The centrefold shows how Last.fm users’ preferences shifted over the year as bands emerged, released follow-up albums, appeared in films or played the festival circuit, plotting London’s listening trends (or New York’s, for the New York edition) against the world’s.
“For the centrefold we wanted to exploit local data to try and show more granular trends, since newspapers are traditionally about local awareness.”
Coder Olivier Gillet worked with Donovan on the charts. He says: “The first goal was to make sure that the rendering process could be kept automatic. Had the data, colour scheme or city changed, I wanted to be able to redraw everything by typing a command – I wanted this to be a generative work of art rather than a one-off illustration.”
This also means that Last.fm subscribers can create versions showing their own listening patterns – but it had its pitfalls: “This meant doing by computer code things that are easy to do for humans but not for computers, like arranging circles compactly so they do not overlap; or picking the best location and size for a caption within a wavy shape.”
He continues: “This decision made the design and typography more difficult. Many things that are easy to tweak in Illustrator are less intuitive to adjust [in code].”
This approach meant that the team could use broadly the same processes for both the print and web versions – although they did make some tweaks to the print version.