, fiction writing, and community art
Studies in Visual Poetry
Visual poetry is a discipline in which visual and textual rhetoric interact in complex ways to create meaning. While historically, the discipline has been primarily explored through static, two-dimensional print pieces, I conducted a series of graphic experiments using self-authored poetry to expand the boundaries of the form. I found that the integration of sound, motion and interactivity into visual poetry allowed new types of narrative sequencing and modes of meaning creation to emerge.
My design practice has always been driven by an unwavering love for words. Whether I’m writing my own creative or critical pieces, researching, reading literary fiction and poetry, or lovingly typesetting and designing custom letterforms, words have always been at the fore of what I do. As such, when the time came to develop my thesis project, it was obvious that writing and typography would be integral components.
Understanding Visual Poetry
My initial interest in visual poetry sprang from a piece I had learned about in my second year History of Design course: Guillaume Apollinaire’s iconic il Pleut. Considered to be the first instance of visual poetry, Apollinaire’s piece features stanzas arranged in the shape of falling rain, echoing the ideas in the text itself. I was fascinated by the interplay of poetry and typography, and how simple typographic manipulations could be used to complicate, reinforce, or add meaning to a piece of writing. I began to read feverishly about visual poetry, concrete poetry, and figurative poetry.
Looking for Gaps
The most interesting finding from my research was the intricacy with which meaning is created: visual poetry involves a “network of action, reaction and interaction at the imagistic level [that] is far more complex than normal poetry. Relationships exist (1) between visual and non-visual images (visual-textual) ; (2) between visual images (visual-visual) ; and (3) between non-visual images (textual-textual).”1 My initial research also revealed that historically, visual poetry has almost exclusively been explored in the context of two-dimensional, static printed pieces. However, little to no attention has been paid to how elements such as time, motion, sound, tactility and interactivity might serve as new types of rhetorical devices. For me, this indicated an area rich with opportunity for exploration.
This research happened to coincide with a turbulent time in my personal life. Struggling with worsening Anxiety and Depression, I began to write about my experiences, using them as the inspiration for the poems that I would use as the source material for my graphic experiments. While I hoped to connect with other suffering individuals, writing also served as a way to sort through and make sense of my own experiences.
One of the best pieces of design advice I have ever received is, “making is a way of thinking”. To gain a better understanding of how composition, visual density, repetition, typographic manipulations and more can be used to add meaning to visual poetry, I created a short printed anthology using my own poetry. I hoped that this process would help me understand the history of static visual poetry better, and would serve to inform my future forays into motion and interactive poetry.
View the anthology here.
My next experimentations focused on how environment might be used as a rhetorical device in visual poetry. Drawing on an essay by Kenneth Goldsmith where he describes contemporary visual poetry as “influenced…but the compressed language of twitter,”2 I decided to source the content for these experiments from Melissa Broder’s twitter account, @sosadtoday. This seemed appropriate as Broder is a poet who primarily talks about issues surrounding mental health. I selected a few tweets from Broder’s page, projected them into various spaces, and then photographed the results.
Next, I translated my ten poems from my initial print anthology into a series of motion shorts with sound (a sort of “motion anthology”). While attempting to make static poems dynamic, I found that many of the same principles were true in motion as in print: rhythm and tone could still be created through repetition, tracking, leading, visual density, spacing and other simple typographic manipulations. However, the ability to “chunk” sequences of information, affect speed, change/revert elements, and move elements across the composition added further opportunities for exploration.
My final explorations revolved around using aspects of the web to establish rhetorical devices in visual poetry. I looked specifically at elements such as scrolling, layering and simple hover interactions to focus the scope of these investigations. I found that the ability to move through a sequence by scrolling, as well as the ability to hide or show information at certain times presented opportunities to create more interesting and complex narratives. The positioning of elements also had interesting implications, as images and text could form temporary relationships or dialogues as they became visible on screen.
Although all of my experiments in visual poetry presented interesting routes for further exploration, I was most excited by the possibility of creating an interactive poetry anthology on the web. I gradually began curating a selection of my poems to translate into interactive pieces, and developed the code with which I would animate the text.
Creating an Interactive Visual Poetry Anthology
Inspired by my personal struggle with mental health, the final anthology acts as a portal into my inner world during this turbulent time in my personal life. “things i thought when my thoughts thought without me” or thingsithought.today, is a collection of eleven fully immersive poems that incorporate collage, bizarre gifs, hover interactions, and animated typography. As the user scrolls, they progress through each poem and its associated imagery, allowing complicated and ever-shifting relationships to form between text and image. Furthermore, ambient sound plays throughout each poem, acting as a sort of auditory “diction” that sets a mood or implies a specific setting for each piece. The result is a fully immersive poetic experience which has begun the process of unpacking interaction and motion as visual rhetorical devices in visual poetry.
View the anthology now at thingsithought.today
1. Apollinaire, Guillaume. il Pleut. 1918. In Apollinaire’s Lyrical Ideograms. London: Gaberbocchus, 1968.
2. Willard Bohn, “Metaphor and Metonymy in Apollinaire’s Calligrams,” Willard Romanic Review 2, no. 72 (March 1, 1981): 181, accessed September 27, 2016, ProQuest.
3. Victoria Bean et al., The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century (London, UK: Hayward Publishing), 12.