MPM505 – Vis and Generative Pro

mybill1My Bill is an illustration of a money bill created by compiling drawings of every item I spent money on in the past month.  I believe most people like me are very lackadaisical when it comes to being aware of where their money goes. With the convenience of today’s vast selection of modern financial management technologies (like debit cards, credit cards, mobile applications, transport cards and auto-repay systems), we become less wary with the amount of money we use because it is divided between so many platforms. It is not like the old days when the cash we physically had with us is all we had to use, and we would need to visit a bank to withdraw more. My Bill is literally a money bill created by me, but also the bill for the items I must pay. So I wanted to create a piece I would have fun creating while making a statement on how we abuse the power of technology in a way, and how new payment options have influenced our spending habits. Although My Bill is an autobiographical piece, it is relatable(especially to students) and applicable to anyone who may also possess similar indulgent characteristics and lenient financial awareness. The audience leaves with the option of taking one of the normal-sized versions of the bill as a reminder of the experience and to spend with prudence and discretion!

mybill2My Bill is data driven illustration installation. Exploring ways to creatively display data sets has been a theme throughout the course. Although my main piece does not incorporate any processing or coding, the data virtualization design aesthetic is similar to many examples explored in class. I believe I presented my idea in a unique way that differs from the mundane graphing techniques commonly used. I ran a simple processing sketch that displays all the items side by side, organized by price for the presentation.

Untitled-2 I began developing My Bill by closely document every piece of financial exchange for a month. Things like transportation, food & beverages, gas, products, services, and other purchases. Every item was recorded within my journal accompanied with its receipts (if applicable). In addition, I drew quick sketches of the items as a reminder of how it looks, as well as rough idea of how I want the item to look within Illustrator. During this process, I began creating overall structure of my bill. I examined the details on real bills really closely and tried to emulate some design aspects into my piece. Specifics like ratios and line distances, as well as small details like double borders, frames, signature, faint illustrations, and more. Using Adobe Illustrator’s rulers to setup and ensuring is exactly symmetric was one of the most difficult parts of early production. All the items were drawn freehand with the pencil tool and shape presets. With the direct selection tool, I manipulated the points to create clean and smooth lines, encapsulating the minimalistic appearance I wanted. The overall drawing process was very straightforward because I am proficient with Illustrator. I didn’t run into any problems besides managing the order of the items and deciding where each one goes.


I presented the piece by hanging it onto a large white board. In addition, a table is placed in front of the board to maintain a distance between the viewer and the artwork. On the table laid hundreds of regular sized bills people cane take away, along with the journal and a laptop running the processing sketch that displays all the items in order of pricing.

Although it has been a while since I played around with Illustrator so I felt rusty at first, everything came out exactly the way I wanted. Ignoring the fact that my wallet got seriously injured within the process, I am very happy and proud of how My Bill turned out.

Every single person on this planet is unique and different in their own way. We may share commonalities like interests, style, ethnicity, religion and more, but we are all innately one of a kind. Even identical twins at the most miniscule levels have characteristics and differences that define them apart. There are over 7 billion people in the world and each and every one of us has qualities that make us distinct. That is immediately what comes to mind when I think of DNA. At microscopic levels, the chemical structure of everyone’s DNA is the same, but the combinations of nucleotides and genes (that determine our individualistic characteristics) are different. Sometimes we can’t see just how special each other are, and overlook the fact that there is no one like you and I in the world.

     We all belong under groups (like cultural or social) that categorizes us with others alike. This makes our existence less distinctive and takes away a part of what makes us unique individuals. We may share macroscopic similarities like skin colour, facial features, and hair colour, but it is our microscopic differences that make each and every one of us special.

     The celebration of identity, individualism and self-appreciation was a theme I wanted to incorporate. Visual deception, how we cannot see everything with our naked eyes was another theme I wanted to explore. Ironically, the colour and pattern of a person’s iris is just as complex and unique as DNA. The human eye became the inspiration behind my piece.

     After examining the data set, I researched more into deoxyribonucleic acid, chromosomes (particularly 13), and the four nucleobases: thymine, adenine, guanine, and cytosine. Unlike other fixed data sets like the CO2 levels or Earthquake occurrences, the data for DNA to me was really just an example or template because it is different for everyone. So with that freedom, I wanted to create something that was not too literal but conceptually driven. The images below inspired the idea of incorporating the visual aesthetics into creating the patterns for the iris of my eye.

     I was originally only going to use processing as a stepping stone for my final product, but I thought presenting the piece in processing would take the piece to another level. Since processing is not my strong suit (nor my main interest), I did majority of the detail work in Photoshop, and used processing only for the animation. I created many variations of DNA ladders and chromosomes to emulate details of the iris. I was a little hesitant because I didn’t want it to be a literal adaption plastered on. However, after adjusting the opacity levels and making them rotate in different directions at different speeds, it came out very complex and difficult to tell what they truly were. Below are close-ups of the detail work done for the iris and the pupil, along with an image of the piece not animated.

     I am very happy with how the final product turned out, and very proud that I was able to use processing to take my piece to the next level. Although it is supposed to look like an eye, the result ended up encompassing beyond that, giving astronomic-futuristic-cyborg feels which I am very pleased with. The finishing touch of giving the user the ability to change the various hues of the eye further celebrates the diversity of differences what makes us unique. You are special and one of a kind. Eye Am special and one of a kind.

            Music was the inspiration behind my portrait. As a commuter who spends around 2 hours daily on public transport surrounded by noise, I enter an aural space of solitary every time I put on my earphones and turn on my iPod. Whenever I ride the train, bus, or subway, my music isolates me from reality and buries all external sounds.


           For this project, I chose to use some of my most played songs on my iTunes as my data set. To make it more aesthetically interesting, I decided to use the sound waves of each of the songs for my portrait. I created the silhouette of my glasses and hair, which I believe are signature items that clearly represent my image, by manipulating and transforming the waveforms. The earphones were made with the titles of all the songs I used. Using a total of 108 songs, I believe I created something that clearly resembles me without being too literal.

            To make it even more enticing and further tie the inspiration to the piece conceptually, I created the illusion of illuminated text and waveforms by changing the opacities of each frame resulting in a beautiful luminescent animation. Each song title glows with its corresponding waveform and are strategically ordered to show the music traveling from external to internal. The swift flashes from frame to frame create a beautiful protective aura-like element that visually showcases my concept of entering an alternate aural space / reality whenever I listen to music.




Assignment: For this assignment, you will create an unusual portrait of someone you know well using data. You could also do a self-portrait. Think about how data about someone can also tell a story about who they are. Use this data to create your portrait. You can use any medium or technology you like. Post the results on your class webpage, along with a short explanation of the data and how you are using it to create your portrait. (200-250 words)