Tag Archives: Mayor Bing

When a Picture is Worth a Thousand Pictures

It’s been way too long since I blogged, but I kinda have to feel inspired to do it.  Over the last few months, it’s not that I haven’t felt inspired though, just that I’ve been too damn busy.

However, something happened over the last couple of weeks that I thought I would share because it was so much fun, and how often is something genuinely fun?

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has always been a big supporter of the company for which I run corporate communications.  However, at the end of the year, he will leave office to be replaced by Mike Duggan.

My CEO, who has known Mayor Bing for many years, wanted to do something nice for him to thank him and simply giving him some form of plaque….well, y’know, it just didn’t seem personal enough.

As is normal with this kind of challenge, the task wound up being thrown over the wall to the comms department.  Unfortunately, as with all things of a personal nature, creating something unusual takes infinitely more time than most other tasks because you are in the unknown.

However, I happened to sit down with a friend one day a few weeks ago and was musing about what to do.  I had an idea for producing come form of collage of pictures and she (thanks Kris, I owe you) said instead of a collage why not try a mosaic?

How cool!  But as with all things like this, the initial inspiration and idea are the thin end of the wedge.  How the hell do you create a mosaic image?  I had visions of getting a graphic designer involved, and spending a small fortune.  Clearly this wasn’t an option.

However, I had unwisely mentioned to my boss that perhaps a mosaic would be kinda cool, and she instantly loved the idea.  I really should have kept quiet until I’d figured out what it would take – me and my big mouth – but now I was on the hook to deliver it.

It was at that point that my Comms Assistant (thanks Heather, you rock!) found an obscure piece of software called Andrea Mosaic.

Select the principal mosaic picture

Select the principal mosaic picture

Andrea Mosaic is free.  They ask only that you give them credit for use of their product (I trust that this blog post and my eternal thanks for their awesome product are sufficient credit).  Once downloaded, it allows you to create a digital mosaic using, well, any digital image.  So, I found a test pic of the Mayor reading a newsletter I’d produced a few months earlier and did a mosaic of that using about 50 pictures of my family taken from iPhoto on my Mac.

The result was astonishing.  In short, it worked.  To be more precise, it worked, it took about three minutes, and it was easy. I won’t labor the point but all it involves is selecting the main mosaic picture, selecting a folder of pictures you want to use for the tiles, selecting your parameters (how many tiles, final output dimensions, tile orientation options, color manipulation, tile repetition, etc.) before finally clicking the ‘Create Mosaic’ button.

Select your parameters

Select your parameters

The output file was a jpg image with a file size of about 90mb.  The main mosaic image was clear, but when you zoomed in all the individual tiles were clearly visible.  I generally have limited faith in free software but this did exactly what it said on the website.

State of the City

State of the City

So, with a degree of faith in the software, I set about building the finished product.  The first requirement was obviously where to get the tile images from and what to use as the main picture.  My boss selected the picture she wanted to use quite quickly – a shot of the Mayor giving a State of the City address a couple of years earlier, but the real headache was where to get the hundreds of images needed for the tiles.  Clearly we couldn’t use pictures of my family, but professional pictures of the mayor have to be sourced and there are usage rights that need to be considered.

It was at that point that I found invaluable help from the City of Detroit’s Communications Department (thank you Rose and Shabu).  From the city’s image database, they were able to provide me with over 500 pictures of the Mayor and various Detroit landmarks.  The selection process took a few days but finally we were off and running.

Section detail of the main mosaic, showing the individual tiles

Section detail of the main mosaic, showing the individual tiles

I produced several mosaics with different mosaic resolutions, and then Heather ran them down to FedEx Kinkos to get some test prints done.  This essentially involved taking a section of the image and printing that section at the same size as it would be on the final render.

We put half a dozen of these outputs down side by size and looked at them. For a final output at 5ft high, the version that used 5000 tiles was perfect.  The overall image looked like it was going to be clear, the image within each of the tiles was also clear when you got close to it.  The boss liked it.

So, we ran the final output and Heather went back to Kinkos.  She returned a couple of hours later clutching a large cardboard tube.  We crossed our fingers, unrolled it on the floor…..and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The mosaic was simply stunning.  Up close the tiles stood out clearly, but from a distance even the seal of the City of Detroit was legible.

Mayor happy, CEO happy.

All that remained was to take it to a framers and then make the presentation.  The Mayor was delighted, his Head of Communications kept coming over and peering at the mosaic with a look of fascination, and my boss was happy.

I am sure I will use Andrea Mosaic again in the future.  Maybe for another work related project, maybe for something personal.  The only costs involved are the time invested, the printout, and the cost of framing.

We were up against a huge time crunch with this, and I had a lot of help pulling it together so quickly, but it turned out to be a great result and the most fun I’ve had in ages.

Even if you don’t have an immediate use for it, try downloading the software and playing around with it.  And I’d love to know what results you get from it.  It’s a terrific product, and you can have endless fun with it.

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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Communications, Uncategorized


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