1. How would you describe
what you are doing in connection with design and programming?
DC: I only write. My approach to design
+ programming is mostly theoretical. However, I do program, and I have
helped a friend Marco Bellonzi, who is a digital artist, to put code into
his works. As a philosopher/new media analyst, I'm mostly interested in
the following two issues:
1) Are we witnessing a new type of artist/designer? So far artists and
designers were considered to work in a non conceptual manner. So to speak,
there was a direct relationship between the artist's ideas and the realisation.
If the artists think that a spot of red will give a more
interesting appeal to the logo, he/she could do it directly and see the
result immediately also. Nowadays, a new type of artist is emerging, someone
that has to carefully think the problem first, put it into code. There
is formal mediation.
2) What John Maeda calls 'the autocracy of postscript'. Nowadays, because
of the way programs like Photoshop and Freehand work, the designer doesn't
make what he/she has in mind exactly, but what the programmer of Photoshop
let him/her do. There is a serious danger that, in the future, most designers
will use only canned software solutions and most of the designs will look
all alike. A little of what we are witnessing now in the web: because
of canned solutions in Flash, most web pages look horribly similar.
2. Could you please specify the meaning of 'the autocracy of postscript'?
I'm not familiar with John Maeda's statement. (Where was it published?)
The 'postcript language' here works more
like a metaphor of encapsulated recipes to make digital works instead
of making your own programs. Maeda argued this position in a conference
which is published on the internet. A very intersting talk by Maeda, where
the concept of autocracy of
postscript is indicated (however, he doesn't use the expression):
3. Did you study this specialisation? If so, where? Did your school prepare
you for this specialisation or did you study on your own?
my line of research is quite curious. I started fascinated with the
idea of Artificial Intelligence, so the computer science was the obvious
choice. However, I found out that in Spain, computer science was just
a very practical career, which has only in mind to produce programmers
and 'sysadmin' (System Administrators) which could work for major corporations.
Nothing wrong with that per se, but that wasn't what I was looking for,
so I took one year of computer science (where I learnt the basis of programming)
and then moved to philosophy. Then I started to study the idea of whether
machines could be creative, and that's how I ended up analysing the relationship
between code and design. I have always been fascinated by design, but
I never took any formal courses in design.
4. I'm collecting examples of studios/ projects where programming is used
in cooperation with design. Examples: John Maeda @ Media Laboratory of
the MIT, his students, Letterror etc. Is anyone else dealing with the
issues that are important/influential for you? If so, why do you admire
I'm afraid we all have the same figures in mind: Letterror
and Maeda are also my heroes :-D. Then, there is Typerware, of course,
but you already know them as well. There are very few designers working
as a programmers, I'm afraid. However, there are few artists which do
interesting stuff with coding. I truly
recommend the work of John Simon Jr. www.numeral.com
- an artist/computer scientist who uses the code he developed for NASA
to represent cloud movement on Mars to make really impressive artworks.
Simon has a background in 'planetary physics'. Most of the time, the artist
has the idea and the programmers make all the hard work, something like
old Dali, who only described the picture and then some
anonymous student painted it for him (of course, they were signed by Dali
and sold as works from him :-D).
5. How did you start
with programming, and what was the main motivation to learn it? Which
language did you choose and why?
My first motivation
was to do artificial intelligence things. First in Basic, because it was
the only language I could get access to :-D. Then I learnt Fortran and
C in Computer Sciences, but then I moved to Philosophy and was able to
learn and use PROLOG, which is the best language for Artificial Intelligence
(or so they say). Recently, because of Letterror :-D, I studied Python
and I'm starting to write programs.
6. In your opinion
is it necessary to become a programmer if the concept of the project requires
writing a programme? What are your experiences?
Absolutely! This concept of 'the artist/ designer has the idea' and then
some programmer/slave does all the dirty work makes me angry. It's like
little story about Dali I mentioned above. Plus, unless you really know
how the system works, you are not going to have any interesting ideas
for a code based design. Maybe, by chance, someone without any ideas about
programming can have a nice idea and then convince a programmer to implement
- like some good pop tunes by people that could only play three chords
with the guitar - but those are exceptions, not rules. As Beethoven said:
'Genius is a 1% of inspiration and 99% of transpiration'. Good design
implies also hard work, and if the instrument is a computer, you need
to know the instrument very well.
How do you see yourself, more a designer or programmer? As a designer,
do you feel some restrictions/limits of software you are using and can
you give me some examples? If you are a programmer, how do you collaborate
with designers? Does it influence your work in some specific way?
Well, I'm non of it :-D. But I'm a lot closer to the programming discipline,
because I have a formal training in programming. The work with that friend
really influenced me on how to view programming. In fact, I'm planning
the future to work closer with programmers. Rosa Llop, Joan Carles Casasín
and I plan to work together to develop designers' tools in the same philosophy
Self-made programs seem to bring a 'game' aspect to graphic design life?
How did you use programming knowledge in both 'for fun' and commissioned
projects? Are your projects published on the internet? If so, where? (URL)
So far, I have no real projects, just some experiences to understand better
the relationship between code and design. But I certainly think that programming
is fun - at least before debugging :-D and I also believe that good programming
has some inherent mathematical and formal qualities; simplicity, elegance
in the solutions which could help us to think of them as 'art'.
What about the computer aesthetics? Do you attempt to reconcile the contrast
between the natural and technological looks of your results? How?
thinking about work by others, I certainly prefer the works where technology
is not the only excuse. It is good when it looks natural, and you don't
see the computer behind. The aesthetics of 'look mum! This is made with
a computer', if there is nothing else behind, is quite boring
Are you attracted to exploit the programming in order to help the computer
become more 'human' or 'emotional' (to simulate our 5 senses)? What are
This is my main area of research so far. However, I only have
one project finished: a PROLOG program which helped to put pauses in a
sentence the same way that humans do it. One of the problems of synthetic
speech is that they don't need to breathe, so they don't make any pauses,
and then it sounds very artificial. With my program it sounded more natural,
at least from the point of view of pauses (articulation and intonation
still sounded very mechanical).
11. Can everyone learn how to create a programme?
python.org gives the programming language and manuals for free for anyone
as long as they learn the discipline first. No sense in learning
a programming language unless you plan also to learn how to program, the
method, the discipline. It doesn't have to be studied in a school. It
can be learnt by trial and error, but no good programming without discipline.
In a sense, it is like design. The difference between good and bad design
is not idea, but practice.
Will you be developing your programming knowledge in your future practice?
Do you have any plans in relation to the 'D + P' issues?
I mentioned in a former question, we are planning to work together with
Rosa, Joan Carles and I for developing interesting and useful tools for
designers who avoid the 'autocracy of postscript' denounced by Maeda.
Meanwhile, I'm studying right now formal procedures to represent data
and want to experiment with them a bit, programming those structures and
see if they can be of use for design.
13. Did you publish/can you recommend some articles related to the theme
Only in Spanish. I have some English texts about the program in PROLOG
to put pauses in a synthesized speech, but the theory has no relation
with design, it is only about phonetics and phonology, so not so useful
indeed. The only good things I've read about the subject so far are the
ones from Maeda and Letterror. I've read some electronic texts about the
subject, but mostly they are in the 'postmodern' way of thinking, and
always written by people who don't program, so it is very bad. There is
however, one book called 'The Language of New Media' by Lev Manovich (MIT
2001) written by someone that understands both art and design and computers,
and there are some interesting thoughts there. It is not a book about
'D+P', but there are some sections analysing it.