Playing with code to make chapter artwork for Inside Black Mirror

Applied Works collaborated with designer Zoë Bather on Inside Black Mirror, the first official book about the cult Netflix sci-fi series. Using a series of code-based filters, we developed a visual aesthetic for the book’s chapter openers, inspired by Charlie Brooker’s nightmarish visions of our relationship with technology.

Tech-driven approach

The Black Mirror anthology examines society’s increasing dependency on new technology, and the potential for chaos when we lose control of it. We wanted to reflect this central theme by building a series of digital filters to deconstruct or regenerate a base image from each episode, allowing us to relinquish a certain amount control over the visual aesthetic.

Initial explorations led us towards four base filters that could be applied across the title page and 19 chapters (shown in the video above), creating a varied but cohesive set of artwork. Our emoji filter redraws stills from the show as a tapestry of emojis, tailored to reflect the theme of the episode – 15 Million Merits for instance, is created from hundreds of bicycles, microphones, notes and stars. Our vector filter utilises core motifs from different episodes, like the Arkangel logo, and explodes them across the page. Our glitch filter deconstructs the base image using different brightness thresholds, while our colour offset filter splits images into their component RGB values, redrawing each channel in a screen of different shapes.

To coincide with the release of Bandersnatch, an interactive episode of Black Mirror released on December 28th 2018, we launched, where users can create looping GIFs using three of the four book filters, giving the chapter openers a digital afterlife. Users can pick any of the source images from the 19 episodes used in the book, along with Bandersnatch, or use their own image to create a looping GIF to share on social media.

Publisher Penguin Random House have made this video to document how the book and website came together.
Case study video
Creative Review article
Book design: Zoë Bather