The Image Language Translator Turns Words into Pictures

By Devon Glenn 

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. On the Image Language, it’s worth exactly one word. Type a few words into the text box, and the Image Language translator will match each one with an image pulled from Google to form a pictograph.

It works for languages other than English — even those with different character sets. The results can be saved to a portfolio or shared on Facebook.

The site’s founders, Argentinean copywriter Santiago Luna Lupo and Brazilian art director Mihail Aleksandrov, had worked together at La Comunidad advertising agency before they decided to collaborate on a project to “explore the possibilities of two things: words and images.”  Argentinean programmer Nicolás Morell developed the site, which the founders manage via Skype from their respective offices in New York City and Miami.

They promise that “the results will always be surprising, sometimes shocking and often stupid.” It’s an accurate assessment, as the top of Google’s search results aren’t always relevant, especially if your search terms are a line of poetry or a quotation instead of a targeted list of keywords. Saved to the gallery without the original text, the messages are open to interpretation.

In the video above, Adele sings her popular tear-jerker, “Someone Like You,” while images from the Image Language translator float across her face. There are just no words to describe the moving montage of military recruiting posters, medical illustrations, and for good measure, a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. You’re going to have to see this one for yourself.

In this picture, you can see how the translator interprets the lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

As with Pinterest, Tumblr, and other image-sharing networks, copyrights are a concern for The Image Project’s founders, who advise the images’ rightful owners to contact them with requests to remove the content from the site.

UPDATE: Santiago Luna Lupo has responded to our email request for more information about the tool. “When we started with this project some people told us, ‘if each word is represented by the first image that appears on Google Image Search, it doesn’t make sense, why don’t you pick the best image that represents that word and create phrases [that do make] sense?'” he said via email, “and for us that’s the beauty of this experiment. You may like it or not, but that is the first image that Google shows and you can’t control it. It’s a live organism that changes and grows daily. We don’t know where it is going to end, or to what is going to develop but it is out there and we have a lot of fun.”

Image via The Image Language.