Automatic Ad Lib

Tom Arthur

An array of mechanical split-flap displays present seemingly straightforward informational icons that in combination invite individual interpretation and wonder.


The mesmerizing mechanical movement and sound of a split-flap display has been lost due to the mechanical complexity and decreasing price of digital display tools. Automatic Ad Lib repurposes the precise movements to precisely display random symbols. This project explores how utilitarian communication tools can be tools for open ended storytelling and how the method in which a message is transmitted impacts how it is perceived. The symbols on the flaps are part of a practical but incredibly powerful visual language. Although the icons are designed for rapid and universal understanding, they often have unintentional meaning depending on the adjacent environment.


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