Introduction

This graduate case study is to reflect on the learning outcomes from the Computational Form course, here at Parsons School of Design. Coming from a background of Computer Science Engineering, I chose this course to use code as experimentation in design and generative art. Art for me mainly revolves around performance – song, dance, stage, film. I generally do not understand the appreciation of art on a wall, within a room, an installation, etc. Therefore, trying to create generative art or design components with code was very alluring. My biggest inspiration from this class is to Make things that make thingsWhile this course was not particularly about code, the biggest takeaway for me, was specifically – getting code outside the screen. I understood a new dimension to the term ‘creative coding’ that I shall elaborate further below.

Statement of Exploration

My exploration and most beneficial takeaways are as follows:

  • Merging Code with Print
  • Creative Strategy for Code and not vice-versa
  • Parameters and the User Interface
  • Micro-code for Macro Art

Merging Code with Print

This was the first time I took generated art with code, in vector form, and printed it out on paper. I was pleasantly surprised to see the work from my peers and to admire their printed posters created from code. I took to laser cutting/printing, and this was my first time on it. I was amazed at the infinite possibilities this could lead to and I am inspired to use these components for future design projects and presentations.

Creative Strategy for Code and not Coding Strategy alone

The ‘strategy’ component of the course was the most mind-blowing one for me. Again, coming from a computer engineering background, it was fulfilling to critique my own way of planning a strategy before I actually started to code. For many of the generative projects here, I realized that the strategy I employed to make functional products or sketches need not be always useful while creating generative art. Therefore, this was a huge learning for me, as I now have developed the ‘think by making’ attitude. Most importantly, for me who needs to imagine every functional aspect before making it work, this was challenging because, there are things I want to create, that I can imagine visually, but not when I think the same with code. Therefore, strategizing the visual art and breaking them down into code modules, and then placing them together, or simply, letting them unfold, was the most fruitful lesson here.

Click to play ‘Holi’ – inspired by the Indian festival of Holi

Parameter and the User Interface

Relating the word ‘parameters’ with ‘user interface’ was also a first for me, and I loved this perspective. As a UX designer, this was one of the most fun classes for me and I went ballistic! The concept of Make and Interface vs Thing and the User was a great takeaway, that will be inscribed on my design principle notes forever. The example that I got to make an interface for a robot that uses the thing – which was a Planet Terraformer. This was one of The best and most interesting class activities I’ve ever sat in. Here are the notes that will stay on in my books…. and some sketches to follow that. This way of encapsulation from/for the user complements the Idea of Emergence.

Micro-code for Macro Art

Speaking of Idea of Emergence, this is exactly what complemented the course components of ‘Turtles’ and ‘Pixel Art’. These concepts relate back to being unable to visualize the entire function or the entire piece, but you just build one tiny part and then just let go in a loop or unfold it in any other way. This was inspiring to me because the very idea of making such art is generative in itself by the structure. You cannot possibly imagine how the entire image would look, when all your doing is manipulating just a single pixel area of the image, with code.

Case Study Context

As mentioned earlier, the week of ‘strategy’ was my most interesting component of this course, and one of the most challenging ones too. This was a turning point where I tried to challenge myself to make and imagine more complex sketches, than refining simpler ones into more packaged web sketches.

At this point, there was the Treasure Map challenge, which was an eye-opener for me, because I failed miserably. This was to be built with ‘noise’ during the noise week, but when I entered into the ‘strategy’ week that followed this, I understood the flaws in my strategy and hence I had to go back to the drawing table.
In this context, for this case study, I chose to make my version of the Marauder’s Map, from Harry Potter, titled Marioders Map.

Design Statement

To build an interactive experience or a kit that serves as a critique of a non-digital entity, like the ‘Marauder’s Map’ from ‘Harry Potter’ with its version in code, demonstrating the crossroads between the two media.

Goals

  • Chosen the entity of the Marauder’s Map, from Harry Potter.
  • I want to make a web experience where users try to find the treasure on screen by moving the mouse and creating a temporary track in the process. I want to try to make this into a microgame using socket.io for competition.
  • Build a poster generated by code and interaction taking the form of some components from the Marauders Map from Harry Potter.
  • This will employ the above-stated explorations of strategy, ‘printing with code’, intuitive user interaction goal, and possibly creating a background image generated from alphabets and microdots of brown and yellow that makes the map.

Sketches 

This is a work in progress, and I’m in the process of building the interface for this microgame. The sketches here for my case study goal has been built by parts.

  • I’ve tried the footprint trail in paper.js and p5.js
  • Random but arranged generation of text
  • The Deathly hallows symbol with p5 turtles.

Conclusion

For my first year ever in an academic world of design, I need to push myself to the many possibilities and it was amazing to discover the various dimensions of code. This was a class of many firsts – 3d printing with code, code-poster-generation, laser printing, sound generation with code and habituating daily sketches, among others.

I’m more confident than ever. Now I need to make many more things, that make things.