To Infinity and Beyond!


by Sarah J. Coleman

I’ve done massive illustrations before and they scare me when I have to draw them ‘actual size’ (unlike my brave compadres Solo One and Carl Rosati, who just draw big and fearless).  So when I say the biggest illustration I’ve done was over 550 square feet – it was, but the actual artwork was only about A1.

This is another big beast. At 70ft this Holiday Inn Express billboard in Times Square towers over the streets of Manhattan showering onlookers (uplookers?) with mathematical formulae. They were provided by mathematician Professor Cody Worthington, and the job was commissioned by Ogilvy NYC by Dagmar Wong, through Bernstein & Andriulli.

The little guy at the bottom isn’t real…but I believe he is named for the professor who helped with the math(s)!

Since the piece is actually made up of 10 separate A3 sections of inverted soft pencil drawings, it was all hands on deck in the Inkymole studio with the fingers of Brook Valentine (link) taking some of the strain. Each separate section was scanned at such a high res it weighed in at a whopping half a gig, thus the transit of a composited piece via an upload link would have made for a very slow and possibly unmanageable file – the whole piece had to be assembled in house at Ogilvy.  The centre lock-up was created in coloured pencil, scanned here and overlaid.

Most important was the scaling – the lettering had to be around 6″ when on the board, so all calculations had to be worked back from that. The actual equations themselves were drawn from quantum physics, Butterworth’s Lowpass Filter, Radar Equations, Matched Filtering, Electrodynamics, Calculus, Harmonic Motion, Newton’s laws, Projection Slice Theorem, Gamma Distribution and more. And yes, of course; we understand every single one of them now!

Here’s Justin at Ogilvy experimenting with a test piece of my lettering, blown up and pinned to a window:


Here’s a section of untreated formulae:


A detail of the lock-up drawn in coloured pencils:


You can see the billboard up until mid-June.  I wonder what it looks like with those lights on?

To see more of Sarah Coleman’s work go to her website and Altpick page.

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