Illegible Semantics

A while ago, as you may or may not know, I, together with a crack team of scientists and researchers, submitted a paper called Illegible Semantics: Exploring the Design Space of Metal Logos to alt.VIS, a workshop at IEEE VIS, the premier forum for Visualization and Visual Analytics. Last night we got the news that it was accepted! So we’ll be presenting it at IEEE VIS in New Orleans late October … from the safe confines of home. Of course, of all the times I had to contribute to science, it had to be during a global pandemic. But that doesn’t spoil the fun – I’m still extremely proud of what we did!

What we did, and why we did it, is best explained in the paper, but the short of it is that with our paper (1) we offer a (multi-dimensional) framework to help characterize “illegible” band logos. (2) We also developed a webtool that is based on a machine learning approach that allows the user to explore a corpus of thousands of existing band logos that were scraped from Encyclopaedia Metallum and filter and group them based on certain characteristics such as genre, color, and “image-likeness.”

The main result of the paper is that we can now say that there is definitely more to designing extreme metal logos than just making them as unreadable as possible – there is a system to the madness: there is indeed a visual language in the logos. And following this we may even suggest that literal legibility – that is “legibility” understood in terms of clarity and efficiency – is not the be-all-end-all of textual information visualisation.

But it doesn’t end there. Over the past few weeks, I also worked on a fairly comprehensive genre guide for the paper’s companion on the web, featuring a ton of samples that have been “vetted” by scene veterans and a fellow-metal designer. I had much fun with it. And I sincerely believe that it can be of help to someone, which is why I added it to my website. In case you missed it – you can find it here.