The image is © Ben Fry, 2009. There is one other image of this object. See our image rights statement.


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Print, Chromosome 22

This is a Print. It was designed by Ben Fry. It is dated 2001 and we acquired it in 2017. Its medium is digital print on archival paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

Ben Fry is a computer scientist and graphic designer who works with big data sets. Among his earlier self-initiated projects, Fry’s Chromosome series visualizes the vast scale of genomic data. There are over three billion letters – represented as sequences of A, C, G, and T – of genetic code in the human genome. That genetic data is carried on chromosomes, with the higher numbered chromosomes among the shortest in the genome. Fry created chromosome maps to make the scale of our DNA more intelligible.

Chromosome 22 is a visualization of the XX million letters of genetic code that comprise chromosome 22. It marks the first in Fry’s chromosome series and is a simple visualization of all the letters of a chromosome. For this map, Fry listed the letters of the entire chromosome in succession, as a three-pixel font with a one-pixel border, tiny but still legible. Depicted at this scale, this image is only 1/X of the XX million letters that comprise chromosome 22. XXX images of this size would be needed to show the entire human genome.

Fry created his Chromosome series while getting his PhD at MIT Media Lab. He credits Cooper Hewitt as being among the first institutions to feature his Chromosome and genetic work. Chromosome 22 was included in Cooper Hewitt’s 2003 exhibition “Inside Design Now: National Design Triennial.” It was displayed with Fry’s Chromosome 21 and Chromosome 20 visualizations to show the development in his genome series, which began to codify more complex DNA information.

Fry began creating his Chromosome series outside the Processing environment, using a Java program with custom code and “scraps of personal code,” according to Fry. From these, he generated tiff images and PDF files. Early projects such as this were influential in what Processing, which Fry created with Casey Reas, would become, informing even pragmatic functions. For instance, the reason Processing can render to PDF files is because Fry was generating files for institutions like Cooper Hewitt.

This object was donated by Ben Fry. It is credited Gift of Ben Fry.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 91.4 × 91.4 cm (36 × 36 in.)

Cite this object as

Print, Chromosome 22; Designed by Ben Fry (American, b. 1975); digital print on archival paper; H x W: 91.4 × 91.4 cm (36 × 36 in.); Gift of Ben Fry; 2017-11-4

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Print, Chromosome 22 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=4 February 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>