Asides

Add this to your holiday wish list: Dave Addey has published Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies, a book version of his popular blog. A book about science fiction and typography checks a lot of boxes for me.

Kent C. Dodds demoed a really neat trick to create a simple URL shortener using Netlify. He even created a package called netlify-shortener that makes it easier to automate the whole process. I recreated this setup and it works perfectly. Thanks Kent! Also, Netlify is probably my favorite tool out there right now; I can’t believe it’s free for most uses. 

Friends With Secrets is a new project from Akilah Hughes, Robyn Kanner, and Timothy Goodman:

Three friends with different backgrounds participated in online text therapy sessions from January to April 2018. Friends With Secrets captures a slice of their lives — the good, the bad, the heartbreaking — and how they try to process the world around them.

Each of the transcripts are honest, painful, and fascinating. It takes a lot of courage to be this vulnerable on the internet. Another thing I love about this — the project is an excellently crafted website. Hypertext is the perfect medium for an experience like this.

Go vote! If you’re in Chicago and need a ride to a polling location, Divvy is letting users ride for free on election day.

My first Midwest experience outside of Chicago. Devil’s Lake in the fall was magical.

Thanks to my friend Patrick, I had the opportunity to see Death Cab for Cutie in concert this week at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. The venue was absolutely gorgeous, so much that sitting up in the rafters was actually kind of nice.

Auditorium Theatre

The best part of the night, though, was the surprise performance of Transatlanticism, in its entirety, in honor of the album’s 15th anniversary. It was really a treat to get to experience such a unique show.

NetNewsWire, one of my favorite apps ever, has been returned home and is now back in the hands of Brent Simmons once again. Brent is continuing development in the open on Github, and the app will be free to use. Such great news for folks who still use RSS.

Panic just announced that the next game they’re publishing is House House’s Untitled Goose Game. The game looks great — quirky, fun, a perfect fit for Panic — but the way these two companies came together is even better.

Very excited to be attending XOXO in Portland this September. If you’re going to be there, hit me up and let’s hang out. Find me @chase in the XOXO attendees Slack.

Mikhail Gündogdu attended a ton of design system conferences and collected all of the knowledge into a great piece.

I especially like what Diana Mounter has to say about feeling imposter syndrome with your design system compared to other companies’ systems:

That’s why Diana says you shouldn’t worry about comparing your design system to any other organization’s system, because thats not what proves its success. Instead, Diana says, push your design system out and analyze utilization to measure its success. Chaos will be a natural part of something so new to the practice as design systems, so focus on what matters and take advantage of the chaos. Are people using the design system in their workflow, and contributing back to it to make it better?

I can attest that comparing your design system to others out there is a fool’s errand. Companies are different, and so should be their systems.

Notion has launched a new video series called Tools & Craft, and the first episode is with Andy Hertzfeld. I dig the short format, and I really enjoyed hearing about Andy’s work after Apple. Looking forward to the next episode.

Emoji and Markdown make for a pretty good storyboarding tool.

This weekend I shipped:

📷 Full width photoset layouts https://chasem.co/exploring-seattle

📚 Redesigned page for my favorite books https://chasem.co/books

🎧 Added an endpoint to my API for getting a list of recently played tracks https://chs-stats.now.sh/recentTracks

Panic has published their annual report for 2017 and it’s full of great stories and details about the app business. Highlights are a new Coda, and a mysterious game 👀

Frank Chimero writes about how he organizes his (streaming) music collection in a way that strengthens the connection between music and time. This is how my brain thinks about music as well, so I plan to steal this idea from him.

✨ A T L A N T A • S2E6 ✨

Probably the best piece of television I have seen in the past 12 months. Came out of left field and was more successful than most movies that attempt it. Atlanta is a masterpiece.

I am in love with the branding for Lafayette Anticipations, a French gallery and maker space. Under Consideration has a good overview, and the case study by design firm Wolff Olins has more imagery.

I quite enjoyed this NYTimes magazine piece about how having a day job makes our art better.

When I found out XOXO was over for good, I was super sad because I never got a chance to attend. But thank goodness, it’s coming back this year.

Radiohead’s 2012 performance on Austin City Limits still blows me away. So excited I was able to snag tickets to see them in Chicago this summer.

In honor of Atlanta season two premiering tonight, read this excellent profile of Donald Glover by The New Yorker. He advises to steal from the masters, and thinks we are at ”the end of the storytelling age.“ I agree.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that there’s an iOS version of A Boy And His Blob???

Airbnb is making the design tool I am most excited for: Lona, a design compiler to generate cross-platform UI code, Sketch files, images, and other artifacts.

A question for my JavaScript people: what is the JS equivalent of Swift’s optional chaining? E.g., execute method foo on bar iff bar exists. Hate having to check if something exists before I try to access it.

Black Panther was pretty great; definitely go see it in a theater. Once you do, watch this awesome break down of one of the fight scenes with director Ryan Coogler.

Writing

Making Computers Make Art

It seems as though everything I gravitate towards in life tends to be at an intersection of art and technology. I spend my days building tools for designers, and thinking about how we design things for people but with technology.

Perhaps the most straightforward example though is generative art, which seems to be gaining more and more interest in my corner of the internet. I think it’s because writing code and/or designing things is so often a means to an end for many of us. Our jobs expect creativity, but demand results.

I’ve found that exploring generative art has helped me maintain a creative outlet that exists purely in service of making something that delights me. Something like that is all too rare lately.

There have been quite a few excellent resources that have helped me jump into generative art that I would like to share both as a reference for myself, and as a way of lowering the barrier of entry for anyone else who wants to try their hand at creative coding.

Some History

Generative art as we know it came about in the 1960s and was directly linked to the rise of the computer industry. I love that for as long as computers have existed, there have been people who see their potential for art as well as science.

George Nees was one of the first to show off graphics made using computers, and worked on that he called “computer-scultpures” using tools like milling machines and plotters.

Generative art is distinguished from computer-generated art in that it is autonomous to some degree. A generative artist differs from a painter or sculptor in that they are not responsible for every decision that leads to the finished piece.

Instead, generative artists create systems that can make some of the decisions alone. The artists gives the direction, but allows the computer to steer the vehicle.

This leads to a certain serendipity in the finished product. Pieces can be different every time that you look at them, and in many cases will never output the exact same piece twice. The fleeting nature of the work is what appeals to many.

Perhaps the biggest pioneer of generative art is Vera Molnár, whose work in the space of computational art still holds up today, even though she was doing work with tools that were comparatively ancient to what we have at our disposal now. I strongly encourage you to browse through some of her pieces online.

In one of her most famous series, Structure de Quadrilateres, she takes a collection of rectangles and introduces randomness while somehow maintaining a natural rhythm:

quadrilate.jpg

If you would like to learn more about Vera Molnár and her works, I recommend reading this recent piece about her on Hyperallergic.

There are so many more amazing generative artists to learn about. For instance, Sonia Landy Sheridan founded a new department called Generative Systems in 1970 at the Art Institute of Chicago. She has a fantastic website where you can see some of her art and read more about the Generative Systems department.

Another piece I’d recommend is Jason Bailey’s post on Artnome titled Why Love Generative Art? It provides a brief history of generative art and the way that the practice has progressed since its inception.

I encourage you to take some time to appreciate and learn about the people who paved the way for generative art. It makes for an excellent opportunity to find some inspiration for your own work.

Practical Magic

Now that you know a bit of the history behind generative art, I’d suggest jumping in yourself by learning how to create something simple.

There are lots of technologies out there designed specifically for creative coding. Arguably the most famous of those are p5.js and Processing. I recommend starting with p5.js because it’s built on JavaScript — which a lot of folks already know — and it’s easy to get started using it right in the browser.

In fact, my favorite way to create generative art is in CodePen. You can easily add p5.js as a script in your pen, or you can use this template I created for quickly getting started with a new p5.js sketch.

No matter which tool you use, it shouldn’t be too hard to find resources for learning how to draw some basic shapes. One of my favorites is Daniel Shiffman’s video series on creative coding. Watching along and coding examples from a tutorial is a great way to learn. Daniel even has a video series that covers the foundations of JavaScript in the context of p5.js.

Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s important to start learning how to introduce autonomy into your pieces using loops and noise.

Tim Holman created one of my favorite resources out there for taking your art to the next level. Generative Artistry is a series of lessons describing fundamental concepts or recreating pieces that teach invaluable skills. I learned the basics of circle packing from the site, and that allowed me to make stuff like this:

circle-packed

I especially love that Tim breaks down how to recreate famous pieces from some of the people I mentioned earlier, like Vera Molnár and Georg Nees.

It’s also important to cultivate an environment of inspiration around generative art. I find that because the possibilities of autonomous art are so limitless, it helps me to take a piece that I like and use it as a starting point to riff on.

Daniel Eden’s gallery is excellent not only for the pieces themselves, but because Dan accompanies each with a description of the basic logic used to achieve the result. Recreating some of his pieces helped me learn techniques that I have made use of many times since. Dan also wrote a great piece on how he got started with generative design.

Another favorite of mine is Heydon Pickering’s mutable.gallery, which features sketches that can be re-generated to produce unending, unique permutations. I love how Heydon makes it so easy to share the piece that you generate, making each one feel more special somehow.

Finally, I suggest you follow Matt DesLauriers on Twitter and Instagram. Matt’s work is amazing, and he represents the community well by sharing his processes and learnings as he grows.


I love making generative art because its edges are blurry, and I can step off of them without worrying about technique or execution. Happy accidents are easy to make and often result in some of my favorite pieces.

Ultimately, generative art is about rolling with the punches and letting the medium itself influence the work. I think flexing those types of muscles has made me a better designer overall. Maybe it can do the same for you.

More

Some prompted thoughts on design

InVision interviewed the design team at Sprout, and I wrote up some extended thoughts on their questions.

No Reservations

Memorializing Anthony Bourdain and all of the things we can learn from him.

Exploring Seattle

Photos from a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Personal Finance Perfection

How I manage money with my bank of choice (Simple) and their smart, automated features.

Designing Proactively

Thinking about what it means to slow down and design for the future.

John Adams on our duty to future generations

A quote worth remembering.

Stream of consciousness thoughts on styling components

Rambling about design systems, CSS in JS, and problems that appear at scale.

Writing Design

Thinking about design systems as vocabularies for shared languages.