Each visualisation is laser-engraved into a 12-inch acrylic disc. One rotation of the record equals the duration of the song, five minutes 17 seconds.
Time is shown on the x-axis and flows clockwise. You start reading at 12 o’clock. The y-axis displays different data depending on the record. Valentina created the visual system and realised all the project designs. We’d hoped to use vinyl for the records, but apparently vinyl + laser = toxic fumes!
Working within this 12-inch circular format brought an interesting set of constraints. Firstly, it made us focus on aspects of the song that could be communicated well using a linear time-scale on the x-axis (rather than, say, more abstract features where we’d have to depart from this).
Secondly, it allowed us to visualise things radially: the y-axis displays as ‘distance from the centre’ rather than ‘height’. Our y-axis runs from the inside of the black portion of the record (small or close by) to the outside edge (large or far away). In the records that display pitch information, we always put lower pitches towards the outside of the record, since larger sound waves produce lower frequency sounds and larger objects tend to make lower-pitched sounds.
The third constraint was that the records are engraved. We liked the idea of etching into a record that cannot be played, but must be decoded visually instead. Engraving meant we could use lines, type, symbols and texture to communicate data, but no colour. The posters also had to be entirely black and white. Our aim was to create a stark, monochrome look and feel, alluding to stars in the cosmos and also to many black and white rock album covers from the 1960s onwards, such as Peter Saville’s famous design for Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album – itself a data visualisation of a pulsar signal from distant space.