Hate Hearts


Overtime industries change, adapt, blossom or deplete due to changes in cultural habits and advancements in technology. Photography specifically has taken this tsunami like hit within the last decade and has adapted perfectly to requirement. With a camera (smart phones) in the majority of peoples pockets combined with on demand connectivity (4G, wifi) photography is continually growing.

Combined with the digital tools and a mobile first mentality people are documenting and engaging with individuals through the visual language of photography in more dynamic and real time methods. Bringing us into a new era of photographic creation. With Snapchat Stories and now Instagram Stories (#copycats) following suite, the ability to adapt, manipulate and add additional context to our imagery is now a growing trend.

So why are brands / marketing sticking to the old linear traditional format of communication with their photography?

We need to move forward and elevate photographic advertising and get past just a static linear state within campaign work. Opening up the doors and allowing a new integrated form of audience communications to fill the gaps between the traditional linear format and the digital environment. In the same way that foam insulation is sprayed into wall cavities programmatic imagery will do the same to connect and create a truly integrated customer experience.

The development of programmatic photography means a still image has the potential to change over time, adapt to its surroundings, data inputed, the weather or peoples input/interaction. It’s not just a stand alone linear piece any more. It opens the doors to ongoing interaction and change while providing data back to the owner.

I would like to introduce you to the first of my ongoing collaborative projects called The Hate Heart Project. The project focuses on social engagement and self interpretation. Even though it’s a digital piece, all the elements utilised are 100% photographic and embrace the above programmatic photographic approach.


The Hate Heart Project looks at taking popular culture along with visual language and the written language to create a colourful array of playfully tongue in cheek fine art prints using profanity mixed with a pop art style.

Insight / Problem

Photography is about capturing a moment in time, but what if we could adapt and change and keep changing the final moment (image)?

Concept / Solution

The Hate Heart Project answers just that by creating programmatic photography that empowers the user by allowing them to generate their own bespoke Hate Heart image. Through full customisation you can write your own message, pick the colour of the heart and background. The entire process uses 100% photographic imagery giving a authentic photographic image rendered as the final result.


The Process

This collaborative project melds three distinct disciplines together, model making, photography and digital. Each Hate Heart base was hand sculpted along with all the lettering in the 6 varying tones in plaster by model maker Bill Turpin. These were then photographed and retouched by image maker Kai Bastard. Finally the images were then optimised for the website that was hand scripted to allow for the full breadth of customisable functionality by weheartdigital.

1357 total hearts created in 2 weeks

The Results

Programmatic imagery opens up a diverse array of opportunities. Empowering the individual with the assets and tools to create their own interpretation on the project builds upon the visual interpretation of language as a whole. It also has the ability to diversify into different languages and cultures through the nature of customisation and with the mobile first mentality it turns individuals into their own content creators on the go with the results being personalised sharable content /messaging.


Stats from Instagram engagement :- @hate_hearts

The Tech

The end goal, as said above was to create, on the fly, a photo realistic image.  This meant that we had to do things in a different way to the norm.  The letters are not fonts for a start, they are digital photographs.  So we have 6 images for each letter.  We needed to write a separate tool that would churn out all those CSS rules based on the letter sizes and positions in the sprite sheet as writing them by hand would have proved too tedious.


Organic early adopters :- @hate_hearts

Then we had a two step process.  First, as you type putting the letters in the heart dynamically, adjusting the size when the second or third lines are added or deleted.  Then we need to take all of these images, and the background and the sweet itself, and dynamically render it as a high resolution image, which is good enough for printing.