Talk to me

by Andreas Koller

Following Neville Brody’s brief to create a language has sparked my interest in investigating the origin, structure, purpose and design of a language.

A language is a contract between two parties, who have agreed on elements (e.g. alphabet) which can be put in order to produce meaning. In order to communicate, these two parties need to have shared experiences. But everything is language and any variable is potentially useable as a language: colors, forms, typography, sounds, scents, trees, facades, materials, flavours, temperature, light, movement.

Language makes us think in a certain way. This is the intention and job of product designers and marketing departments. The corporate language communicates the core values, often very simplified and dumbed down to please the masses and the globalised market.

A language is a framework for expression. It has to offer enough levels of variation. The binary system only knows two states: on and off. This ultimate reduction of distinction to two states is the basis for incredibly complex systems.

A new language for visualising emotions

In this project I tried to create a language that enables you to express emotions in a different way than conventional languages. So the language should be defined without using words, body language or common symbols like emoticons.

Feelings, as subjective representation of emotions, can be categorised in various ways. Some systems define six areas – excited, tender, scared, angry, sad, happy – others eight. I tried to combine several models and came up with this classification, which I know is not scientifically proven but now serves my framework for further development of this quick project:

  • trust – loving
  • joy – feeling happy
  • surprise – feeling amazed
  • hope – feeling excited
  • grief – feeling sad
  • disgust – feeling bored
  • rage/hate – feeling angry
  • fear – feeling scared

So I will try to translate this 8-dimensional model into a visual language. The goal is not to find representative or common symbols for these emotions, but rather to create a new visual language consisting of dynamic elements that represent feelings or moods.


We feel fine is a famous project from 2005 by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, where they harvest and visualise human feelings from blog entries mentioning the phrases „I feel“ and „I am feeling“. It uses a list of about 5000 feelings which are associated to a color.

Emotionally}Vague is a research project by Orlagh O’Brien from 2006, that investigates different aspects of emotions: where people locate emotions in their body, and which colors they associate with them.

Visually, I had a look at several projects that use distinct but simple, doodle-like aesthetics.

NPT Identity by Leon Dijkstra

Colette Identity by Leslie David

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