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Introducing: Curious Markings

Curious Markings Co. is an ongoing project by me (Ian McKenzie) that attempts to share my schizophrenic symptoms in an artistic, entertaining, and (hopefully) informative way. Curious Markings is all about a strange, unknown language that I hear as auditory hallucinations. This language takes shape on paper as these rather curious markings. Curious Markings is truly a culmination of my time at North Island College, showing all of the skills I learned (and a lot of the skills I learned on my own).

What are the meaning of the markings?

Attached to each marking is a title (in the unknown language), a subtitle (in English), a description, and a story. The description is my attempt of deciphering the meaning behind the marking. The story is a way for everyone to participate in its translation through the mobile game. I’ll talk more about the game shortly. With the Curious Markings project, I’ve attempted to make every aspect adhere to one of these four words: Empower. Create. Document. Share.

What was involved with this project?

This project involved several components:

The process work (Document)

Over the course of the project beginning in early January until now, about 100 pages of process work have been written. This process work explores a multitude of ideas; some followed through with, some not. The explore my symptoms and how I’ve experienced them throughout my life, and discuss how to turn Curious Markings into a viable, marketable business. Here are some sample pages:

The markings (Create/Document)

The markings are seemingly endless. I can always see them, and I can always create more by simply putting pen to paper. Each marking starts with a thumbnail. In the beginning, I created a vectorized version of the marking, but I later opted to skip this step because the shapes didn’t hold true to the style I was going for. Then, I carved linoleum stamps of the markings (pictured below).

Then, I would use the lino stamp on white printmaking paper. These prints ended up being included in my product line. I then do a 7200 DPI resolution scan on the print saved as a PDF. This PDF would then be transformed in Adobe Illustrator with an object image trace. Any white parts of the image are removed, leaving me with a somewhat vectorized marking identical to what the prints look like. These vectors are resized and exported in various formats for the website and mobile game.

The Tumblr/Twitter marketers (Share)

Ever since my previous project, Stridr, I had been formulating ways to effectively use my knowledge of social media APIs. I decided to utilize the mysterious nature of the markings and Tumblr/Twitter’s tagging system by attaching keywords to each marking. These keywords would be searched for on these platforms, and an algorithm part of my application would generate a mysterious message with an image of one of my markings. Each message would have a call to action, leading to the landing page where the user can learn more and sign up.

The Instagram account (Create/Share)

The Instagram account is part of an ongoing social media campaign that seeks to explore nature, words, and to showcase the markings and sneak peaks into the Curious Markings world. The post sequence is a repeating sequence of: photo of marking print > photo of nature > exclusive look at cMc activities > photo of poetry/words on paper (written by me).

The website (Empower/Document/Share)

The website serves as a place for people to learn about all things cMc, whether that be about the markings, about the mobile game, or about me. It also serves as an e-commerce store where people can buy products featuring the Curious Markings. The website also houses components of the mobile game, such as the user profile.

The mobile game (Empower/Create/Document/Share)

The Curious Markings mobile game creates an interactive experience out of the curious markings. I believe there is more to these markings than just me, and I have attempted to craft a way for this to be a communal effort.

Start by collecting markings in the real world through your phone. Go to the map view and begin searching. No markings in your town? You can place a marking at your current location. Collecting markings serves as a global effort to unlock the stories attached to each marking.

In the camera view, you can photograph the area surrounding the marking. This creates an online visual history of the marking. Perhaps with a rich enough history, we can interpret further meaning in the markings.

The packaging (Create/Share)

The packaging was meant to give a hand-made, old-timey feel with a degree of mystery as to what could be inside. Wrapped in kraft paper, bound by twine, sealed with wax imprinted by the cMc logo, I attempted to make this beautiful, simple, and easily reproducible.

Who made all of this?

Everything was conceived, designed, developed, etc. by me with the following exceptions:

What’s next?

cMc is completely catered to my strengths and what fulfills me in my work. As such, I will continue focusing my efforts on enhancing the experience of the mobile game, and to continue making new markings (2 or 3 every month). My immediate plans for the mobile game are features that simulate my psychotic experiences (auditory and visual hallucinations), and an offline mode option so that markings may be placed and collected offline.


Unlike Stridr, I can see myself working on this project indefinitely. It may take a few years before I become revenue positive, but because so many aspects of this project make me whole, I see myself working on this until I feel like the story is complete.

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