Sucking up the blog: how our Annual cover was made

For this year’s Annual cover, Minivegas created an A out of every story and image from the CR Blog over the past year. Readers can download the app and have a go yourselves

For this year’s Annual cover, Minivegas created an A out of every story and image from the CR Blog over the past year. Readers can download the app and have a go yourselves

Our Annual cover each year is based on a different treatment of the letter ‘A’. In 2010, Craig Ward grew the shape out of thousands of pollen cells in an immunology lab. This time, Minivegas, through Nexus Interactive Arts, have, literally, drawn inspiration from our website, creating a downloadable desktop app they call The Annualizer.

Issue and Annual covers from the May edition of Creative Review. Both images were created out of the past year’s online activity from CR using The Annualizer app – text for the issue side, images for the Annual side

“We decided to make an A from CR’s prolific online output,” they say. “We felt that its form should be implied, discernable by its physical influence on elements from CR’s blog and Twitter content. Some of our early efforts were a little abstract, but we settled for wrapping thousands of strips of tape in the loose shape of the ‘A’. The strips would contain words and pictures from the blog.

Close-up of the issue cover

“Using recent blog activity doesn’t really cut it for an annual, so with a little ‘Wget magic’ [a computer programme that retrieves content from web servers], we slurped every article and image from the last year,” they explain. “We got 10,000 unique proper names and places, hashtags and usernames, and about another 5,000 pictures. That’s a lot, even for six images, so the number of comments on a blog post became a metric for how ‘big’ a story and its content ended up in the final image.

The Annualizer in action as it sucks up the content from our website and Twitter feed over the past year to create the letter ‘A’ – various aspects of the image can be adjusted before a final render is downloaded. Try it here

“To add some dynamics, we ran the scene as a cloth simulation to blow our strips around a bit. Exploding the letter is fun, though in the end the shapes looked a bit messy so we toned that down a bit. Final snapshots of strips in motion were exported for a high-quality render,” Minivegas say.

The Annualizer app using images rather than text and (below) close-up of the Annual side cover image from CR May 2011 issue

If you’d like to have a go with the app, it can be downloaded here where there is also a fly-through video. Please bear in mind that it only works on Macs with system OSX10.6 – we’re sorry if this excludes readers with other systems but time and budget constraints didn’t allow us to make other versions available.

Many thanks to Minivegas and Nexus Interactive Arts

Production: MINIVEGAS / Nexus Interactive Arts
Producer: Beccy McCray
Coding: Dan Lewis / MINIVEGAS
Creative direction: Luc Schurgers / MINIVEGAS
Art direction for CR: Paul Pensom


The Annual is CR’s biggest issue of the year featuring an additional 100 pages of the best work of the past 12 months. If you would like to buy this issue and are based in the UK, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Based outside the UK? Simply call +44(0)207 292 3703 to find your nearest stockist. Better yet, subscribe to CR for a year here and save yourself almost 30% on the printed magazine. If you subscribe before Wednesday April 27 you will receive the May issue/Annual as part of your subscription.

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