X Close

UCLDH Blog

Home

Menu

Archive for the 'Design' Category

Stock Illustrations, Free to Reuse

Rudolf Ammann2 February 2021

Composition with glitch capture, mojibake and moresque eements

Composition with glitch capture, mojibake and moresque pattern elements

In spring last year the UCLDH co-founder Melissa Terras invited me to join her and Gavin Inglis on an unusual project. For whatever comedy might be had from the undertaking, the project  trained artificial neural networks on several years’ worth of historical Edinburgh Fringe festival programmes to generate new virtual show listings. My brief at first consisted in developing the brand identity and building the website, but, having familiarised myself with the project, I suggested that the purely textual show listings should also be accompanied by illustrations, which I’d be happy to create and supply. The suggestion was accepted. So, at the start of the Festival in August, the project went live under the name ImprovBot.ai, and it kept churning out a dozen illustrated AI-generated show listings a day for three weeks on end.

The images are now available for creative re-use as non-restrictively licenced stock illustrations. Here’s some very brief discussion and a few pointers to the various ways of getting hold of the images.

Producing digital illustrations by the hundreds requires a certain serial approach to their manufacturing, so it helps to have archives on hand that can be drawn on for visual elements to tweak and recombine. I have documented the main elements in the ImprovBot.ai series elsewhere. In this post, let me just highlight some of the threads that tie this illustration series to previous work I’ve done for Melissa and UCLDH.

As a designer and a visual artist I have been collaborating with Melissa for more than a decade. Prior to ImprovBot.ai (see Melissa’s account of her recent adventures in AI, incidentally), we’ve worked together on a variety of projects, including her book The Professor in Children’s Literature, which I typeset and whose book cover I designed. This cover, along with a few other references to other prior art that I’ve manage to sneak in, is among the elements I’ve used repeatedly as part of the series’ ‘extras‘:

Book cover remix: Professor Branestawm and Lehrer Lämpel

Book cover remix: Professor Branestawm and Lehrer Lämpel (drawings by W. Heath Robinson and Wilhelm Busch, respectively)

The extras, as their name suggests, are perhaps not very central to the ImprovBot.ai series. By contrast, glitch captures are a frequently used element. Typically consisting of arbitrarily coloured  pixel strings, they appear in many image compositions in the series. The pixels are sampled from image files and screen renderings that have gone haywire for some reason, provoked or unprovoked. They are drawn from the same stock of materials I’ve previously used around UCLDH to complement and expand upon the Centre’s pixel-looking logo. Here’s a plain example of  the barely processed source material:

Glitch capture, enlarged from a screenshot taken of a real-life rendering issue provoked by low random-access memory (RAM)

Glitch capture, enlarged from a screenshot taken of an unintended rendering issue provoked by low random-access memory (RAM)

Some of the illustrations are more complex in their make-up, featuring other elements thrown into the mix, such as moresque patterns and mojibake:

Composition with glitch captures

A more complex composition with several elements conjoined

Availability

The whole set of Improvbot.ai illustrations is available for reuse and can be picked up individually from the project website and the Twitter feed. The images , briefly reviewed by category on a separate page, can also be browsed by these categories. The categories most suitable for re-use are probably these:

Moresque | Capture | Dataviz | Base64 | Network | Hardmod | Mojibake | Noise | Extras

Also available, but perhaps less suitable for reuse might be these categories:

Identity: ImprovBot | Identity: Improverts | The Bot, incl. Multiples Edinburgh and Multiples Shakespeare |

A zip archive of the full illustration set is available for downloading from Zenodo.org, and a subset of individual illustrations is distributed via Pixabay.com.

Licensing and Reuse

The illustrations are distributed under the CC-BY-NC licence, the image set on Pixabay under even less restrictive terms.

Some of the images might be suitable for book cover art, a blog post illustration, or they might inspire you to simply play with them and produce a few remixes of your own. We’re looking forward to seeing them show up in unexpected places!

What the Susan Hockey Lecture 2017 looks like

Rudolf Ammann8 May 2017

Remixing the book cover

Event identity: Remixing the cover of Niels Brügger and Ralph Schroeder’s book The Web as History

Niels Brügger, the Professor in Internet Studies and Digital Humanities at Aarhus University, Denmark, will deliver this year’s UCLDH Susan Hockey Lecture, titled Where Does the Born- and Reborn-Digital Material Take the Digital Humanities?, on 18 May here at UCL. The lecture will be streamed live for anyone who is unable to attend.

For the visual identity for the event, we decided to remix the cover of a recent book co-edited by the speaker with Ralph Schroeder and published by UCL Press, The Web as History (2017). The stylised web interface, modified for the lecture with perhaps a slight hint of parody, now appears on posters and postcards, and will be displayed as a scene-setting device on the lecture hall screen. On Friday last week, testing the design on the big screen did not work too well, but then it turned out that the whole university network had just gone down, reportedly due to a defective cooling pipe at the main data centre. It’ll be up at the event, no doubt.

A6 size: postcards in alternate colours

A6 size: postcards in alternate colours

The promotional postcards show the same design in a range of alternate colours, and they are currently available from UCLDH: pick up yours at the UCLDIS Departmental Office! The remaining stock will be given away at the lecture.