Communicate the Beauty of Chinese Calligraphy with synaesthetic experience

Designing a Grammar Cheatsheet

Chinese calligraphy is considered one of the supreme art forms in our history, but as a native Chinese speaker myself, it's challenging for me to understand the beauty of it. So I deconstructed the aesthetic elements of Chinese calligraphy and linked them with different sensory channels, then developed an experimental game for visitors to match various calligraphy works with different textures.

The goal of this project is to communicate the beauty of Chinese Calligraphy through a new, synaesthetic interaction experience.

Bachelor graduation project, supervisor: Sheng Qing, Beijing University of Post and Telecommunication
Literature research, ideation, user flow designing, user testing, prototyping
The structure and user flow of the game

Deconstruct the aesthetic elements

One of the most popular hand position.
a screenshot of Grammar Book feature on production
a screenshot of Grammar Book feature on production

The typical toolset of Chineses calligraphy is writing with a brush dipped with ink on Chinese Xuan paper. 

The soft brush tip allows a 3D direction movement, and the ink permeability on the paper reflects the speed and the strength of the wrist movements of the writer.

The amount of ink in the brush tip, the movepath,strength and speed of each stroke and the connection between different characters... Within one calligraphy work, there are so many elements that influences the final work.

As a summary from the literature research of Chinese calligraphy theory, all elements could be deconstruct into 3 layers from Outside,the appreance of the work to Inside, the feeling and emotion of the creater.

Creating process of '剑(sword)' by 灵度
a screenshot of Grammar Book feature on production
a screenshot of Grammar Book feature on production

Below is the summary of aesthetic elements and the connection to different senses. And due to the time and technical limitation of the projects, I decided to focus on the Inside layer - Feeling and Emotions of the calligraphy work. 

Connection between calligraphy work and senses

Collecting feelings of materials and calligraphy

I've collected over 20 calligraphy works of the same character 'beauty,美' and 12 different materials. And let each participant feels the material and finds a matching calligraphy work.Around 40 participants joined the experiment.

Materials with different textures and feeling.
Same character '美 (beauty)' in 5 different styles of Chinese calligraphy.
The most matched items from the experiment

Prototyping and demo

The introduction video and demo of the project, the demo starts at 02:00
a screenshot of Grammar Book feature on production
a screenshot of Grammar Book feature on production

Next steps

As shown in the demo video above, the current project only presents the feelings of a calligraphy work through materials and sounds, many important elements like movements and strength are missing.

The movement of the brush tip
The strength of the wrist to the brush tip.

Learnings & Shout-out

I feel lucky to finally understand a bit deeper of the beauty of Chinese calligraphy and get to experiment with different senses.

Haven't done any 'physical product' design for years, it reminds myself how much I enjoy creating designs that could directly interact with people. This alarm clock is definitely not a 'practical' product, but we all like it a lot :P.

I'd like to thank my thesis advisor Sheng Qing, who introduced me to the Chinese calligraphy world and guided me through the project. Also huge thanks to Wu Dongmin, who helped me build the complex installation prototype. & Dribbble & Instagram & LinkedIn