Katie Williams

is an artist, designer, and cat mom living in Chicago.




Extinction as Visual Language

Conceptual research into the grief of animal extinction in the style of the Whole Earth Catalog.


First published in 1968, the Whole Earth Catalog (WEC) was an American magazine chock full of articles and product reviews under an overall focus on environmentalism, self-sufficiency, and the desire to live beyond a corporate, suburban-indoctrinated life. While best known for its explorations of futurism and conceptualization of a more utopian future, WEC is also famous for its visual aesthetic. Jam-packed copy, images pasted heavily around the spreads, and dashed arrows drawn all over the pages are just a few examples. 
Extinction as a Visual Language is a conceptual project project under Piotr Michura, in which students explored an “area of concern” as it might play out in the year 2070 (approximately 100 years after the first publication). 

My core interest was the rapid extinction of animal species across the planet—and, further, what it might look like for those animals to be not only aware of but also able to communicate visually to us the immense grief in losing their collective existence.
The main work of this piece is in the visualizations themselves. Each image is dedicated to one of the top ten most endangered species at the time of the project (2020). Every visualization is composed of three layers:

  1. The physical textures and scale of the animal
  2. The visuals of its environment 
  3. A rendering of its communication sound

Visualization for Black Rhinoceros
Visualization for Hawkbill Turtle
Visualization for  Sumatran Elephant
Visualization for Blue Whale
 I then studied markings of grief and grief drawings across various therapeutic and cultural contexts. These visualizations also reference the gestures of the earliest documentations of human mark-making in cave and earth drawings, which I see as pure and raw. All research findings are included in the body copy content of the spread. 
Original spread from Whole Earth Catalog
To read archived versions of Whole Earth Catalog issues, see here.

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