City as Character

An written and visual investigation into the TV series Atlanta

I wrote and designed this book as part of my masters thesis at the Sandberg Instituut. Following my long time interest in cities, literature and film, I chose the work of American actor, rapper, and director Donald Glover to analyze, starting with the idea that the city itself could play the role of protagonist in a work of art.

In the case of the work of Glover, that city would be Atlanta, Georgia. I started with a quote from Italian journalist and writer Italo Calvino, in which he described the role that the city played in his work in the following way:

“To represent the streets and the various districts as dramatis personae, each one with a character in conflict with every other, to give life to human figures and situations as if they were spontaneous growths from the cobbles of the streets, or else protagonists in such dramatic contrast with them as to cause a whole string of disasters to work in such a way that at every changing moment the true protagonist was the living city.” 

With Calvino’s approach in mind, this book investigates how Atlanta plays the part of muse, protagonist, antagonist, and foil in the life of Earn (one of the show’s main characters, also played by Donald Glover himself), as well as the lives of the rest of the cast. To conduct this investigation, I build on Calvino’s conviction that the “living city” can be the “protagonist” in artworks. Moreover, viewed through a multi-disciplinary lens, the work of other writers, artists, philosophers, and architects throughout history is connected to this central point.

The influence that the city of Atlanta on Donald Glover’s real-life creative processes is also be the subject of analysis. Are there connections to his lived experience? Does the lived experience of the people he has known influence particular scenes or decisions? What is the specific role of the city and how does it affect choices and decisions made by the other characters in the series? What connections or references are being made to broader social or cultural events that had occurred in Atlanta and in other cities around the world?

In the book I looked at two specific episodes of Atlanta. Using the methodology of semiotic analysis, primarily in the style of Italian novelist, literary critic and philosopher Umberto Eco, I made connections and parallels in meaning between the dialogue, visual direction, and theme of each episode. These points of analysis were then related to the hypothesis that the city is a character in the TV series.

Project

Services

Industries

1 Faster Than_

Global Advertising Campaign

Adidas Running

2 Carbon Social Club

Identity Design

Podcast

3 PSFK

Digital Design & Strategy

Trend Forecasting

4 256

Digital Design & Strategy

Gaming

5 Good For One Fare

Installation and Book

Self-Initiated

6 Strategic HR

Book Design

Strategy & Business

7 Adidas Ultraboost 19

Global Advertising Campaign

Running Sports

8 City as Character

Book Design

Self-Initiated

9 Asian Arts Initiative

Book Design

Arts & Culture

10 Kill Screen

Digital Design & Strategy

Gaming

11 The World by Train

Book Design

Self Initiated

12 Next City Anniversary

Editorial Design

Urbanism

13 An Inaccurate, Incomplete and Absolutely True History of the City of Philadelphia

Installation and Publication

Self-Initiated

14 Philagrafika

Book Design

Publishing

15 Michael Snow / Photo-Centric

Book Design

Arts & Culture

16 LoDown x Radical Cutup

Editorial Design

Fashion, Arts & Culture

17 The Pool

Graphic Identity

Fashion

18 The World Stage

Strategic Design, Publishing

Non-Profit

19 Next City

Strategic Design

Urbanism

20 Akustikplatten

Identity Design

Music

21 Heartworm Press

Book Design

Publishing

22 Letting Go

Book Design

Arts & Culture

23 Steve Powers

Strategic Design, Publishing

Art

24 The Stumbling Present

Book Design

Arts & Culture

25 Swindle

Art Direction, Design

Arts & Culture, Fashion

26 Common Touch

Art Direction, Book Design

Arts & Culture

27 City Limits

Art Direction, Design

Urbanism, Publishing

28 Minimal Risk

Graphic Identity

Fashion

29 Riverview

Web Design, Graphic Identity

Real Estate

30 Fels Policy Research Initiative

Web Design, Graphic Identity

Education

31 Red Collective

Graphic Identity

Real Estate

32 Room 21

Web Design, Graphic Identity

Arts & Culture

33 ICPH

Web Design

Non-Profit