Urban alphabets

2011-ongoing, design, coding


UPDATE: all updates about this project are now posted on the project website www.ualphabets.com

I’m fascinated by the city’s visual appearance: How different are different streets or areas in their graphical look?
Letters are ubiquitous in our environments. But the form, color, size and kind of letters are also very different whether one is in a shopping mall, a historical city center or on a highway. Only when being with pre-school kids we are aware that not everyone can read these letters. These kids actually do see letters as what they are: shapes. As soon as they learned reading just seeing shapes, colors, sizes and materials is impossible. The “Urban Alphabets” project aims to bring these aspects back to our perception.
As the process of postproduction has always been too big to make more urban alphabets I started to develop an iPhone app solving this problem during “multitouch interaction” course at Media Lab Helsinki/Finland in December 2012. It enables to create urban alphabets on the go (using camera) but also allows using pictures from the photo library. You can also write your own text, which will be output using the letters you added to the alphabet.
As the first presentation has shown there are many possibilities to use the app also outside the urban context. Letters are everywhere.
As it is so much fun to play with the app I will definitely develop it further. There is the idea to geotag all images taken and use letters from a certain area around when tweeting, sending text-messages,…

Anyone who is interested in contributing ideas or technical knowledge is warmly welcome to contact me.

UPDATES (blogposts on the project)

Mar 20, 2013 – 2 storyboards for Urban Alphabets
Mar 13, 2013 – New language versions
Feb 27, 2013 – Urban alphabets from Berlin
Feb 18, 2013 – Making Personas
Jan 29, 2013 – Urban alphabets project video (finally done)


here are the earlier urban alphabets from 2011

Helsinki – Aleksanderinkatu

Helsinki – Mannerheimintie