Title Image
auspex [case study]
design research + book design

the sandhill crane

Auspex is a visual research project based on the ecosystems of Hall County, NE. The sandhill crane migration served as the impetus for this project. Working as part ornithologist and part artist, I researched the early naturalists of Nebraska and acquired writings and photographs from UNL’s Archives + Special Collections Library, Frank Shoemaker and Erwin H. Barbour being the most prolific; reading academic journals and books about the ecological systems and how they are most threatened by agriculture and water shortages; and two research trips to Grand Island, where I collected sound, video, and photographs of the sandhill cranes. Additionally, the symbology found throughout the book were sourced from Shoemaker’s field journals – the shorthand notes for bird calls.

“If vital habitat continues to be lost, we may someday know what a lonesome, empty river the Platte in March would be without sandhill cranes.”
-Gary Lingle


environmental concerns

With the late arrival of the sandhill cranes in the spring of 2019, I began to think about climate change and how it might alter their instinct to begin the journey northward. By implementing the glitch effect into the photographs, I am inserting a disruption into the landscape, a metaphor for climate change and human interference within the ecosystem. Glitches in photography and video are the unexpected result of a malfunction, much like the unexpected changes to the climate that are yet to be fully realized.

book design + construction

The typography was chosen based on its relationship with the glitch effects seen on televisions and VHS recordings. The two typefaces resemble the early days of 8-bit computer-generated graphics, with the title font, Adaptive Mono, utilizing subtle humanist touches.
The codex is a double folded hardbound book, with two sections on each side. I found it difficult to organize the book as one single layer, as climate change does not effect an ecosystem from the top to bottom, rather it effects a layered effect on the environment. My solution was to create a book where the viewer is able to flip though the pages on either the right or left side, where the photographs will complement each other no matter how they are opened.

“Nebraska is our spiritual home, our own self-chosen Nirvana, our prairie-born paradise…It has been freely bestowed upon us, either to keep or to destroy. May we choose to keep it.”
-Paul Johnsgard


the details

Photography, graphic design, printing, and binding: Adrienne Simmons, between January and April, 2019
Printing: laser on Red River Polar Matte, ink jet on newsprint
Primary Typefaces: VT323 designed by Peter Hull, and AdaptiveMono OT designed by Rodrigo Cavasos from PSY/OPS
Recommend listening: Inside Your Garden at Night by Zelienople
1590-1600; Latin: one who observes birds, soothsayer, diviner, equivalent to ‘au-’, base of ‘avis’, bird + ‘-spex’ watcher (‘spec-’, stem of ‘specere’ to look at) + -s nominative singular suffix


Primary Sources:

Johnsgard, Paul A. The Nature of Nebraska: Ecology and Biodiversity. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.

Johnsgard, Paul A. The Platte: Channels in Time. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

Krapu, Gary L. Sandhill Cranes and the Platte River. In Gathering of Angels: Migrating Birds and Their Ecology, ed. Kenneth P. Able, 103-118. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.

Lingle, Gary R. “Gray Wings of March.” NEBRASKAland Magazine, January-February, 1985.

Shoemaker, Frank. Personal communication. University of Nebraska, Special Collections. September 16, 1900.

Secondary Sources:

Bhattacharjee, Yudhijt. “Epic Migrations.” National Geographic, March, 2018.

Franzen, Jonathan. “Why Birds Matter.” National Geographic, January, 2018.

Geene, Anne and Arjan de Nooy. Ornithology. Rotterdam: Uitgeverij de HEF Publishers, 2016.

McCarty, Lisa. Transcendental Concord. Santa Fe: Radius Books, 2018.

Morell, Virginia. “Bird Brainiacs.” National Geographic, February, 2018.

Shoumatoff, Alex. “500,000 Cranes Are Headed for Nebraska in One of Earth’s Greatest Migrations.” Smithsonian. March, 2014. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/500000-cranes-are-headed-nebraska-one-earths-greatest-migrations-180949816/

Van Mensvoort, Koert, Hendrik_Jan Grievink. Next Nature. Barcelona and New York: Actar, 2011.