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Translations - Olivia

In the Translations expertise, we worked with the text „Cities & Signs 5 - Olivia“, written by Italo Calvino, which we had to translate into a poster, sound and animation.


Cities & Signs 5 - Olivia

No one, wise Kublai, knows better than you that the city must never be confused with the words that describe it. And yet between the one and the other there is a connection. If I describe to you Olivia, a city rich in products and in profits, I can indicate its prosperity only by speaking of filigree palaces with fringed cushions on the seats by the mullioned windows. Beyond the screen of a patio, spinning jets water a lawn where a white peacock spreads its tail.

But from these words you realize at once how Olivia is shrouded in a cloud of soot and grease that sticks to the houses, that in the brawling streets, the shifting trailers crush pedestrians against the walls.

If I must speak to you of the inhabitants’ industry, I speak of the saddlers’ shops smelling of leather, of the women chattering as they weave raffia rugs, of the hanging canals whose cascades move the paddles of the mills; but the image these words evoke in your enlightened mind is of the mandrel set against the teeth of the lathe, an action repeated by thousands of hands thousands of times at the pace established for each shift.

If I must explain to you how Olivia’s spirit tends toward a free life and a refined civilization, I will tell you of ladies who glide at night in illuminated canoes between the banks of a green estuary; but it is only to remind you that on the outskirts where men and women land every evening like lines of sleepwalkers, there is always someone who bursts out laughing in the darkness, releasing the flow of jokes and sarcasm.

This perhaps you do not know: that to talk of Olivia, I could not use different words. If there really were an Olivia of mullioned windows and peacocks, of saddlers and rug-weavers and canoes and estuaries, it would be a wretched, black, fly-ridding hole, and to describe it, I would have to fall back on the metaphors of soot, the creaking of wheels, repeated actions, sarcasm. Falsehood is never in words; it is in things.

written by Italo Calvino

TASK 1: text poster (focus on syntax/structure)

For the first exercise, we had to analyze the text in terms of its structure, morphology and syntax, trying to find patterns or something special that characterized Italo Calvino's style.

In my first attempts at analysis, I realized that I was always looking at the meaning of words, and I wanted to avoid subjectivity altogether, observing an aspect of the text that was as objective as possible. So, I decided to study the rhythm, separating the lines each punctuation mark and counting the words in each sentence.

In my results I observed a great rhythmic difference, with very long sentences preceded by very short sentences. This reminded me of the Homeric texts I was reading recently. Precisely these texts were conceived to be transmitted orally, not to be read. This made me think that, in addition to the fact that it is a dynamic text and not at all flat, it was closer to the natural language with which we speak.

In the opposite case, poems, it is usual that the metric of the verses is minutely measured, which to a large extent takes away their naturalness and distances them from the spoken language.


TASK 2: typographic image (focus on meaning/semantics)

In the second task we had to design a typographic text, using only letters, numbers and punctuation marks. Also, the color palette was reduced to black and white.

My poster symbolizes the contrast of Olivia, a city of light and shadow. For this I wrote the different adjectives or terms with which the author describes the city, using a cleaner and whiter typography to symbolize the brilliant, dreamy and luxurious Olivia. Instead, I used a darker, dirtier typeface, reflecting this more industrial, less luxurious, but ultimately more real Olivia.

The words are intertwined in a spiral that the viewer sees from the outside, since in the end they are concepts that seem contrary but are part of a whole.

In the lower area we can see the sentence „the city must never be confused with the words that describe it.“ This appears at the beginning of the text but makes sense at the end of it, when it is doubted that this city even exists.

The first image is the final version of the poster and the rest are other tests that I designed.

translations poster-06.jpgtranslations poster-06.jpg
translation pester 4.jpegtranslation pester 4.jpeg
Translations Poster 5.jpegTranslations Poster 5.jpeg

TASK 3: video (focus on developments/dynamics)

For the animation, I decided to make an interpretation of what the spiral that we saw from the outside in the poster of the previous task would look like from the inside, so I used this tunnel vision looking for an immersive effect.

TASK 4: sound (focus on emotion/immersion)

En la última tarea debíamos intentar recrear el sonido de la ciudad.

Anteriormente he mencionado el concepto de contraste, el cual quería mantener para el sonido. Por ello, hay una cobinación de sonidos más limpios y calmados (pájaros cantando, agua...), con ontros momentos en los que se superpones distintos sonidos más metálicos, duros e incluso desagradables.

Ein Projekt von


International Integrated Design

Art des Projekts

Studienarbeit im Masterstudium

Zugehöriger Workspace

EXP I Translations (From text to sound)


Sommersemester 2022