Exhibition | Design with Data, Spring 2021


Design with Data is a postgraduate course taught at the University of Edinburgh as part of the Design Informatics Masters programme and aims to investigate creative and novel ways to engage with data, its cultural contexts, conceptual framing and socio-cultural understanding.

Exhibition details

Wednesday, 28th of April to Sunday, 2nd of May 2021
Thursday, 17th to Wednesday, 23rd June 2021
open to view at Inspace City Screen
1 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AB


Bringing data to life through visual and interactive practices, this is a series of 24 creative works investigating a range of NLS datasets through a myriad of approaches, such as expressive visualisations, immersive games, explorative maps and creative storytelling. Each project explores new data narratives and stories hidden within historic datasets and are aimed at visualising data, engaging audiences with collections, building immersive data experiences and tackling socio-moral implications.

The National Library of Scotland’s Digital Scholarship Service is making their collections available as accessible datasets of historical material to be used by developers, researchers, educators and general publics interested in further interrogating and understanding their archives. The datasets are aimed to be open, transparent and practical to encourage, enable and support the use of computational research methods with the collection, enable new forms of research and ensure the collections are reaching wider audiences.

To learn more about the Data Foundry data collections and the Digital Scholarship Service from the NLS, go to data.nls.uk

#NLSdata #DesignWithData #StudentShow


Theatre Posters 1870-1899


Wonder Tour

Xuanxuan Du, Yuxuan Li, Qianxiu Qi, Boao Huang

Our video aims at the inheritance and development of classical culture, showing the fusion of classical art and modern Edinburgh, hoping to present the fusion of the city’s landmarks and classical poster characters from a first-perspective view, to show the classical beauty of the city and to arouse people’s attention to classical culture.

Brief description of the story: the protagonist suddenly finds him/herself transformed into a classic character from a poster. In the next few moments, other characters are seen, and the curious protagonist makes his/her way to the castle, eventually finding that the characters he/she has just met are back on the poster and him/herself back to normal.


Night of the museum

Yiweiwei E, Weiran Li, Xiaoying Wang, Tuji YU

As a special form of art publicity, theatre posters have been circulated up to now. Posters are perhaps the most public of all visual communications, as they can attract the immediate attention and engagement of passers-by. A collection of ‘Theatre, 1870-1900’ data from the National Library of Scotland travels throughout our project. By combining modern technology, we gave new meaning to the old poster and designed a new form of presentation for it. In this project, we applied deep learning technology as the basis, plus cloud computing, to achieve image matting and facial swapping. Users could record a video of facial expression with their own faces and upload the video to our platform. After processing, a new video with the same facial expression of different people will be generated. We sincerely hope that you will explore the beauty of history in this project, and perhaps you will discover things you never imagined in the process.


History of Poster Design From 1870- 2021

Zhaoyuan XU, Ang XU, Derek Li, Ningyu ZHAO

Nowadays, people are rarely willing to spend time to trace and study the history of a poster, so as to understand the cultural heritage behind a country. We hope that through the redesign of the poster, people can feel the change of the style of Scottish theatre posters in different periods, and feel the evolution of Scottish Theatre culture. In order to illustrate the poster styles of different eras to the audience, we analyzed the posters of each era and extracted the most common items and colors separately. Based on the results of analysis, we re-designed the posters for each era. In the public show, we used seven screens to display the poster styles tracing back to the 1870s. We hope that the audience can realize that the posters are great symbols which reflect the cultural and historical characteristics of an era.


Theatre Costume Go!

Jin Mu, Nian Liu, Jinman Xing, Xiaohang Xu

Performances in the theatre are important ways of spreading historyand culture. Therefore,we hope this game will bring the benefits of participating in theatre arts projects to those young people who would be unlikely to have access to the arts nowadays. Inspired by the Big Sho’ Theater scene in the game “Paper Mario: The Origami King”, we combined the Mario game with the elements of the theater in the dataset. Once the user collides with the mysterious box, some items,such as costumes and accessories, will be activated. Then users can collect it and enrich their “museum”. After the item is collected, more details of it will be introduced. At certain levels, users will also get bonus, such as colored posters,to encourage them interact more with Theatre Costume Go!. To provide a better interactive experience, we connected seven screens together to display a stage-like game interface. The character will run across the first six screens and his collections will be displayed in the museum shown on the seventh screen.



Ruishen Zheng, Yeru Lin, Yijun Liu, Xinyan Chai

Theatre posters are an essential part of Theatre culture heritage in the U.K.,which contains unique art styles and color applications of that age. ‘Theatre Poster 1870-1900’ from National Library of Scotland reappears through our design. Colour extraction and interpretation technology are applied in the design to improve its accessibility and attraction to audiences. In this project, we categorize all the posters into three scenes, including ‘castle’ , ‘forest’ and ‘harbour’ and interpret these into different models. Colours of those posters are identified through the extraction programme in Python. Audiences could get access to our project any where and start their interactions through our AR APP. They could paint the models with the extracted colour and explore more through scaling the models to look for characters from posters. More information is accessible with a click of the character. The visual and dynamic AR digital booklet brings much aesthetic pleasure and leaves a deep impression for audiences. It is an attractive and enjoyable way for people to learn about cultural knowledge during the epidemic at home. Additionally, it is beneficial to protect cultural heritage and enhance the awareness of cultural heritage protection.

Broadsides printed in Scotland 1650-1910


Liquor Neverland

Wenyu Liu, Ziyu Yang, Xiaoqi Shi, Xinyu Wang

Liquor Neverland discovers some of the earliest printed broadsides that describes the impact of drinking on marriages in Scotland between 1650 and 1910. Liquor Neverland is an exploration of the impact of drinking culture on marriages in 17th Scotland. It presents data findings from National Library of Scotland’s broadside collection, which recorded dramatic or humorous ballads derived from folk culture in Britain. The project is inspired by the conflict between the pleasure in alehouse and the battles between sexes caused by drinking in marriage that depict in broadsides. Alehouses were becoming more prevalent in seventeenth-century England than they had ever been before. Many people spent their time in idleness and their money in excessive drinking. Drinking therefore is a culturally meaningful activity to provide an insight into the underlying values of a society. But indulgence in alehouses often leads to an unstable family life. The project reveals family life in a patriarchal society from the perspective of drinking culture. The video contains two parts. The first part explains the drinking frenzy in 17th Scotland based on research. The second part extracts particular broadside data to describe the consequences of drinking on marriages.


Media Bias from Broadsides

Shuxin Xia, Jingyi Chu, Yun Zhao

Looking back at the 200 years of media, one particular form caught our attention –the BROADSIDES. These single sheets of paper are printed on one side, to be read unfolded, carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by peddlers and chapmen. They were considered to be the very first form of public media, before the word media was even invented. We focused on one particular broadside which reports on a murder trial in which a mother, a puppeteer who traveled the market towns of the country to perform at fairs, was accused of killing her nine-year-old daughter, then flinging her body into a nearby river. We hope by looking into two very different versions of this same story, the notion of media bias can be evoked in the audience.


Evolution of society and cultures in Scotland

Yuanping Yang, Ziying Lin, Zhipei Li, Xu Zhang

We have performed word frequency analysis on the 400 years of Scottish broadside dataset provided by the National Library of Scotland, by matching the word frequency and the historical background research, we have made some sound assumption on the reasoning behind the outcome of the word frequency. You will be exploring these broadsides and learn the stories behind the words. We hope this show will give you some idea of what Scottish people are doing and talking about from 1600 to 1900 and how some aspects of Scottish society and culture have changed over time. We will be taking you through 4 main findings from our analysis which includes, Gender equality, Social Urbanization, Enlightenment Culture and Criminal law.

A Medical History of British India


Four Devils – infectious diseases in British India

Luna Hu, Jingyi Wang, Yuchen Yang, Zeyu Zhang

The exhibition gives a historical view on the publichealth and social reflectionagainst serious diseases in British India, thus inspiringsome rethinking of the currentglobal epidemic.Plague, Cholera, Malaria and Leprosy are demonstratedto be the most destructiveinfectious diseases in colonial India, which wererecorded in official publicationsvarying from short reports to multi-volume historiesbetween circa 1850 and 1950,including their impact on different regions and people’seffort to investigate andcontrol the diseases in a colonial context.Extracted from fifty most common words in the publications,medical treatment,disease level, government measures and data reportare focused as four mainaspects into the comparison among the four diseases.Additionally, their activeperiods are indicated with various histograms by exploringthe time-relatedlanguages.Textual data is analyzed through a variety of naturallanguage processing andmorphological methods, while the patterns are visualizedbased on geometricfigures, which are shaped by the constituent dimensions,such as triangles,hexagons, etc.


Lunacy in British India

Tashfeen Ahmed, Anastasia Athanatou, Tamara Lottering, Svenja Vieker, Yingxuan Wang

This exhibit opens a window for the audience to glance into the lunatic asylums of British India. The work highlights the social, cultural and political narratives facilitated through colonialism, and how this impacted the psychiatric practices within these asylums. The exhibit presents data findings from a National Library of Scotland dataset namely, “A Medical History of British India”. The dataset was processed using Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques, and interesting findings on the topic of psychiatry were chosen to be presented in the exhibition. The piece aims to explain the British cultural and social perceptions of ‘madness’ and of their colonial subjects. The exhibit portrays how these asylums served as both a mechanism for social control and psychiatric rehabilitation, and the extent to which British, western capitalist values were communicated through the treatment of the patients. The piece highlights how racial discrimination was perpetuated in the asylums, demonstrating how native patients accommodated in the same asylums were treated compared to fellow European patients.


Trans-Temporal Dialogues with Masks

Barillas Adam, Hu Ariel, Neeff Vanessa, Qi Shelley

Our project aims to reimagine a meaningful dialogue between past and present stakeholders battling with global and national health crises. Our design work communicates the most relevant topics and characteristics of the Bubonic Plague in Bombay during the 19th century via short messages, also known as ‘Tweets’. Our illustration sare inspired by ‘political statement masks’ that have been seen across the globe during the ongoing Covid-19pandemic.Masks make visible what otherwise would remain invisible to the eye: the highly infectious disease and the spread of the virus. While the masks might remind one of the ongoing pandemic, our (repurposed) statement masks aim to illustrate important aspects of the plague that had spread around 120 years ago: the physiological dangers that the disease imposed, the social and and economic consequences for especially poorer populations and the similarities between the handling of past and present health crises that are more than a century apart. Finally, we aim to display that all health crises tend to aggravate social inequalities and that we have been already conscious about that fact decades ago – so why do we still fail to protect the most vulnerable groups despite knowing exactly how to do so?

Edinburgh Ladies’ Debating Society


What She Said

Chung Yan Lee, Haixia Zhu, Zhiyuan Du, Yiting Zhao

In ancient times, public speech was only a man’s business. Most women were silenced and invisible in history until the last 200 years. In this project, you will hear some remarkable female pioneers’ voices in 19th century Edinburgh. Women were silenced and invisible in history for a long time. Only until the whirring of the printing publications in the 18th century, women were starting to be heard and seen more publicly. Based on the National Library of Scotland’s collection “The attempt” series, our project brings you some remarkable female pioneers’ voices in 19th century Edinburgh. You will find their authentic views, unique perspectives on serious social issues such as politics, feminism, and law. They are one of the earliest examples of women making attempts to join the public discussion. Their attempts not only made themselves visible but also inspired more women to take actions andfight for their rights. Expressing freely is the most important right and the most powerful tool you have to gain power, and most women have been given it for only 200 years. Through our project, we hope you not only learn the fascination of these women’s voices, the difficult road that women have gone through but also start to embrace the opportunities that you have to make your voice be heard in this era!



Tongye Liu, Yitong Gan, Yanan Liu, Minjia Zhao

What happens when a group of women who desire to become writers get together? The Ladies’ Edinburgh Literacy Society (1865-1935)is a support association organized by middle-class women. It provides a communal room for them to speak and write together. In this room, they get inspiration and strong support from each other and produce valuable discussions through their utilisation of culture and improve themselves and the community in which they lived. Based on these discussions, the members published ‘The Attempt’ (10volumes, 1865-74) and its successor ‘The Ladies’ Edinburgh Magazine’ (6 volumes,1875-80).We designed an interactive project to let the audience engage with the story of how women writers improve their writing and thinking in different spaces. In our story, the bubble is a metaphor of the physical and mental space of the members. People will help the writers to be seen by the public, go through the process with these women writers from private sphere to public sphere and experience the strength of solidarity of the association.

The Spiritualist


The Spiritualist: Ephemeral or Eternity

Sun Yueli, Du Qin, He Xiaohui, Yuan Yidan

In the vast universe, which star belongs to you? This dataset considerations of a complete run of ‘the spiritualist’, later ‘the spiritualist journalist’, and a partial run of its short live success ‘psyche’. Published in London from 1869-1882, ‘The Spiritualist’ is the key of the spiritualist movement, and significant in the development of the movement in the UK. Information shows that the spiritualists can cure diseases by absorbing cosmic energy and help people see their deceased relatives again. Is this magic or science? Under the historical background of women’s oppression, what was the status of women? How did it develop in the UK? We analyze word frequency and present the data visualization results in the form of relevant elements of the spiritualists. If you’ve ever heard such a fairy tale: people become stars after their death, and will accompany and protect the ones they loved in the cosmos. We want to popularize the relevant history and the main idea we want to convey is that no matter who you are, men or women, people or animals, we are all equal and our souls finally turn into stars, being missed by those who loved us, or protecting the people we loved.


The Spiritual World

Angie Liu, Chloe Lei, Perseas Christou, Finn Kirkpatrick

The Spiritualist movement is based on the belief that the dead exist in an afterlife where they are able to communicate with the living. Public séances, supernatural occurrences, and scientific research of Spiritualism were all reported in the late 1800s by British newspaper, The Spiritualist. The project utilises data from 414 issues from 21 volumes of The Spiritualist newspaper, totaling 13,000 different stories, lyrics and poems. The Spiritual World lets you match your personality with someone from the storiesof The Spiritualist! Find your Spiritual match! Will you be… The suspicious medium Florence Cook? The proclaimed scientist William Crookes? … or somebody completely different? Join our website to connect with the past and start your spiritual journey!

Rolls of Honour


Rolls of Honor

Chang Liu, Di Nie, Xi Pang, Ziming Bai

Our show describes the rolls of honor in First World War, aiming to show the dataset and its historical background in an all-round way. The data come from National Library of Scotland. Our work combines data analysis and visual design. Our aim is to present the most critical informationof the dataset in the limited space as much as possible, through the form of technology + art. The content of our show includes three aspects. The first part is the story of soldiers, which tells the lives of some sacrificed soldiers from birth to death, which is also the main content of the dataset; the second part is the information outside the data set, which aims to introduce historical background information, such as key battles; the last part is to display the statistical data of the data set through data visualization technology, which is interspersed in the display of the above pictures. In addition, our show more focuses on coherence and sequentiality, so we only need touse one screen.

Weekly Casualty Lists (First World War)


Journey of soldiers – Poppies bloom to fall

Keqi Chen, Jinying Liang, Aishan Liu, OUYANG Shan

Every soldier who served in wars should be respected and remembered. It must be a huge shock if you skim through the UK weekly casualty list of WWI. Thick dotted names on the list represents millions of vivid lives before the war,which brings us great sorrow. Once smoke of gunpower rise, there is no winner because war causes harm to each party. Thus, respecting lives and against the war are the theme of every period. The project transforms names on the list to a more graphic data visualization, from characters to soldiers’ illustrations, then to remembrance poppies. It is slightly talking about the story of a soldier. It means that soldiers do registration enrolment into the army, battle and fighting the enemy resulted in a loss of both sides, then they become souls floating like poppies to heaven. Original textual data might be dull which leads audience give up exploring from it. Our project refers to storytelling engagement and the popular artistic masterpieces’ elements to arise people attention and motivation of the theme. It is also a kind of data-driven visualization. When the numbers of casualty increase, the rhythm of the project will be more compact. Respect lives, resist wars.

Asian Directories and Chronicles



Linsen Liu, Sharon Li, Yongchang Zhu, Zilin Lu

‘hi!story’ is a reflection on the dominant way of constructing history, a reflection that comes from the series of Asian Directories and Chronicles, which were published in the form of yearbooks from 1860 to 1941 by the Hong Kong Daily Press under the auspices of the British Hong Kong government. the series collected a wide range of information on the major cities that had established trade ports in Asia, and its audience was the Western elite who wanted to do business there, as well as some Western governments. The series now serves as an important historical source, reflecting a centralised way of constructing history: historical information is purposefully filtered by a powerful subject, discarding most individual details, and interpreted from a singular perspective, creating a grand historical narrative as a collective memory or processed to a highly abstracted ‘data resource’ serving those with power. So we propose a question: how will we record and present history in the future? Inspired by the development of social networks, online and offline communities, and blockchain technology, we advocate the practice of a decentralised way of recording and telling history: individual historical stories can be recorded anonymously, cannot be deleted, and any modifications are recorded. We juxtapose these two different ways of constructing history in our video and try to build a demo website based on our ideas.

Learn more on the h!story website on Figma.

English Ballads


Ballads Illusion

Peize Li, Wenbei Sun, Xiao Xue, Jiangnan Xu

Can AI revitalize ancient literature in the form of contemporary visual art to enhance its attraction? Ballads Illusion is an AI-generated artwork created with the metadata for Scottish ballads provided by the National Library of Scotland. It aims to enhance the accessibility and attraction of cultural heritage to the people outside the cultural context by participatory Human-AI collaboration. We focused on a special group—the “outsides” of British culture and investigated their interests in the Scottish ballads. They were encouraged to express their perceptions of the cultural heritage with their sketches as visual narratives. A Generative Adversarial Network was trained with over 10,000 Scottish paintings, which empowered the sketches into novel representational possibilities. The transmedia approach preserved, presented and strengthened outsiders’ understanding of cultural heritage with a vivid and affectionate insight. The cycle of empathy and creation from people, as the democratization, is expected to promote the development of participatory culture. Furthermore, the participatory Human-AI collaboration tries to search the boundary of art in the era of AI and provoke discussion about the nature of art and the significance of AI-generated art with explicit intent.

Photographs of the South Side of Edinburgh


Back to Southside of Edinburgh in 1929

Bingyu Huang, Huiwei Chen, Jingya Zhang, Zhihan Yang

Impressed by the historical buildings and diverse lifestyle of South Side of Edinburgh in the digital collection of black-and-white photographs taken in 1929 by Alfred Henry Rushbrook, we design a mini-game to bring the players back to Edinburgh 100 years ago to explore a new experience in this community. Old map will show after a collage story. We applied auditory archaeology to the photos and made sound design the core of the game to create a more immersive game experience. Unique two-channel stereo sounds can be heard, such as carriages, bells, and the sounds of shops, churches and other landmarks. The main gameplay is that the player needs to identify which building the fragment belongs to, according to the content, direction and volume of sounds. In public show, sound visualisation will replace sounds and make the same effects. Easter eggs and message board are also waiting to be explored. Memories, stories, and impressions of that time are collected and displayed in the game, all of which together constitute the rich history and culture of the South Side of Edinburgh in the recent one hundred years. We really enjoyed producing this mini-game, and cannot wait to share with you!

Play the game: play.unity.com/mg/other/build-886

Watch the video: www.youtube.com/7RDvo1zlKss

Stevenson Maps and Plans of Scotland


Immersive game of Stevenson’s Map

Daniela Groza, Wayne Wu, Shin Yi Huang, Dima Boettcher, Feijia Sun

We aim to revive these maps through an interactive game depicting an immersive digital world, with which players can virtually engage and learn about Edinburgh’s history. Our project applies geospatial data from the Stevenson’s Engineering firm maps and plans of the 1500-1900s Scotland, provided by The National Library of Scotland. We use this dataset of Maps to illustrate three intertwining stories: the story of the Stevenson family heritage in Edinburgh, the domains of imagination present in the diagrams of the firm, and the author Robert Louis Stevenson’s story Treasure Island. The dataset contains a series of different construction projects carried out throughout Edinburgh consisting of bridges, rivers, lighthouses, buildings, city plan maps etc. we apply the dataset of maps to reinterpret the past of Edinburgh in order to let the players immerse in these past maps as well as has an opportunity to link the real-life buildings in their daily life. Then they are able to create their own map to express what do they think of Edinburgh. Therefore, we are using five representative places in our game. Every place represents an island. When the players find one of the places in the real-life building, they will illumine the symbolizing island. Then they will go into another interface to have the opportunity to create their map by using various stickers of different history construction in the dataset which also inspires the players’ sense of participation and creativity. Also, they can exit the map puzzle interface and back to the main interface to explore another place related to the Stevenson family.

Tay Bridge Enquiry


Museum of the Times

Yuan Zihan, Qu Wenzheng, Zhou Ling, Chen Taishan

Our group’s project is rethinking the possibility of a more engageable way for the public to visit collections in museums. We’ve come up with a game-based VR application experience as the medium for distributing the collections to have a far outreach with audiences globally. We’ve recreated the scene for Tay Bridge after its disaster in 19th century Dundee for the Tay Bridge Data set from the National Library of Scotland. Through the adaptation, our VR game experience encourages people to explore the stories and meanings of the collection by virtually going back to the time and space. The key features are game world exploration, interacting with virtual roles, coins-collecting and ranking systems, and discussion boards. In the process, we want users to develop their own understanding and interests behind the collections. For the post-pandemic situation, our design envisages a safe space for people with similar interests to interact with each other and explore the heritage of the wide museums using the power of digital technology.

Moving Image Archive



Jialiang Ren, Rundong Wang, Mingyang Dong, Jenny Tang

What is film? How people make a film? And who are the film maker? What if you could change the world of film within an hour? Our team work with the moving image archive from NSL. It stores a large number of historical movies, most of which are documentary. It may be little attractive to you, however, it records the development of the film industry and has importance in education. Within this project, we would like to turn it into something that is charming and acceptable. We designed a game. The assignments within are well-organized and compactly related to the history of the film. The moving image works as one of the most important ways for leisure culture and government in the last century. We would like to invite you to reveal what it is behind the scene, mainly the technologies and skills for making a film, through your limited time interacting with the game. Watch the video for a more general perspective.


A tour in the life of 20th century in Scotland

Fan Yu, Wenyun Deng, Huizhi Zhang, Qiaoyue Yang

Moving images archive from the National Library of Scotland. It records a lot of interesting snippets of life including Scotland’s history, art, architecture, food, advertising, music andso on. Nowadays, due to huge changes in lifestyle, many interesting things in the past are fading away. We design an education website to lead people back to the 20th century to experience the traditional life at that time. In this project, we used videos recording people’s past art life clips, such as dancing, art, listening to folk music, and we added interactive parts to the videos. Different video contents have different ways of interaction, for example, people can learn to dance by watching the videos in the 20th century, or can see the war scenes described in folk songs, so that people can experience life in the 20th century in a more immersive and interesting way. People can also learn some traditional historical culture by looking at some knowledge tips, which is one of the purposes of our website. In the demonstration, we show the experience process of this journey, and we look forward to your participation.

Exhibition production

The Masters students, creative project and exhibition were supported by:

  • Dr Bettina Nissen, Lecturer in Interaction Design
  • Mark Kobine, Designer-Maker and Design Informatics Technician
  • Sarah Ames, Digital Scholarship Librarian at the NLS
  • Marcin Pietruszewski, Estefania Pineiros, Brian Proudfoot, Patrick White and Patricia Wu Wu, Design with Data tutors, who have supported the students with their project developments throughout the semester
  • Jessica Armstrong, Research Projects Producer for Design Informatics and Inspace Curator

Special thanks

Additional thanks to the National Library of Scotland for supporting the Design with Data Masters students with access to the Data Foundry data collections.