The Meaningful Algorithmic Placement Of Names On The 9/11 Memorial

The Meaningful Algorithmic Placement Of Names On The 9/11 Memorial

Data visualizer Jer Thorp created a program that would depict the relationships between the victims through the location of their name.

Dylan Schenker
  • 11 september 2011

Today, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, a memorial to commemorate the lives that were lost will be dedicated to its planners. The names of the victims will adorn bronze etched panels surrounding the memorial pools that represent where the towers once stood. Although initially the names appear to be placed at random, their placement is in fact completely deliberate. Family and friends worked in the towers together and architect Michael Arad wanted to do justice to those relationships. The placement will commemorate both the 2,983 lives lost as well as the victim’s relationships to each other when the towers fell.

To make sure these relationships were properly remembered requests were made to living family members and friends to provide insight on how victims were connected. Using these ‘meaningful adjacencies’ they employed the help of design firm Local Projects and data visualizer Jer Thorp to develop a solution that would figure out the best way to place the names together.

With approximately 1,200 adjacency requests they had to figure out how to do the most justice to the requests within the alloted space of the memorial. Many names had complex relationships with each other that revealed themselves in large clusters. Using the programming language Processing, Thorp developed an algorithm to clearly layout the names with consideration to the adjacency requests. The layout was both intuitive and interactive so that human oriented problems such as aesthetic choices and design could be solved by the architects and designers.

As much as the more complex work was done by algorithms they merely provided a framework for humans to operate within. Once the program ordered the names, the designers and architects applied their own aesthetic choices to the layout.

WTC Names Arrangement Tool from blprnt on Vimeo.

Overall there were 18 panels per side plus one corner for a total of 76 panels. The placement of the names also reflects which tower the people were in. The names of those who’s lives were lost in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as well as first responders and airplane passengers are present as well. in the end, 98% of the requests were able to be fulfilled. As Thorp stresses on the blog, the use of algorithms to design the layout is largely invisible from the final product. Instead the names of victims is foregrounded above all. Each of the names is given the same amount space and weight so that they are all perceived as being equal.

Photos and video courtesy of Jer Thorp



Fitness Advocate: Paving The Future of Workouts With Audio

Fitness & Sport
Brand Development Yesterday

Swipe Left On A Dating World Built To Keep You Single And Disconnected

Hinge's VP of Marketing Karen Fein tells us about the service's daring ditch of the swiping culture that's designed to attract advertising revenue, not meaningful connections

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Marvel Comic Tells The Story Of A Heroic Syrian Mother

Madaya Mom is the true tale of a family trapped inside a town for over a year


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Retail Yesterday

Brooklyn Cafe Lets Customers Pay By The Hour, Not By The Cup

Glasshour is an establishment that provides free coffee and pastries and charges for the time guests spend there

Technology Yesterday

Electric Spoon Changes The Way Food Tastes

The Taste Buddy is being developed to manipulate your taste buds and make everything more delicious

Related Expert

Salman Khan

Social Good, Online Education, Accessibility

Travel Yesterday

Bike Path In Poland Can Glow For 20 Years Using Solar Power

Cyclists can follow the shimmering blue lanes for better safety each time they ride

Technology Yesterday

Open-Source Toolkit Lets Communities Build Their Own Street Furniture

The Wikiblock database contains 30 blueprints of different neighborhood fixtures including benches, bus stops, and kiosks

Food Yesterday

Tiny Pub Only Has Space For Three People

Make Time For It is a small London pop-up bar that encourages conversation without the distraction of technology


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Community Builder: How to Hack Slack

Claire Wasserman, Founder of Ladies Get Paid, describes how she's using an internal team communication tool to build a network of thousands

PSFK Labs october 21, 2016

PSFK Picks: Top 5 Performance-Enhancing Wearables

Our new report looks at innovations pioneering the future of performance through intelligent activewear and predictive analytics

Advertising Yesterday

This Beer Was Brewed Just For Scotch Drinkers

Highland Park Scotch Whisky & Sixpoint Brewery have teamed up to create two limited-edition pairings for New York City boilermakers

Mobile Yesterday

Let An AI Librarian Help Sort Your Digital Bookmarks

A new app uses machine learning to help organize your virtual life

Mobile Yesterday

Pizza Hut Tattoo Lets You Place An Order From Your Body

The latest gimmick from the fast-food chain is a tattoo-like sticker that lets customers get delivery with a simple tap on their arm

Travel Yesterday

Reinvented Bicycle Inspired By Supercar Design

The yellow bike based on a Lamborghini has sharp edges and an aluminum alloy frame

Health Yesterday

Health Platform Gives Perspective On Your Weekly Habits

Gyroscope is a new wellness app that works by amalgamating data about your life into beautifully designed visuals

Beauty Yesterday

Korean Beauty Brand Uses VR To Let Customers Pick Their Ingredients

Innisfree created a unique experience for its Shanghai Disneyland customers with a virtual reality trip to select what goes into their purchase

Arts & Culture Yesterday

3D-Printed Creations Resemble Floating Paper Outlines

Japanese design firm Nendo's exhibition features works that look like sheets of material being folded, torn, and crumpled

Technology october 21, 2016

Concept Camera Designed To Only Take Unique Photos

Camera Restricta is tool that prompts photographers to only capture one-of-a-kind images

No search results found.