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hitchslap: beautiful


The Outbreak Poems — artistic emissions in a pandemic


visualization + design

Christopher Hitchens—Out of Letters

ASCII Art

The images shown here were created as part of my ASCII Art project, which extends ASCII art to include

  • proportionally spaced fonts
  • a variety of font weights in a single image
  • both tone and structure of the image to select characters
  • fixed strings to render an image in legible text

Applying the code to images of Hitchens was motivated by my own deep love of Hitchens and a typographic portrait of Christopher Hitchens, created out of Gill Sans letters by Miles Chic at Capilano University.

This adds to my growing shrines to Hitchens, including Merry Hitchmas! and hitchslap t-shirts.

Christopher Hitchens in Letters and Words

All images are generated using Gotham, with up to 8 weights (Extra Light to Ultra). Each image includes size and characters used for the image. I give the absolute type size, though only useful to know in relative terms to the size of the image and other images drawn with the same method. The color of text in each layer is the same—black— but font weight may vary.

Some images are generated using more than one layer of ASCII. In some cases the characters used in each layer are different.

basic ascii

As the font size is reduced, greater detail and contrast can be achieved.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 43pt set: . x 8 : * @ - \ | _space_ / (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 29pt set: . x 8 : * @ - \ | _space_ / (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 17pt set: . x 8 : * @ - \ | _space_ / (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: . x 8 : * @ - \ | _space_ / (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)

By setting the image with a fixed string, such as a short quote or longer body of text, detail is lost but the ASCII representation takes on more meaning.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: godisnotgreat (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 29pt set: godisnotgreat (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: Hitchslap 11 (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 5 layers (11pt -6deg, 17pt 6deg, 29pt -3deg, 43pt 3deg, 59pt 0deg) set: godisnotgreat (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 7pt set: . x 8 : * @ - \ | _space_ / (source from Gasper Tringale) (zoom, source)

multi-layered ascii art

Images take on detail when multiple rotated layers of text is used. Each of the images below is composed of more than one layer, starting with a 2-layer image which uses the uppercase alphabet at 0 and 90 degrees.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers (0deg, 90deg) set: A-Z (source from HBO) (zoom, source)

Meaning can be added to the image by using different text in each layer. In the examples below, I set the same image using the pair "Godisnotgreat" (at 0 degrees) and "religionpoisonseverything" (at 90 degrees). In the second example, I use the unlikely combination of "Jesus" and "Mohammad"—inspired by Jesus and Mo.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: Godisnotgreat. 0deg Relionpoisonseverything. 90deg (source from HBO) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: Jesus 0deg Mohammad 90deg (source from HBO) (zoom, source)

When rotated layers contain punctuation, very high level of detail can be achieved.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: . : - + * _space_ 0deg / 90deg (zoom, source)

The image below is made out of layers that contain only forward (/) and back (\) slashes.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: \ / (zoom, source)

The image below is made using only the period character in three layers rotated at -45, 0 and 45 degrees. Although the image looks like a pixelated version of the original—it is more than that. It is a typeset representation that uses 8 weights of Gotham. Character spacing between periods is informed by font metrics.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: . (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: 8 X x | ^ : . - = + ' " @ \ / | * ~ , # (source from The Australian) (zoom, source)

hitchens at the podium

The three images below show the difference between using a variety of punctuation characters and setting an image using a block of text. The first image uses "8 X x" and common punctuation.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: 8 X x | ^ : . - = + ' " @ \ / | * ~ , # (zoom, source)

I use hitchslap 9 for the first image below, and all the hitchslaps for the second image. When setting an image in using a block of text, the choice of character at any position is fixed and only the font weight is allowed to vary. When the text is relatively short (e.g. hitchslap 9 is 544 characters and is repeated 50 times in the image), rivers of space appear in the image.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: Hitchslap 9 (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: all Hitchslaps (zoom, source)

In both cases, the image is very recognizable.

recursive ascii art

When an image of text is set with the text itself, you have recursive ASCII art. Below is hitchslap 2, set with itself. In the image, the font is Gotham and the text used to asciify the image is also Gotham.

It makes ordinary moral people, compels them, forces them, in some cases orders them do disgusting wicked unforgivable things. There's no expiation for the generations of misery and suffering that religion has inflicted in this way and continues to inflict. And I still haven't heard enough apology for it. — Christopher Hitchens

The quote is 307 characters long and is repeated 391 times in the image.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: Hitchslap 2 (source from hitchslap 2) (zoom, source)

In principle, the process of asciifying text with text can be repeated, by using the asciified image as input for asciification with progressively smaller text.

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news + thoughts

Cover of Nature Genetics August 2020

Mon 03-08-2020

Our design on the cover of Nature Genetics's August 2020 issue is “Dichotomy of Chromatin in Color” . Thanks to Dr. Andy Mungall for suggesting this terrific title.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Dichotomy of Chromatin in Color. Nature Genetics, August 2020 issue. (read more)

The cover design accompanies our report in the issue Gagliardi, A., Porter, V.L., Zong, Z. et al. (2020) Analysis of Ugandan cervical carcinomas identifies human papillomavirus clade–specific epigenome and transcriptome landscapes. Nature Genetics 52:800–810.

Poster Design Guidelines

Wed 15-07-2020

Clear, concise, legible and compelling.

The PDF template is a poster about making posters. It provides design, typography and data visualiation tips with minimum fuss. Follow its advice until you have developed enough design sobriety and experience to know when to go your own way.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Poster Design Guidelines — Clear, concise, legible and compelling..

The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics

Thu 18-06-2020

Realistic models of epidemics account for latency, loss of immunity, births and deaths.

We continue with our discussion about epidemic models and show how births, deaths and loss of immunity can create epidemic waves—a periodic fluctuation in the fraction of population that is infected.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics. (read)

This column has an interactive supplemental component (download code) that allows you to explore epidemic waves and introduces the idea of the phase plane, a compact way to understand the evolution of an epidemic over its entire course.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics. (Interactive supplemental materials)

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics. Nature Methods 17:557–558.

Background reading

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: Modeling infectious epidemics. Nature Methods 17:455–456.

Gene Machines

Fri 05-06-2020

Shifting soundscapes, textures and rhythmic loops produced by laboratory machines.

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, Segue was commissioned to create an original composition based on audio recordings from the GSC's laboratory equipment, robots and computers—to make “music” from the noise they produce.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Gene Machines by Segue. Now available on vinyl.