Saturday, 10 December 2011


Final outcome:

I was quite pleased with the final outcome of my laser-cutting project, despite the fact that it might not have matched my original ambitions for the brief. I feel my result is quite bold and graphic, and conveys some of my personality as someone who, first and foremost, draws.

I was forced into a totally Illustrator-based drawing outcome because I lacked the technical knowledge to convert my drawings into something that would be able to undergo the laser-cutting process. As a beginner with the software, the task of vectorising, live-tracing and cropping my original drawings into functional components of a 3D object quickly became very hard to achieve due to my naivety of the process. Unfortunately, as I had waited until after the Illustrator skillsets to fully get to grips with the brief techincally, the window of time I had to learn these processes became quite narrow, and due to poor time management, I found myself unable to find any experienced technical advice on how to proceed. I didn't feel that I was totally unable to produce an outcome however, and resorted to alternative means to achieve my final end product.

The piece still fulfils the aim I set myself of having a three-tiered, semi-3D object, and each layer does add both to the aesthetic and the conceptual basis of the project. For having a very basic, perhaps imprecise, footing in Illustrator, I feel the shapes surrounding the central infinity icon add to the drama of it, and give the graphic a tongue-in-cheek, "exalted" personality. The sharp arrangements of vectors, as basic as they are, carry some of the allusions to science, atom-structure, and celestial patterns that I had hoped to include as part of the theme of infinity, and totality. Still, the piece isn't as sharp as I had hoped, and maybe if I had further understanding of the software I could have ended up with a richer, sleeker fulfilment of the brief.

I think my main issue was a slight intimidation at the technical processes behind it, although a relatively accurate outcome became achievable with some lateral thinking and some pragmatism. The printing process was still very difficult without any technical advice, and there were a number of trial runs before the final components were cut. As with the other digital media and craft projects, one of the main lessons I've learnt is to allow time for things to go wrong and to think adaptively when they do.



Unfortunately, we weren't able to bring our project idea to full fruition before the presentation deadline, but we still felt proud as a group of what we achieved within the time. We all contributed illustrations and ideas, and I think some of our elements were quite compelling because of their illustrative nature. The project had a graphic identity that invited quite an immediate response, although it only performed about half of the functions we were hoping for it to have.

As it stood at the time, the "Astounding I" stall would recognise the user approaching and raise a curtain, and the eyeball character, although incomplete, would appear to watch the user. The piece did actually also project fortunes as a response to spoken user requests, although we were unable to incorporate the "scroll" flash animations we had made, which displayed the response on a scroll which appeared to be opened by the character. Also absent were the blinking light animations we had discussed, and we were unable to get the two halves of the character animation to interact properly. Overall though, our piece was not very far from its conclusion, and we would probably be able to overcome some of its issues given an extra week or two.

The stage was a mixed-media graphic work that we worked on collectively, and the various components and animations were a shared effort between the group. Our project may have suffered from a slight over-ambitiousness, as it turned out that combining all our various ideas in the time we allowed ourselves was more slow and time-consuming than we thought. Our one main error was that we under-estimated the need to troubleshoot, and so didn't allow ourselves any time for errors or difficulties in the manufacture of the end product. In future projects, we would probably have more rigid and time-specific goals with regards to the manual programming of the outcome.

I think as a group we were most proud of the outcome's personality and very instant, readable nature. We felt it made quite apt use of the Isadora platform and played well to our strengths as a group of illustrators. Obviously the technical facet of the project became under-developed, but overall, we were quite happy with our outcome.

If we were to continue the project, we would obviously be able to make the fortune-telling device as originally intended, but we felt it could make quite an interesting installation graphic piece, with a fun, sideshow feel. We had actually discussed making a material "tent" or stall to present it with, although we felt that logistically this may have been over-reaching, especially due to the demanding nature of the programming. We could also use the principles of our "artificial intelligence" set-up in other ways, and felt that it could be a good platform for further illustrative outcomes. The project probably wouldn't put any of us off using Isadora in future, if we had an idea that might require some of its software capabilities.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011



Our first response to the isadora software became, quite quickly, a playful take on a magic 8-ball or fortune-telling machine. We were interested in the possibility of having a program speak back, and felt that a project of this nature would allow for interesting illustrative outcomes.

Isadora gives the illusion of "speaking back" by simply recognising audio input, then randomly selecting one of a number of pre-set responses to be played back to the user. we are able to implement a delay between the question being 'asked' and the response being projected, so the experience as a whole is more seamless.

We intend our outcome to resemble a fortune telling booth, and we have collaborated on a mixed-media graphic to act as the stage for the interaction. To add to the mystical, knowing personality of the work, we hope to have animated curtains that will part as a user approaches the stage. This is a matter of asking isadora to recognise movement using video camera input, then triggering a simple animation as the user approaches.

We have also prepared the character elements, with similar allusions to clairvoyance and mysticism as our stage. The animations are looped in flash then arranged in isadora. The character, an eye, will appear to watch the user as they stand in front of it using similar methods of motion detection to our curtain animation. These simple methods of programming will hopefully give the work a responsiveness that compliments the content. We also have sound elements, and have discussed the possibility of other animated components, such as blinking lights on the stage for added an added sideshow effect.


Laser-cutting ideas:

This is a sketch which I feel could inform my laser-cutting project. I would hope to have two or three circular sections or layers that would glue together to make a circular graphic piece in this loose style. I think the layers of pattern will benefit from having a slight raised, semi-3D look. The outcome will probably be very reliant on how accurately I can replicate this level of detail in Adobe Illustrator, a program which I feel I have quite a basic level of compotency in.

I was assigned the infinity glyph. I felt quite fortunate in getting this character, as it has some symbolic meaning as well as a very iconic form. The symbol, to me, represents a certain concept that could be explored in a number of ways. The drawings I've made up to this point have a slight celestial or mystical feeling, which I would hope to convey with my end product. The content is quite rich, and I think my main aim for the brief is to come up with a response that feels personal and informed by my practise as an illustrator.


This drawing represents how I want my final product to look fairly closely. It has a lot of my style as an illustrator and should hopefully be relatively simple to split into three corresponding components. I want the middle circle, including the arms, to be the top layer of the work, with two additional layers of pattern underneath. My main issue is figuring out how to properly fill areas and whether the line thicknesses will be either too wide or too narrow for the machines to read. I think an alternative image construct in illustrator from the ground up would be very ambitious for the project, but I should hopefully be able to work out a way of vectorising my own drawings into something workable.


Final outcome:

Our final arduino outcome was the thought bubble idea we had discussed previously. The user sits on a pressure-pad arduino circuit, which would then trigger a projection of a thought bubble behind the user. We decided to go for something fairly innocuous as our first graphic outcome, and projected playful images of things like kittens, toys, etc., to suggest the user is happily day-dreaming.

I think implemented properly, the idea could become something very worthwhile, however, the intricacies of the arduino programming and a reliance on Flash meant that our interface was much less slick than we envisaged. The pressure pads were very small and not overly consistent in their readings, so a smooth animation became quite difficult to achieve. A graphic interface such as the one we proposed to make needed to click immediately in the mind of the viewer, and unfortunately we were never truly confident enough in our grasp of the medium to provide a seamless, self-evident experience.


We felt that if the project were to continue for longer, it could possibly come to include some degree of twitter integration. If the outcome was to be situated in the foyer of the LSAD for example, it could be interesting for the LSAD's twitter feed to be projected, perhaps as bulletins, announcements, or tweets more specifically relevant to each course. A twitter account could be set up for students to tweet to for direct, live projection. In the art and design field especially, a web presence is an increasingly popular and important trait amongst successful practitioners, and an involvement of twitter could be welcomed by students

We found in our research that there are already a number of of arduino/twitter cross-overs, including this project where the creator is able to have a tea machine arduino controlled by twitter. If I were to work with arduinos again, this would be an area I would explore more fully


session notes:

My first session with the arduino units led to an outcome where the user would cover a light sensor to poke the eye of an individual on-screen, imitating a real-life eye. The basics principles of the circuits are that they are adaptable, and based on open-source software or 'firmata.' The circuit worked in a basic way, and was easily put together if the task was approached methodically. As a raw form of technology, the arduino circuits could appear not to be a very user-friendly device, but the core traits of the systems are actually more simple than they seem.


Originally our ideas were centred around a farmyard or animal experience for children. We felt that children would respond well to output based around buttons, as they're immediate, tactile, and simply understood. In the end though, we found it difficult to come up with an outcome that wouldn't seem dated or simplistic in comparison to modern gaming.

After our initial session with arduinos, our group has arrived at the idea of an arduino "couch cam," a pressure-sensitive arduino circuit housed within the cushion of a chair. As the arduino is only responding to a set of behaviours that are already in place, i.e. the steady use of a chair, we felt the outcome would probably come across as more natural as a result.

Our ideas for potential uses of the arduino chair are:

  • Thought bubbles - the pressure-sensor arduino projects randomly-selected thought bubble graphics behind the chair.
  • Sound - the arduino triggers sound output from nearby speakers, which could be concealed. The audio could be the sound of a busy room that increases the longer the user sits in the chair, or perhaps a  voice that would seem to come from within the chair itself
  • Timer - a timer graphic would record how long the user had sat in the chair, perhaps suggesting alternative ways to spend similar amounts of time
  • Hungry monsters - in a canteen setting, a hungry monster graphic would seem to be lurking behind the user. This could also work as part of a "monster hunt" in a museum or learning space
  • Propaganda - more of a fine art outcome, we imagined an arduino that would activate a camera opposite the chair. The video feed could then be processed in a graphic, "propaganda" style, and then projected in a pertinent location. We felt that having individual projected in an almost cult-like, aspirational way, whilst the actual individual remains totally unaware, had quite a playful, subversive quality to it, although as an whole it could have came across as slightly obtuse
  • Counter - a simple counter graphic showing how many people have sat in the seat. Although obviously very simplistic, we thought that there could be an appealing mystery around why the number was rising.