Asemic Reviews

Our external reviewers for the Asemic assignment were Anders Hoff and Kyuha Shim. We are grateful to them for their assistance.

Anders Hoff [AH] is a generative artist based in Norway. Most of his time is spent exploring the interesting results you can get from simple rules. Sometimes he writes about his work. His work can frequently be seen on Twitter at @inconvergent.

Kyuha (Q) Shim [QS] is a computational designer and researcher based in Pittsburgh. He is an Assistant Professor in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, director of Type Lab and co-founder of Punct.



Clear direction and successful execution. However the visual experience is little bland, perhaps fitting given the propaganda theme? The writing system could use some more work. The glyphs seem too similar, and feel a little cramped. Perhaps try to introduce a little more contrast in the characters?
A sophisticated combination of each module creates an elegant feeling, and the hierarchy is visible through scale. In addition to letterform, the use of triangle adds richness and coherence to the entire document, but the use of orange in two apart positions is questionable.
GL: Classy and considered; well-worked. A teeeeny bit kitschy in a sci-fi way, but that’s almost inevitable with this assignment.


AH: Lacking process sketches, video/gif. Seems to understand what it takes to create visually intersting results. This does not add much to what has already been done before.
Too similar to Nees’s artwork. Often the letters are too close to each other. This is closer to type specimen than it is to writing. It would be nice to see how each letterform interacts when used. No evidence of hierarchy.
GL: Perfunctory? It appears you did not find the assignment especially interesting. If so, I am sorry.


AH: Lacking process notes, blog text and plotter video/gif. The shadow videos are illustrational, and the idea seems excellent.
Three dimensional form is intriguing, but it is questionable whether it actually helps our understanding of the system. It would have been nice to see a few lines of description in the documentation along with the images.
GL: 3D effects and shadows are a visually appealing experiment. The idea of a writing system consisting of shadows is a provocative stance to take. Results could be pushed further.


conye – asemic
Mazes as writing is an interesting idea. Appropriate choice of materials, in particular the transparent sheets and pens, Good process descriptions. The wooden (?) background detracts a little too much from the output.
QS: This looks like a maze. The abstraction process that simplifies the letterform is interesting. However, it is difficult to see where individual letters start and end.
A maze-like writing system is a great conceptual starting point. Maze-generators exist and I would have been interested to see you torque one properly. The word-balloon stuff is cutesy, in my opinion, and distracts from (or doesn’t self-evidently have anything to do with) the clean purity of the maze idea.


The background reflection/idea has potential. Unfortunately the leap from the reflection to the execution is not well explained, and the result fails to stand out in any particular way. Perhaps try more extreme compositions? Or introduce another variational element?
QS: Clear representation of hierarchical structure. Would have been nice to include a PDF, since details of your drawing are not clearly visible in your documentation.
We probably could have fussed more over the material choices used in the plot. The thinking behind the nested circles is very strong; I’m not sure the composition or documentation makes this clear enough. A structural diagram could help make clear more of what’s going on in your design.


dechoes – Asemic
Lacking code (pseudo code instead). Representing each language with different color is a nice touch, but why not make the languages visually different? The characters/glyphs seem to lack distinctness. Simply randomising most descicions is usually not a good choice. Nice progression in the composition, but the the final overlapping area is too busy.
The blue and red color combination is trite and doesn’t seem to work here. Gradually changing the leading (line-height) is confusing. Shapes overlapping at the bottom create visual noise, with the danger of causing miscommunication.
An expressive piece of abstract typography. It’s a little simple, or predictable: even in areas where there’s a lot of overlap, it doesn’t become complex. I wish there were an unexpected or pungent element in it somewhere.


farcar – Asemic
Good process description. The layout (in particular) and glyphs are pleasing, but not very original. Characters could use more distinctive variation. The glitchy appearance of the gold pen is suitable given the context of the project. (Try double pass to avoid glitches in the future.)
QS: Letters and paragraphs are visible, but not words. Not convinced that the boxes showing processing codes are necessary.
GL: You succumbed to the urge to explain. Couldn’t abide a little mystery, hm? I could live without the legible code. Still: one of the few pieces where the square grid feels earned.


fatik – Asemic
There is potential here. Vertical/horizontal lines create the feeling of shadows. With more direction they could make intersting writing symbols. But those presented here lack direction. I disagree that the layout is not part of the assignment. If you are not writing (only designing symobls) you need to explain what kind of an otherwordly page this is. Final result lacks contrast and composition is not particularly intersting.
QS: This looks like a distorted barcode or sound wave. No evidence of hierarchy or structure. Explaining the process of abstraction would help.
GL: Appealing material choices, especially up close. I wish there was more to the inner logic of the writing system. I cannot sense the ‘mind’ that wrote this Page from Another World —only white noise.


The trees look nice. How would you generate these with code so that they display some more individual variation? The overal result is pleasing to look at, but fails to evoke the feeling that there is some information in there. As mentioned the drawings could have been generated and plotted.
QS: Interesting use of trees as modules. Various spacing between trees yield flexible rhythm in the piece. Could have been worth extending it to twice as tall to show more variations.
GL: I’m not sure how well the drawings and the text actually go together. There’s a lot of care and good energy here, even if some of it is wasted. It’s got a (perhaps inadvertent) sense of humor that carries it.


This is a good execution. Shows attention to material. The description displays understanding of the plotter medium, and how the mechanical feel can be augmented with a brush pen. The characters have two dimensions of variation. Sufficient to create intriguing results. Could you break up the grided composition somehow?
Nice variations of horizontal and vertical spikes. It is questionable, however, whether they have to be placed on a grid. Varying the spacing between each character would have yielded possibilities of having visually more dynamic compositions. Calligraphic feel adds richness to your final print.
The marks themselves are gorgeous and your intuition to have them rendered by the brush was spot-on. I find the square grid tyrannical and unconsidered; I would have appreciated if their intercharacter spacing had been really (computationally) designed.


AH: Decent idea. The execution could use a little more contrast and variation. it is not really clear that there is some hidden meaning here. good attention to the medium and path planning.
QS: Continuous and horizontal lines allude an architectural context and guides reading experience; however it is difficult to see the subtle variances within each building.
GL: Quirky and does the job. Maybe the ratio between glyph size, and the thickness between two walls, is too large? Details of letters are lost, a little bit.


Lacking plotter video/gif. Nice results. Process is well explained. I’m actually partial to the intermediary result that was discarded because they were not sufficiently similar to stick figures. The final result could use some more individual variation in the symbols.
QS: Almost a reverse-engineered version of Calder’s Balloons! Your images and description demonstrate your process; however the final postcard is too similar to the original.
GL: Really enjoyed the atypical, deliberate, and highly specific thinking that went into using a postcard as the printing substrate. The design is careful and well documented. A play on the double-meaning of ‘characters’.


Lacking plotter video/gif. The idea is not that original, but with some more work it could yield intersting results. Could you augment the waveforms some more to create more intersting variation? As you point out, the colors don’t work that well in the picture.
The bars with a blue tone draw attention especially with the fluorescent orange. The blue killed the details in the variations of waves. The gaps between waves are significant parts that make each wave seem like a word, but it does not appear that way with the blue bars.
Attractive colors, laudable exploration of fluorescent inks. The waveform-to-graph translation you chose is fairly familiar. A lot of the uniqueness of the piece is carried by the small gaps between ‘word’ segments, which could stand to be emphasized somehow.


phiaq – Asemic
Acceptable result. The output appears too randomised. Rules could benefit from more careful curation. Would be interesting to see either a diagram, as you say you want to explore. Or: a version where you have more interaction between, symbols as hinted at in one of the small sketches.
An interesting way to deconstruct a chair and create iterations by varying each part! However, your exploration would have been more in-depth, if their were a certain rule visually identifiable from your final piece. At present, it seems they are random variations of the structure.
These chairs are broken; I’d be interested to see variations of working chairs, for contrast; such a design might remind us of a catalogue, store or museum. The square grid works but a knowing eye sees it as a default solution.


Shows understanding of what it takes to make visually intersting results. The execution could benefit from some more careful curation. That is, there is a lot of variation to the characters, but too much noise means there is is no discernible pattern to carry meaning.
Well documented process. Interesting exploration of variations as well as visual rhythm. However, some tall lines almost overlapping with other lines are bit confusing. As stated in the description, word and line are identifiable, but could have been better if letters are made distinguishable.
GL: Appealing.


sheep – Asemic
AH: Greater attention to framing than asemic writing. The crowded part of the image seems too messy. More attention could have been devoted to the writing system
The two boxes (one on the top-left and other, mid-center) break the overall pattern shown in other boxes. It is nice to have variations, some of which are extreme, but you are showing them only once in the two boxes, making it difficult to see their relation with others.
GL: Pleasingly odd. Not quite a writing system as we normally understand one, but similar in certain formal respects to some Egyptian stelas or Chinese seals.


AH: Good execution. Visually interesting results and good attention to the format. The calligraphy pen adds to the result. Characters could benefit from a little more variation.
QS: Individual letters are rough but can see the potential. However it is difficult to see where they start and end. Adjusting kerning (= adding more space) between letters would help.
GL: A little crowded (margins anyone!?!). Really well researched. Obvious that you gave this consideration on many levels.


AH: Visually intersting results. Understand the need to curate the output to get the best result. Could this be extended in an interesting way by letting adjacent characters affect each other?
This is closer to type specimen than it is to writing. It would be nice to see how each letterform interacts when used. Letterforms are peculiar and would require much space when forming a word or sentence since each of them is comprised of scattered parts.
I quite like the forms that you’ve discovered. Sure, but I’m not sure they technically satisfy the assignment for, remember, Asemic Writing?. Whatever; I don’t care whether or not he’s satisfied, this is a good exploration.


AH: Not a bad idea, but the execution is a little weak. The final result is too monotonous. The results are quite recognisable as graphs. Maybe the numbers could have been transformed in a different way?
QS: The negative space of your piece looks like an abstracted bamboo tree. Vertical lines are disruptive due to their thickness and it is almost impossible to decipher the details (shorter lines) of your system.
GL: Probably lacks the entropy to really be writing, but the print is hella attractive.


AH: Lacking plotter video/gif. The pamphlet format is a nice touch, but the language/writing is unmemorable. Characters lack distinctness and the writing appears too random.
Due to the center-aligned small text on the top, hierarchy is clear; however individual letters would have been more distinguishable if rendered with a pen with a thinner stroke. It is evocative of raster image and pixels on screen.
GL: This tiny piece is tight AF and, the more I think about it, quite hardcore. I wish some of the characters were less muddy.