Logo of Edinburgh Napier University.Logo of The Education University of Hong Kong.Logo of British Council

Radical is part of the online festival programme of SPARK 2021 hosted by British Council, and is a collaborative project between School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) and Department of Cultural and Creative Arts at The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) led by Dr Lee Cheng and Dr Hung Keung. Making use of the affordance and interactive characteristics of the internet space for public engagement in digital artmaking activities, the project team presents a web-based platform that allows anyone to 'draw' complex but imagery silhouettes with traditional English letters and Chinese radicals as the basic building blocks. It aims to make available an online public space for the creation and display of artworks produced by the audience through the platform, and promote EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) through artmaking experience in the virtual space.

You can type the alphabets and numbers on your keyboard to trigger the corresponding English letters and Chinese radicals. Clicking the mouse button can also generate random objects, in which you can do the same thing touching on the screen if you are accessing with a smartphone. The three buttons at the bottom of the canvas could bring you more fun. 'Interact' allows you to drive the directions of the flowing radicals and alphabets to wherever you move through the camera, which will take a few seconds to connect with (Don't worry, we will not keep any record); 'Capture' allows you to save a graphical capture of the current view of your work in your computer; and 'Submit' allows you to submit the current view of your work to the online gallery at the end of this webpage (Again, don't worry, your face will not be submitted).

The interactive component was developed using p5.js, a JavaScript library for creative coding freely available and accessible to anyone. You can draw and create and with interactive design on the web-based coding platform. Start learning here on the Edinburgh Napier University IT4U online learning platform!


The 26 alphabets are the basic building blocks of the English language, each has an upper- and lower-case form. The modern English alphabets are originated from Latin script around the 7th century, with other letters been added or removed from time to time until its modern form. The exact shape of each alphabet could differ slight depending on the typeface (i.e. fonts), and whether it is handwritten or cursive. You can type the 26 alphabets on your keyboard to call out the corresponding letters on the artboard. Likewise, you can also click on your mouse or tap on the screen if you are using smartphone to generate random alphabets, which may also generate Chinese strokes by chance to be detailed below.

The order of writing the Chinese character 'yong'.

Eight Principles of Yong (永字八法) is the eight different strokes in the traditional Chinese calligraphy system. They are the most common building blocks in regular Chinese scripting, which could be found in the Chinese character 'Yong' (永). The eight strokes are 'Dot' (點), 'Bridle' (橫), 'Crossbow'/'Strive' (豎), 'Jump' (鈎), 'Horsewhip' (挑/提), 'Passing lightly' (彎), 'Pecking' (撇), and 'Dismemberment' (捺) correspondingly in stroke order. You can type 1 to 8 on your keyboard to call out the eight strokes in the aforesaid stroke order on the artboard, with randomized calligraphy styles sourced from the common Chinese fonts.

The concept of interacting basic building blocks of English and Chinese language with digital media has been part of Dr Hung Keung's creative research. More information could be accessed through this interview script and his research article.


Haptic feedback of swell paper

Audience who are visually impaired could access the artmaking process and produce touchable artwork through tactile painting with swell paper. They can print the screen capture of their work and print it on a swell paper with ordinary ink inkjet printer, and put in through a tactile image painter to make the black ink raise above the surface of the paper. The tactile image painter provide heat to the swell paper with special coating of heat-reactive chemicals, which makes the surface of the paper inflate. Graphics printed with black ink will then be touchable and understandable to those who are visually impaired, providing a haptic feedback for them to experience the artmaking process with tactual experience.