re[visualizing] sound

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In the words of Robert Bringhurst: “writing is the solid form of language.” In addition to capturing the human language, designers and typographers also face the challenge of documenting other sounds, such as music and the language of animals. How do designers visually capture these other heard experiences in a meaningful way? In this presentation, I would explore various examples of codified systems that visually display sound with the use of typographic forms and symbols. One example is a design that I created for Oceans Initiative, where the visuals were created by playing a whale song into a cymatic visualizer – and while at first glance the poster appears to be abstract, in reality each form corresponds to a different musical note. Throughout history humans have found many ways of visually documenting sound. While this is primarily done through the use of letterforms, many other visualizations are common. One example is the musical score, which is a very accurate portrayal of sound, as it takes into consideration the loudness, length, and tone of sound. And yet in the realm of design there is often there is a disconnect between the sounds we hear and the designs we see. Warren Lehrer was among a handful of artists and designers to break ground in this area. Lehrer, in his piece “French Fries,” experimented with how to convey multiple voices in a book design by assigning each character their own typeface. More recently, many artists and designers use data collection systems to record accurate data and produce beautiful works of data visualization.