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Mood Maps

A 'quantified self' watercolor experiment, tracking mood variations over time

April 29, 2014

[This is a guest post by Erin Hedrington*, about her visualization project “Mood Maps“]


Mood Maps was first inspired by two completely unrelated things: the work of Nicholas Felton, whose annual reports track his everyday life, and the mood rings I loved to wear as a little girl.

I really liked the juxtaposition of concrete and fluid information; even though I recorded my mood hourly (for four months!), a person’s mood is still a very difficult thing to put into hard facts, into something that could be charted and read as an infographic.

Because of this, I knew I wanted a very dreamy, fluid aesthetic. Basing my mood colors off a common mood ring chart, I painted charts following my moods on both a macro scale (a four month chart), and on a micro scale (a one month chart and a one day chart).

As I was painting, the watercolors blended together, which I didn’t mind; moods often bleed together, you can feel more than one thing at a time, or your previous mood influences the next. As the amount of time represented increased, the layers and complexity increased; the one-day map is very simple to decipher compared to the four month.

In all of the charts, I picked out some highlights, some moods that occurred suddenly, or I felt stood out among others. For these I indicated the date, and the reason I felt that way (which I had also recorded).

I then wanted the project to progress to more than just static images; I wanted to see the moods change, flow and morph into each other. I noted overall trends to how I had felt the past four months– it was, after all, right after graduation, a slightly tumultuous time. I thought these would be situations many could relate to, so I demonstrated: “This is what (insert mood) looks like”. It was also an exercise in visualizing color. Viewers look at the colors morphing and make the connections with the situations I presented, and maybe even their own situations. I chose themes of getting discouraged, being in love, and attempting to regain control of your life.

I tested a few methods of how to create this effect, but wound of using a stop motion sort of method. I painted lots of mini paintings of the moods morphing, and then blended them together in AfterEffects.

I always like to see how I can translate projects into new things, so I’m hoping to design an app based off this project, where the user records their own moods and an animation similar to the one shown here is generated.

(image: Watercolor chart showing four months of moods | Erin Hedrington)
(image: Erin Hedrington)
(image: Erin Hedrington)
(image: Watercolor Key \ Erin Hedrington)

Watercolor animation showing transition of moods in various situations:


*Erin Hedrington is a recent School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate, working and living in Chicago. She loves typography, illustration, and experimenting with new methods. She also has a tendency to become particularly attached to any project she can relate back to the good ol’ days during childhood (i.e. mood rings, Barbie dolls, anything Disney). You can follow her work at

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.