Library Of  The Year

Rewarding the cultivation of a sophisticated society.

Finnish Library Association

& Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities

Library Of The Year is a competition looking to reward the best library in Finland.

The quality of library services is an important indicator of a sophisticated welfare-state. Libraries are a central part of the Finnish life: in fact, the average Finn makes 9 visits a year to some of our more than 700 libraries. For the youngest, libraries are primarily a place of exploration and socializing thanks to the innovative programs run by individual libraries. For the grown-ups, libraries represent a place of study as well as a symbol of free and democratized information.

Most of us share individual relationships with our favorite libraries. The small library next to your school was where you used to meet with friends to play games after school, the university library and you shared plenty of all-nighters, and the big city library acts as a centralised hub of knowledge and the tools to leverage it.

Our personal bonds to libraries made this work feel more like a personal project than commercial work, and we believe that passion has been translated into the final piece.

We chose to raise the stage for our work to a level of abstraction where the incredible societal impact of libraries could be discussed in a clear, unhindered way. This meant transforming data and meaning to their abstract, symbolic counterparts. A clear, 3-dimensional space as our playground, we compose a world from a set of artistic floral designs, dots, lines, text and symbolism. 

The abstract dot array and the graphic elements of the competition work well when used to compliment each other.

There is more depth to the animation than meets the eye.

For the visual story, we combine literature-related assets and symbolism with an overarching floral theme to achieve a look that corresponds with the FLA’s branding, but still allows the competition to stand on its own legs as a sovereign entity. The story begins with only a book—the most basic building block of a library—and progresses all the way to a floral silhouette of the Finnish map. Libraries have an impact on the entire society, yet this all roots from individuals who utilize their services. The animation is our attempt at illustrating this important dynamic.

Artistic use of symbolism and abstraction enables both the conveying of a clear message and the discussion of ideas larger than your screen. Fitting even 500 book icons on the canvas would be difficult, not to mention illustrating the 84,000,000 works Finnish people borrow from public libraries yearly. By having the initial book morph into a dot, we introduce a symbolic way of illustrating the book’s attributes in a form that is more flexible to being animated. Still unable to fit millions of dots on the screen in a visually pleasing manner, having the dot as a symbol enabled us to better establish a sense of the magnitude discussed. Further on, when the camera flies through a canyon of these dots, the motion blurring of the dots into almost continuous lines creates a feeling of not being surrounded by chaotic clouds, but instead breezing through the corridor between two infinitely high bookshelves.

The series of dots blur together, resembling the gap between two bookshelves in a library.

Bringing us back to a more organic realm, the stems guide the viewer forward even beyond the traditional corridor, signaling a key criterion of the competition: building a library of the next generation. Here, a more organic touch is added to the stems through simulated leaves growing along their sides. These leaves are a particle simulation following the same trajectory as the stems, but randomized in their size, rotation and appearance (between four alterations).

Finally, the story climaxes as the floral illustrations from the first scene grow intertwined into a silhouette of the Finnish map. This ending scene and the intensely fluid motion in which the flowers grow into frame portray the dynamic and nationwide reach bolstered by both libraries and the organisers of the competition. However, this scene was hard to execute properly as the bold and contrasting prints of the flowers made it difficult to compose a visually pleasing and unified composition. Instead of trying to fiddle around this problem, we decided to double down: we utilized the wavy and full-of-direction textures to create a visual pathway from south to north that feels natural and pleasing to look at. To sell this effect even further, the path shares its direction with the order in which the floral illustrations grow into frame, creating a result where every element seems and feels logical, organic and purposeful.

Finally, the entirety of Finland's geographical area is overwhelmed by the floral illustrations, signalling the nationwide reach and importance of the topic.

The audio track both grounds the listener with information and emotionally moves them.

Due to the abstract nature of the artistic limitations of the chosen animation and graphic style, a grounding voice-over track is needed for the important job of presenting the themes, facts and narrative for the told story. In an excited tone, the listener is told of the important work of libraries, as well as the impetus for the whole piece; a competition to find the best library in Finland. Spectrally, the voice is very balanced but broad: the lowest fundamental frequency of the voice is hardly toned down, as well as the energetic hiss we can hear from an intimately close recording is hardly damped but rather accentuated. To let the vocals sit even more naturally in the mix, we surgically lowered the exact frequencies of the voice from the background tune using a side chain responsive, resonance reduction tool.

The image above is a snapshot from a tool we used to lower the exact dominant resonant frequencies of the voice track from the background tune to create a subtle degree of separation, which enables the voice to gleam through a rather busy mix.

The background tune offers clear segmentation to guide the listener through the themes discussed by an intimate, excited and even somewhat ethereal voice-over. Even in terms of loudness, the tune and the voice are on an even footing, which serves to explain the importance of the musical dimension. As for the segmentation, an introduction, with a beautiful, ephemeral and spacey arpeggiated pattern of a piano-esque sound. Played softly, the notes form a flowing stream of sound that vibrates in the listeners ears. In high spirits, we move on to the climax of the tune, with an increase in high end noise, as well as a culmination for the melodic arpeggiated motif of the intro. For a fleeting moment, all low end cuts off and we are left floating as the energy and expectation rises. Once we drop back on our feet, we are greeted with a funky, yet surprisingly soft beat with a repeating harmonic pattern with a sound quite familiar to us from the intro. However, now it is mostly without the lush, dreamy reverberation we heard earlier, giving the sound much more rhythmic pulse. An extremely gentle sound of the bass riff that interacts and coalesces with the delicately punchy drums gives the climax a rich and moving sound with just the right amount of rhythm, harmony and bounce. When the track comes to its end, trails of reverberation from each instrument come together and in a soothing, ephemeral fashion, the tune comes to a close.

In the end, the viewers are left with a fascinating, multi-faceted work that offers a new aspect to focus on for nearly any number of rewatches. Limitations for the visual style birth creative choices that work together, partly due to the shared, defined building blocks. The enchanting experience is enabled and amplified through a complete use of the audible field, with a genre-twisting musical composition and an avid voice-over to guide the way.