Melanie Wang  *  UX | visual design

“Things, bridges + towers”
Drawing patterns and structure from text

"Things, bridges + towers" is an experiment in mapping grammatical patterns in literature to visual patterns. By treating words as data, it explores whether changes in syntax coincide with the pacing of the plot. This project was created for my thesis for the Master in Design program at the University of Washington School of Art. It grew from an interest in books, data visualization, and generative design.

The project consists of a computer program that allows the user to select one of five books to visualize, the pattern to apply, and the parts of speech to highlight. 

From the computer program I generated patterns representing each of the five books in their entirety which were incorporated into posters. The project was shown in the University of Washington School of Art Master of Fine Arts and Master of Design Thesis exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery.

There are three main patterns: dots, lines, and blocks. In each pattern, the words of the book are represented as a circle, a point on a line, or a block. The size of the circles and the orientation of the line or block represent the clause structure in each sentence. The color of the circle or block indicates the part of speech.

Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road. This is a close of the entire novel represented by lines. Line length indicates the number of the words in the sentence, and plateaus indicate dependent clauses.

I wrote this program in the Processing computer language, using novels that I parsed with a program developed by the Stanford Natural Language Processing Group. The title of the project, “Things, Bridges + Towers,” is a reference to the novel Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov.