De.Coded – A Human Atlas of Silicon Valley book and app design

Category: Editorial; Entrant: Studio Sutherl&

Front and back cover of a book featuring an illustration of the inside of a tree trunk

De.Coded is a research-based exploration of the human capital of Silicon Valley. The four-year project was built on the foundations of a year-long nomination process, where a diverse group of local leaders nominated individuals from their own communities who are making significant contributions to the region and represent the very best of service to society.

The project maps these remarkable individuals through photographic portraits, app-based image-activated soundtracks and ancestral DNA mapping to create a deeper understanding of the peninsula and beyond.

Paper packets featuring illustrations of the inside of a tree

A set of modular logotypes was created – intentionally designed to be decoded. The circular forms led to the use of circles throughout the project. The cover artwork is hand-inked and printed from a fallen sequoia to represent the passing of time and generations. The iconic Bay Area is subtly retouched into one of the cracks on the reverse of the book. This was recomposed as a limited edition of 101 signed posters given to each DeCoder.

The international nature of Silicon Valley was expressed intrinsically throughout the books. DNA is mapped across an atlas made entirely from circles, expressing the idea of a world without borders. The DNA is decoded in the top-left corner and reflected on the map itself, and the colours are swatched from the portrait and used in descending order of brightness. The circles are collated from the world map and reimagined as a core infographic representing each person. These were used as badges given to each DeCoder at the launch. Ages were denoted by tree rings throughout the project. Each person’s favourite intersection was marked with a DC ‘X’.

Four smartphones showing the Decoded app interface

As a companion to the book, an image-activated app was designed. When a portrait is scanned it comes alive with voices telling personal stories. The app’s icons are created from elements of the modular logotype. The soundscape progress bar is designed to be a completing ring, showing your progress through their story.

“De.Coded endeavours to hold a mirror up to society and encourage audiences to question their own roles and responsibilities to their communities, cities and fellow human beings,” says Studio Sutherl&. “It offers a rare insight into the stories that underpin true societal change. By bringing together the visual, spoken and genetic insights of 101 remarkable individuals, this work creates three-dimensional portraits of the society that is possible when we harness our vision of a more hopeful future.”

Design Studio: Studio Sutherl&
Creative Director: Jim Sutherland
Designers: Ethan Brown, Rosey Trickett
Artist: Marcus Lyon
Producer: Camila Pastorelli
Photography & Sound: Joe Briggs-Price
Designer: Sam Mustow
Curator: Cathy Kimball
Sound: Rethink Audio
App: Tenacity Works
Print: Verona Libri
Partners: The Packard Foundation