All Work

The Atlas of Emotions for the Dalai Lama & Paul Ekman

Visualizing the science of emotions

Background

After having co-written several books together, the Dalai Lama asked his friend, scientist Dr. Paul Ekman, to design him an Atlas of Human Emotion, and Paul asked us to help him. His Holiness was intrigued by conversations that he and Paul had been having over the years about their different views on the subject of emotion.

The concept was originally to design a single map that would guide emotional travelers and help people find a state of calm. Over time, in close collaboration between Paul, Paul’s daughter Eve Ekman, and Stamen, the idea grew into a collection of maps, each representing a different aspect of the science of emotion.

What we made

This project bridges a set of interesting gaps: that between the academic and the personal, the analytic and the spiritual, the scientific and the emotional. We wanted to take scholarly findings about emotions and make them accessible without simplifying them to the level of saccharine self-help tools, of which there are plenty already. We discovered through this work that data visualization can aspire to more than the presentation of neutral facts: it can be a tool for the pursuit of higher purpose and spiritual awakening.

What they do is not just illustration. It's illumination. Working with Eric and his team wasn't just about discovering things I didn't know about my own research, although it certainly was that. I also learned things that I didn't think it was possible to know about my work.
– – Paul Ekman, PhD