Archives for posts with tag: Hidden Messages

While researching into visual cryptography I became increasingly fascinated with the subject, and sought further examples to support my forthcoming practical assignment.

Upon engaging well with a subject matter, as here with visual cryptography, I continue to delve deeper, seeking further visual examples to both explain better my intentions to tutors and fellow designers, alongside expanding my own knowledge of the subject such that I can propose a well informed and researched final piece.

Rubin’s Vase

Smithson, J., n.d. Rubin’s Vase. [electronic print] Available at: <> [Accessed 18th December 2011].

The well known above illustration is that of Rubin’s Vase, which invites the audience to view either two profile faces or a vase, leads well into the final piece as it was my intention to create a piece in which the viewer is invited to see either the words or the detail that creates them, both holding the same meaning ‘geometry’.

The Rubin’s Vase illusion, works on the principle of Gestalt Theory known as figure and ground. Gestalt theory relates to our visual perceptions, and states every stimulus is perceived in its simplest form. Here the relationship between figure and ground is ambiguous, as our perception changes between the focus of the faces or the vase. This changing figure-ground relationship was something I wanted to experiment with for the practical assignment, as I believe the ambiguity is captivating.


In addition to the optical illusion of Rubin’s Vase, I also looked at the maze. Commonly the maze is shaped into an image easily viewed from an aerial perspective, but incomprehensible while inside. This is an alternative method of hiding messages, whereby the message can only be read from one viewpoint. Again this led into the final piece, creating an image which the audience can better comprehend from one viewpoint and which remains difficult to decipher from others.

Anon. n.d. Kingston Corn Maze: Sunrise Hill Farm. [electronic print] Available at: <> [Accessed 18th December 2011].

After considering the possibility of hiding messages amongst the designs I have been creating, forming an amalgamation between type and geometry, I chose to research into the field of visual cryptography.

Forming images which can only be viewing in a certain manner is not a new technique. As many of you may remember the Magic Eye books, first appearing twenty years ago, where an image was only revealed if the reader were able to facilitate the parallel viewing technique. Beginning with a discovery by Bela Julesz alongside MacArthur Fellow in 1959 first highlighting the possibility that depth perception was a neurological process not something occurring within the eye itself as previously considered.In 1979 Christopher Tyler created the first single-image random-dot stereogram allowing the brain to see 3D shapes from 2D images. This formed the basis for the Magic Eye phenomena. Until you master the process of deciphering the stereogram within your brain you be unable to see the 3D image. Unfortunately those without stereo vision will be unable to decipher the image as it relies on the information from the two alternative viewpoints.

To reveal these single-image stereograms the viewer must train their eyes to focus beyond the image, creating a parallel viewpoint opposed to one focussed on the page. As this is not the natural focus position for the eye, the viewer will not see the image until they have managed to complete this process.

Normal Viewing Method

Anon., n.d.  Normal Viewing. [electronic print] Available at: <; [Accessed 17th December 2011].

Parallel Viewing Method

Anon., n.d.  Parallel Viewing. [electronic print] Available at: <; [Accessed 17th December 2011].

Example of a Magic Eye image.

Anon., 2011.  Magic Eye Image. [electronic print] Available at: <; [Accessed 17th December 2011].

Those capable of mastering the parallel viewing technique will be able to reveal the image of a car.

Visual cryptography method

Originally developed by Moni Naor and Adi Shamir in 1994,2 Visual cryptography allows images and information to be decrypted by human sight. By separating the image onto two or more separate sheets it is possible to make the image impossible to decipher without having both halves of the cipher.

Anon., n.d. Visual Cryptography, [electronic print] Available at: <> [Accessed 17th December 2011].

This method has been utilised by Kai Jauslin in their ‘Visuelle Kryptographie” project, where the image is only recognisable when the box is in the correct position. This invites the viewer to interact with the box.

Jauslin, K., n.d. Visuelle Kryptographie. [electronic print] Available at: <> [Accessed 25th November 2011].

A simpler method which many will be familiar with is that to place a red filter over the hidden image.

People are always fascinated with hidden messages, designers alike. The thrill of uncovering a secret message is engaging for the audience and this was something I wished to carry through into my design project.

Developed by Professor Shinobu Ishihara the pseudoisochromatic colour blind test is utilised on this elephant in Antwerp. Here only those not suffering from red-green colourblindness will be able to see the M on the elephants back.

Price, R., 2008. Ishihara Elephant. [electronic print] Available at: <> [Accessed 17th December 2011].

John Locke and Jackie Caradonio were experimenting with hiding text with the following image from their studio, Lioninoil.

Locke, J., and Caradonio, J., 2008. What you are looking for hidden in plain sight. [electronic print] Available at: <> [Accessed 17th December 2011].

Many graphic designers also experiment with hiding hidden messages in their logo design. It is a way of engaging with the audience, providing stimulation and a reward for their effort.

Aguad, S., 2009. Toblerone Logo. [electronic print] Available at: <> [Accessed 17th December 2011].

Initially with the new design for the Museum of London the audience is likely to only appreciate the colour and flowing form. However the shapes used are not arbitary, they represent the changing shape of London throughout history.3

Porter Bell, C., 2010. Museum of London Logo. [electronic print] Available at: <> [Accesed 17th December 2011].

Optical illusions such as the image below, which revels something different at different distances is something I wanted to consider with my design. By being able to read the hidden word at some distances but not others will engage the audience.

Anon, n.d. You Are Close. [electronic print] Available at: <> [Accessed 17th December 2011].

In researching the history of visual crytpographic methods and looking at methods used by other designers to hide and reveal messages offered several alternatives to hide the message I wanted to among my design. By comparing to the work of others I am able to not only analyse which methods work effectively.


1. Anon. n.d. History of Magic Eye 3D Pictures. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17th December 2011].

2. Wikipedia, 2011. Visual Crytography. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17th December 2011].

3. Anon. n.d. Coley Porter Bell. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17th December 2011].

The idea continued to develop to forming letters from geometric shapes in order to create a word. From this experimentation begun with ‘hiding’ the word amongst further elements of the geometric design. This became quite challenging and time consuming. It was interesting to gauge the reaction of others to the legibility of the word or letter. It was deemed important to ensure the word was legible enough to be recognisable, however hidden enough to be of interest to the viewer to investigate.

Hidden T

Hidden Y