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Feb 1 / mary

DIY iPhone gloves

An easy way to make your gloves iphone compatible: just sew in some conductive thread onto the fingertips. 
No more cold fingers!


Here’s a video to show that it works:

I’ve been meaning to do this all month. Need to do this on a few more fingers, but it works in most basic fashion now. It’s really super easy. You just need gloves that fit quite snug. The simple knit ones will do, and it’s probably easier to sew into.

Jan 30 / mary

Thing-a-day for February!

And here we go! I signed up for Thing-a-day, so let’s hope I can keep up with it. I just moved into a little apartment on the upper west side, so I’m planning to make things to decorate my room. I like houndstooth, and robots, and type, and orange, so there will likely be lots of that.

For other things I’ve made in the past, see

Nov 10 / mary

The Future of Stuff: on Plato and Computational Design

So, catching up on blogging, and before writing posts about some project’s I’ve been working on, I feel like musing about some philosophical and technological things that I’m super excited about.

To get to the point: “The Softwarization of Stuff”. I love this term, since I do love the verbifying of nouns in general, but more importantly it sums up very nicely the developing digital/physical frontier. I didn’t come up with the term; it comes from this well composed post about how we’re getting to achieve the Star Trek-style Replicator, concisely covering how the growth of digital fabrication like 3D printing, coupled with open-source and crowd-source philosophies, are paving the way for a new generation of products and a revolution in manufacturing. And of course there’s the excellent Wired article that optimistically proclaims “atoms are the new bits”.

So, with things like 3D printing, there is the phenomenon that it costs the same to make unique things as it does to make the same thing a million times. You lose the volume discount of conventional manufacturing, but you gain the ability to make customized products for no extra production or development cost. I like to think of this as bespoke design mediated by technology. People have been calling this “mass-customization”, but I believe the concept goes past that. Mass-customization has mostly been demonstrated as being able to, for instance, customize your Nike shoe by picking the colors. Similarly, Apple lets you add a custom engraved message–Tiffany’s style service for the computer age. But these are superficial user design choices; you are not affecting the core structure of the design. True, you can customize the tech specs of your Mac or PC when you order one, but that is not really the point either. Now, if Nike would make you a shoe that perfectly fit your foot from a 3D scan, that would be more awesome, and is closer to what we’re getting at but still is not quite there.

The thing is, if we consider that we are making designs one by one, we have to consider reevaluating much of the design process. Fact is, Design as we know it was founded on the principle of mass manufacturing. Design didn’t exist before the industrial revolution. So consider the process of designing a Nike shoe. In the concept phase, hundreds if not thousands of shoes might be sketched in order to distill a design to be made in the millions. Maybe they’ll let you change the colors, maybe they’ll even make it fit perfectly to your foot. But, in the process of bringing that shoe model to consumer reality, there were perhaps 1,000 models that are lost. Yes it is a process of iteration for design refinement, but maybe each of those unrealized designs would have been perfect for someone out there.

So what if you could bring back all those unrealized sketches? What if, the final design would literally encompass the whole range of variation? Designing with this philosophy would be designing according to Plato. Back in the day, Plato theorized about ideal Forms that are abstractions which describe the sum of all physical representations. For instance, it is physically impossible to create a perfect circle, yet we all know and understand what a circle is; a circle is defined by a concept. Also consider the human face…there have been interesting photographic experiments that average together dozens of faces to create an “average” face, illustrating how perhaps an ideal exists behind the variation seen in reality.

Could you design a platonic chair? This is not about designing a perfect chair, but rather about designing a chair that is a thousand chairs. This is what I believe is the essence of Computational Design. It’s interesting to ponder how it’s similar to computational art. There are lots of terms thrown around, but I believe that the core principle is that the iteration and the process of creating is the artwork, and every print is just a reflection of the idea. This is best explained in this talk by Casey Reas. Computational art started with the questioning of what art is. Consider that an artist produces dozens of paintings, each slightly different. If you write a computer program that can generate thousands of prints, each slightly different, then you change the definition of the artist and the process of art-making. So then, the junior industrial designer drawing hundreds of shoe designs could instead make a computer program that generates shoe designs. And really, this gets much more interesting than just working to design one shoe.

But what makes for the difference between computational design and computational art? I don’t like to draw lines between art and design, and I believe there is no real division between the two, but it is worth discussing certain aspects. I think the difference lies in consideration for user interaction. If you make software that generates models or patterns randomly until you quit, there is not much user control there. Add a few GUI elements, and you change the experience greatly. And in doing this, you are democratizing design; you are creating a tool that lets people design their own product. Digital technology has definitely made it easier for the general populous to be creative…just consider desktop publishing and digital photography. While this has created the lament that “everyone is a graphic designer”, what it really means is that being a designer is now much more about concept and creativity rather than the laborious craft of setting type with scissors and glue. When things become easier, possibilities become greater.

I think this is the interesting part; you can design products from interactions, not just for interactions. There has been lots of talk in the last several years about changing the role of designers–where designers design experiences, services, business strategies, instead of objects. But the design of objects is getting a whole lot more exciting. I say stop worrying about systemic thinking and ecosystems and user scenarios and get back to the making of stuff. Making stuff is awesome, and it’s getting more awesome. We’re not quite at programmable matter and replicators [yet], but even then the world will still need people with imagination who can balance aesthetics, form, and function.

Sep 16 / mary

It goes with fries…

Ketchup, that is. Or rather, this post is about how I’m perpetually playing Catch Up it seems. Ridiculous amount of work that has yet to go on the web. Seems an ironic balance between getting work done, and getting work seen. Nothing does any good just sitting in my closet or on my hard drive after all. But blah! It seems I just have an increasing number of websites to manage. *sigh*
okay, enough whining by me…and back to work.
I promise more shiny things soon to come.

Jul 24 / mary

TYPEFACE, Alpha Release

It’s July now, so this project has taken far too long. I got busy with a dozen other things I had to do, and I’ve been in 6 cities in the last month. But I finally have a release-able version of the TYPEFACE project! Hooray! The upcoming Siggraph conference in LA gave me initiative to get this done. (FYI, using events as deadlines works quite well for personal projects.)

So, I actually added some GUI elements. And the pen stroking is quite fun, although a bit glitchy. (sometimes when the curves cross over the fills get weird.)

The most noticeable improvement is that there is a space for typing a note, and seeing how generating type this way could potentially be useful. It’s very sparsely developed right now…The main limitations being that I haven’t made punctuation or capital letters yet, but also there’s no word wrapping or things you normally have with a word processor app. If anyone has some good text formatting code they would like to share, please do!

I’ve also put this project up on it’s own domain:
Visit the site for downloading! I have versions for mac and windows, although the windows is untested. I’ve tested the mac version on a few macbook pros running Leopard, so I don’t know if it works on other types. Please let me know if it works/doesn’t work on your machine.

And if it works, please send me the exported files at: rhymeandreason1.0 (at) gmail
The software will save out both .pdf exports for printing as well as .jpg screencaps. Please send both if you can :D
(I tried putting a direct upload to web in the app, but it was buggy.)

The source for Processing is included in the download, if anyone wants to see the code. Warning that the code is really messy…I’ll go back and clean some of it up later when I put a real source download up.

Also, I think I will be migrating this to C++ some point soon, because it just makes more sense for the camera vision stuff. Perhaps when Apple announces an iPad with a camera, that will be my deadline. :/
There are other projects that I’m working on right now that are, arguably, even more interesting? I should keep this updated better.

Apr 4 / mary

TYPEFACE, update

As usual with coding, things have taken more time than I thought they would. It’s April, so that means it has been a month since my last post. I’ve been busy with other projects and haven’t had much time to work on this type project. Most of the time I have spent on it over the last several weeks has been fine tuning the letters.

I added pen stroking, which gives the letters some contrast. Doing this meant I had to go back and restructure a lot of the letters.
I also realized there’s a lot that can be done with this technique of adding thicknesses to the lines.
There’s a great talk by Timothy Donaldson about writing vs. lettering and the amazing things you can do when hand-rendering letters.

I’ve only done the simplest possibility; maybe later I can go back and add more variation.

The above screencaps are from the “helper” program I made for creating and testing the letterforms before I put them into the whole Typeface program. It’s the letters without the face-detection part, so I can just use the sliders to test the variation.
For anyone who wants to try, I have the typedesigner applet here. The code is also there, but it’s messy!

I’ve been trying to export TYPEFACE so people can download it and try it with their own webcam, but I’ve been having some problems getting it to export correctly from Processing. Seems like it’s not bundling the OPENCV library correctly? I think I just have to do some more testing.
Hopefully I’ll get this done quickly. Need to stop obsessing over how the letters are drawn for a bit.

Feb 20 / mary

TYPEFACE, revisited

I’ve recently rewritten the entirety of a project I did back in October, which combined facial recognition and type design. Most of the effort went into building a new system for how the letters are drawn. Or rather, I should say that most of the effort is also going into learning in great detail more about type design. In the initial version, the letters are drawn with lines and arcs. This was a relatively quick and easy method, considering I made the entire program in about a week, and the results were reasonably effective. However, the limitations of a geometric type system quickly became apparent. (There’s a great article about this here: Making Geometric Type Work )

The tricky thing about making generative typography is being able to allow for a great amount of variation while also maintaining a general level of quality in the letters. There are two notable examples that come to mind: Laikafont and Genotype. LAIKA is drawn with mostly solid fill rectangles, which allows for very nice transitions between weights, serif/sans-serif, line contrast, and slanting. However, this method works a lot better for capital letters than lowercase. Genotype uses bezier curves from common pre-existing typefaces, which gives an almost infinite amount of variation, but also creates a lot of unpredictable results. Fortunately in this case, the unpredictability fit well in the project’s concept.

I made my life really difficult by choosing to draw lowercase letters. And, I chose to attempt italics. This latest revision of the project has significantly better letters than the initial version, but there are still a ton of things I need to fix, and I intend to add pen stroking.

Other than the drawing of the letters, I also added mouth recognition and remapped how all the variables from the face correspond to the variables in the type. Originally, TYPEFACE was about creating a typeface that corresponds to each individual, like a typographic portrait. However, I found that what people really wanted to do was make funny faces at the camera so they could watch the type change. So, I decided to encourage that. I also wanted to draw a closer connection to handwriting, so I added the ability to type in the program, which creates sentences with accumulated variation in the letters.

Next revision coming in March, probably.

edit: Seems like a lot of people would like to download the software to try it themselves. I would like to work a bit more on this project before making a version available for download. Please have a bit of patience, I hope to get this done soon. Thank you for your interest. :)

Jan 30 / mary

Resurrecting the Blog

Hello World, take II– So I started this blog with the intention of keeping it updated, especially knowing I would travel a lot this year…but it’s obviously been 6 months since I’ve used it.

So, let’s try this again…
For one thing, updated WordPress and installed a new theme, as I was told there were glitches before where the comments weren’t working. At some point I’ll actually design this blog, but I kinda like this theme, premade as it is.
On a boring-ish reflective note, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what I would use this blog for. Or rather, in terms of wrangling my online content, between Facebook, my website, Vimeo, Flickr…where does blogging fit? [And then, throw Twitter into the mix, because I think I’ve lost my remaining will to resist and am joining the crowd.] My website is basically my portfolio, and it represents me professionally. Facebook for me is the complete opposite: I don’t friend people I haven’t met, and I don’t put anything work related on it. This blog sits on my website, even though I haven’t put a link from the main page [yet], although it can be imported into Facebook. I feel it necessary to start with some guidelines, which I think will also motivate me to keep this updated since I can mentally keep track of what goes where.

This blog will be for:

  • stuff I make that doesn’t make it on the portfolio
  • process for projects
  • things I find awesome (getting tired of throwing links up on FB)
  • travel plans
  • announcements (a bit of shameless self-promotion now and then seems a blog standard)
  • editorializing (by this, I probably mean ranting, but there is the chance I might even write something insightful)

Will admit that there is a 50% chance that this blog will just dissolve into photos of food. ;)

Jul 30 / mary

the Danish government is awesome

…or at least, the Danish consulate in New York is, because they got my student visa done in 2 days total.

Mailed my application materials Monday USPS overnight, and received my passport back with the visa today…so that means they got it Tuesday and mailed it Wednesday. This quality of service from a government institution boggles my mind.

Their website warns to allow 2 months for a visa to process, so either the Danish are super cautious, or they figure it’s best to encourage low expectations, or it was a slow week at the office, or the Danish just like me.

Right now I’m feeling like going with the latter.

*fingers crossed for finding a place to live now!*

Jul 7 / mary

5 awesome things from these last 5 days

1) Friday, July 3rd– Holiday from work, and it finally stopped raining. Spent the whole day walking around Boston. I found I can walk to Chinatown. Thus stocked up on Asian snacks and felt very Asian in doing so.

couldn't resist...melon mochi, melon "pudding", and melon popsicles...all delightfully color-coordinating

couldn't resist...melon mochi, melon "pudding", and melon popsicles...all delightfully color-coordinating

And look what I found!

I love food that doesn't look like food.

I love food that doesn't look like food.

It’s a panda bun!!! They were 2 for $1, so figured it was worth trying. Probably will be worth a separate post when I actually try reheating and eating it.


2) 4th of July in Boston is a pretty big deal apparently. Went to the fireworks show with my roommate, and watched from the Cambridge side to avoid the majority of the crowds. Over 20 minutes of fireworks…and some wonderful firework design!

I didn’t bother trying to take photos, since I knew other people would do a better job. So here’s one I found on flickr by someone who used a tripod and all that jazz:



3) Luckily, the weekend rounded out with perfect weather. Brunch at Cafe Luna; omg super good French Toast. Did a lot of shopping, but am most looking forward to the design-y laptop case I ordered online:

I figure it’s nice enough to pass as more professional, but is really lightweight. Basically, a good enough reason to avoid getting a “laptop briefcase” of some sort.

4) Monday–Received OFFICIAL confirmation that the 2nd year of the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design is indeed happening! Yay!!! It’s great to finally be sure I’m going to Europe. Now to find a place to live…and book flights…and learn Danish…and find warm winter clothes…

5) Today–Received notice that tuition for my graduate program at CIID will be free!!! OMG I love the Danish.

And…starting on the learning Danish front, hello is “hej” and goodbye is “hej hej”.

hey, think of how that Beatles song would be in Danish!