Calligraphic Packing


  Artists and art lovers have always been captivated by the interplay between a whole and its parts. When a complete image is composed of many small recognizable objects, the viewer is caught in a dynamic tension between attending to the image and to the elements that make it up. Some famous examples are the whimsical portraits by 16th centuray Italian painter Arcimboldo. Another recent example is Photomosaic. In this project, we want to explore the effect of reprensenting a shape as a composition of small objects. Unlike other NPR researches for representing an image as a composition of small concrete objects, we raise a "calligraphic packing" problem. In this special case of the packing problem, the samll objects are letter forms. We developed a system to solve it. Given an input shape and a sequence of letters, our system divided the shape into pieces and warped a letter into each piece. An energy function was defined that chooses a warp that best represents the original letter. The evaluation standard was based on several geometric constraints: the letters' shapes, orientations and areas.  


Our idea is mainly from a special artform that we call "representational calligraphy". A collection of letters or symbols cooperate to compose an image that is also a calligraphic inscription. One good example is Islamic calligraphy. 

by Hassan Musa
by AlmapBBDO


dance chaplin napoleon


We have also experimented with a few additional variations in rendering styles. We allow boundaries of letters to be perturbed geometrically and the interior of a letter to be filled with strokes instead of a solid colour. 



Other resources

This is a link to one kind of Islamic "representational calligraphy" -- zoomorphic calligraphy. 

Giuseppe Arcimboldo's paintings.

A good Russian calligraphy website: Популярная каллиграфия

More examples designed by AlmapBBDO

Matt Sutter's typewomen

A mid-century Italian calligraphic packing artwork of elephant figure

Cassidy Curtis's blog cited our project

Typographic Star Wars

Thank you to Mark ter Lann for the elepant photograph, to Hassan Musa and AlmapBBDO for permission to use their images, and to Bubbles Incorporated SA for permission to use Chaplin image. 

All images are copyright 2008 by Jie Xu and Craig S. Kaplan. You are free to use them for personal and non-commercial purposes. Please check with me about any other uses.

Jie Xu
Last updated: Thursday, 26-Jun-2008 12:25 EDT