A tool to encode words as patterns
Writeup by Livvy

In the fall of 2019, I was positively obsessed with secret codes and ciphers. You can read more about that in another project here: Obscured Data.

A few years later, in the summer of 2021—when Ivan and I had just moved into a new home in Denver and were trying to think of art to put on our very empty walls—the obsession revived.

A humongous wall tapestry was the dream. But wouldn’t it be cooler if it had some meaning to it? And wouldn’t it be even cooler if that wasn’t super obvious?—if it just looked like some abstract design but actually held an encoded message?

I needed something to quickly prototype possibilities, and a little webapp emerged.

Play with the real thing here: Trinary.

You can learn more by clicking the little “about” text at the bottom left of the site, but the gist is: this turns numbers into letters (based on simple A=1 → Z=26 substitution), then uses 3 colors (white included) to represent those numbers in their trinary form. (“Ternary” is perhaps the more accepted term, but I like the sound of “trinary” better.)

Fun features that I’ll probably never get to:

  • Allow an indefinite number of columns next to each other for comparison
  • Change the layout to put controls on the left and more diagrams infinitely to the right. (But also think about mobile.)
  • Add ability to change background color (but make sure the text still shows up)
  • Make a version with triangles that’s more Mexican-looking
  • Throw in some alternate default color palettes
  • Allow people to export the images for whatever use
  • Convert to some code that can be used with a knitting machine

Some fun words and their shapes:

Trinary Grid

Left to right: “December twelve twenty fourteen”—our wedding date. “Ivan and livvy”—I like to imagine that “livvy” looks like code half full. “Antidisestablishmentarianism”—had to try it.

As of this writing, there is still no wall tapestry, but I have made these cement coasters:

Trinary Coasters

“The first of May”—the day I told Ivan that if he ever asked me to be his girlfriend again, I’d say yes.

Site designed and developed in-house by Ivan & Livvy. Project managed with Notion and Slack. Screens designed in Figma. Custom fonts “Suits”, “RK Sans”, “RK Serif”, and “RK Mono” designed in Glyphs. Hosted with Netlify, managed with Contentful, built with Gatsby, styled with Tailwind. A work in progress. Site version 1.1.
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