Pop Culture

Now hear this: Twisted earphone cords create cool portraits

Sep. 28, 2012 at 10:51 AM ET

The Internet has helped promote artists who work with such varied mediums as hole-punch dots, breakfast foods, and pennies. The latest unexpected art tool? Those oft-tangled earphone cords that come with your iPods.

Courtesy of Etcetera /
One of the portraits created with earphone cords.

A project devised by Amsterdam-based marketing agency Etcetera and CGI post-production studio Souverein consists of a series of portraits created out of the twisty cords of earbuds. It was created for a promotional campaign surrounding T-Mobile’s “Life for Sharing” collaboration with Deezer music, and is meant to highlight a new streaming add-on for mobile phones that allows users to create playlists and share them with their friends.

To embody the musical camaraderie, the promotion crew decided to bring their friends to life with cords.

“We made portraits of people who created a playlist with earphones, which symbolizes someone’s personal taste of music,” Stan van Zon, creative director of Etcetera told NBCNews.com. “We started with photos of random people. Then we had a sketcher take a look at it, and emphasize the true characteristics with just a couple of strokes. We simplified these sketches to make the complete drawing with just two single strokes.”

Courtesy of Etcetera /
The company is working on a project where anyone can create an image using the cords.

From there, the design was given to Sovereign, a company who specializes in image manipulation, CGI/3D, Photography and Fine Art printing.

“They prepared the job by modeling all kinds of earphones, just to see what works best,” van Zon explained. “Black lines, black earplugs, not too much design-y stuff, and an off-white background.”

While the project began for advertising purposes, the flair of the idea has already inspired new editions. The original models were based on the faces of colleagues and friends, but Etcetera is working on a project that will enable music lovers to create their own portraits with earphones in conjunction with their personal playlists. Their plan is to have the computer produce an earphone image based on someone’s Facebook profile or another photo available online. That portrait will then become a kind of album cover for the person’s playlist.

These renditions will likely prove a simpler task to construct than their prototypes.

“When the means to make an expression are so limited, really everything needs to be exactly right,” commented van Zon. “Of course, this also depends on the specific characteristics of a person. With a nose twice as big as usual, it’ll make the job somewhat easier.”

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