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The Emotion Wheel was developed by psychologist Robert Plutchik in 1980 as a visual tool for understanding his psycho-evolutionary theory. He identified eight primary emotions in polar opposite pairs. The wheel can be used to navigate between the various intensities that emotions bring along and evoke. As such, the wheel is primarily useful for objectively identifying intense feelings. Robert Plutchik’s research showed that there are 34,000 distinguishable emotions. However, it is actually impossible to differentiate and understand all 34,000 emotions. By reducing these to eight primary emotions, things become a little simpler. The eight emotions form the basis for all other human emotions. The eight primary emotions are entered into a grid opposite one another. After all eight emotions are connected to one another, a wheel is created. The wheel has been constructed such that every emotion has its own color. As the intensity of the emotion increases (towards the center of the Wheel), so does the indicator color. Both the emotion and the color decrease towards the outer edge. There are also secondary emotions that are presented as combinations of the primary emotions.


A few years ago, for some reason many of my graduate students at the time developed an obsession with the wheel and their projects turned into various investigations of it, ranging from audio interfaces that were based on Plutchik's notion of the opposing emotions, to visual interface projects and so on. Their enthusiasm led me to a mini play session of my own, the result of which was the series of wallpapers shown here.


The idea was to spoof scientific diagrams and presentations by creating something that looked "legit" but was of course completely phony. A designer's interpretation of the Sokal Affair maybe?

Rather than put the emotions in the original symmetrical wheel I wanted to try and see whether novel relationships and emotional overlaps would emerge if the relationship nodes are distributed differently. A confused, contradictory psychological landscape in other words, that would give psychologists something to chew over and get their heads around. However, I did adhere to Plutchik’s list of relationships by linking up the nodes in the correct order to their opposites as well as their components. Also, I used the analogous color wheel to mark up hue relationships between nodes. To this end I initially created a series of diagrams in which the nodes were distributed randomly by the software of the graph editor.

Of the many I made I picked a few and opened them in photoshop where I added the complimentary colors of the wheel as semi-transparent overlapping areas that surround each node. The idea was to get these colors to overlap to create new tints where they intersect. 


Confused emotions? In-between states? New forms of psychoses?

In order to create a suitably serious feel to the layout I added a short description and a legend. Needless to say, Arial - the font of choice for such somber endeavors was the one that was used.

The wallpapers that I made out of the randomized graphs and the wheel colors are in the gallery above. However, having gotten totally bored by now with all the poo-faced scientific inquiry stuff I took the play session to a whole new level and applied the kitschiest of kitsch, i.e., page curl effects to some of the diagrams. And I use them as desktop wallpapers to this very day!

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