Playing with Unicode characters

In the sixties the ASCII code was created to represent text in computers. The code was based on 7 bit sets which allowed up to 127 characters: numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters and a small set of special symbols. So few characters have never made so much. In addition to their utilization in computers, the ASCII codes were used to make ASCII art creating beautiful designs. But the ASCII codes are only able to represent Latin alphabets and English language, so are not enough for other languages. One solution to this lack of codes was the Unicode standard that is capable of representing any type of alphabets except Klingon :-).

The Unicode provides more symbols and therefore more possibilities to design images, but curiously it has been especially developed on Twitter, with the challenge of making graphics in 140 characters. Searching for the hashtag #art140 is apparent as far as the imagination and mastery of design with Unicode codes.

But besides the art, Unicode can have a practical use to represent graphic information in a tweet. The first case I’ve ever found was the bot @Resultados20N from the Data’n’Press factory of Martin-Borregón Brothers. It published in real time the election results of 20N in this graphic:

This wit and practical way of displaying graphics inspired me to create the bot @t_hoarder showing the results of the social barometer like this:

I thought to represent a timeline of the number of people every hour twittered different topics, so that you could appreciate the time profile of publication. This is the way I found to do this:

Thanks to Twitter Art Layouts post and some good advice from @emartinborregon (playing with the wide space and grouped into blocks of 21 characters) I have been able to make these designs. Barring any alignment problem in Explorer or a lack of character in Android ▀ (UPPER HALF BLOCK) you can clearly see the graphs. This table of Unicode characters has been very useful for me, especially the blocks and this interactive table.

I encourage you to create graphs with Unicode characters, it is a quick way of getting information via Twitter

1 Response

  1. August 15, 2012

    […] Jugando con los códigos Unicode – La codificación Unicode proporciona más símbolos y por tanto más posibilidades para diseñar imágenes, pero curiosamente se ha desarrollado sobre todo en Twitter, con el desafío de realizar gráficos en 140 caracteres. Si se busca el hashtag #art140 se puede comprobar hasta donde llega la imaginación y el dominio del diseño con códigos Unicode. […]

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