1. How would you describe
what you are doing in connection with design and programming?
EvB: Building digital tools to support
design. Programming helps in complexity,
development, implementation and production issues as well as making 'loose'
design decisions by postponing the choice on exact values.
2. Did you study this specialisation? If so, where? Did your school prepare
you for this specialisation or did you study on your own?
studied it on my own, with the help of some friends who were one lesson
3. 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
Yeah, I really dig LettError ;)
4. How did you start
with programming, and what was the main motivation to learn it? Which
language did you choose and why?
When I was a kid I
wanted to program a 3 dimensional airplane. I built the computer from
a kit and wrote the software from scratch. PEEK ! POKE !
5. In your opinion
is it necessary to become a programmer if the concept of the project requires
writing a programme? What are your experiences?
The professional programmers are trained in dealing with any kind of problem,
algorithms, speed, optimisation etc. Whereas the problem at hand in a
context can be really simple, solved in a slow clumsy way and still be
worthwile. Not all programming problems require professional solutions,
but most problems require some sort of solution. A lot of problems in
the world of design and programming need a very specific solution. In
this case it is more important to be able to try out many different approaches,
than it is to make the fastest program (which in itself can take a lot
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?
I am a designer, using digital tools. The limitations of existing tools
was perhaps one of the reasons to start building tools, but it becomes
part of daily practice, it's no longer a difficult decision. The programmers
I know find it
very hard to work with designers. The iterative process designers use
at a solution is at odds with the engineering approach of the programmers,
which is quite linear. In this case the programmers are like builders:
an architect shouldn't change plans halfway through construction. Builders
don't like that. If the architect and the builder were the same person,
both disciplines are
working together. The architect side will take building issues into account,
etc. This is not to prove that programmers and designers cannot work together.
Just that the added interpretation can slow things down.
Self-made programs seem to bring a 'game' aspect to graphic design life
It's pleasing to see things work.
8. How did you use programming knowledge in both 'for fun' and commissioned
projects? Are your projects published on the internet? If so, where? (URL)
Yes fun, yes commisioned work. The fun projects are a bit more experimental,
technology we build for them usually finds its way to regular projects.
What about the computer aesthetics? Do you attempt to reconcile the contrast
between the natural and technological looks of your results? How?
don't have aesthetics. The thing that is generally accepted as computer
aesthetics are the things that *people* make with computers -- usually
the result of following the path of least resistence. Which is silly because
the things that characterize "natural" -- patterns that slightly
evolve during a process, recursion with variation etc. are easy to simulate.
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
As far as I can tell computers are not emotional.
By writing my own tools the
influence of the computer on my work becomes less. More control means
dependencies. That seems a like a paradox but it works: in order to make
computer less important, you need to dig into it.
10b. Curiously, for me the idea of translating
emotions in typography started the whole programming research. There are
a few examples such I have in mind: smart typefaces, fonts that react
on sensory input, which try to respond to different issues than legibility.
When they react, does it mean they are intelligent? (and this is what
I referred to as 'more human'). Could you elaborate on this particular
area of your investigation?
The more I think about it, the humanity is entirely in the mind of the
reader. I'm hesitant to call fonts intelligent, as this implies a lot
of things that are not. Fonts can be clever, adopt a particular behaviour,
respond to context or events, but not intelligent i.e. fonts won't be
able to come up with new ideas or learn or make aesthetic decisions. On
the other hand it is very easy to make fonts that are better at taking
advantage of their digital form than the ones that exist. But these can
be simple things. A designer needs to play with these issues and discover
something and say "hey, I've never seen this before, but it is quite
practical/fun/whatever!". Outlines that change: clever but very blunt
-- even though they're always different, they will be visually identical.
It's not just the fonts that you need to look at. The font/typography
border is artificial. Programming can make the creation of new categories
of fonts possible, for instance the RobotFonts, or Federal. The fonts
themselves don't contain any additional cleverness, but they wouldn't
exist without new tools. The applications that *use* the fonts should
be looked at as well. Illustrator 9+ and InDesign can be scripted with
Applescript. A couple of lines of code can walk through a piece of selected
text and manipulate each character, shift baseline, change colour, change
font. A clever system of fonts can take advantage of this. Or something
like LayerPlayer, a small external program that constructs pieces of typography
with special (but stupid) fonts.
You can use clever fonts and clever typography making machines to build
new design. But the end results will matter, not really the way you took
to get there. If you can't read it, you won't and if that was your intention,
you failed, no matter how clever the machine and fonts were. That's where
the real work is, discovering how to use all this in meaningful design.
The type that becomes more focused when the mouse is closer is cute, but
whether you see it as great typography or a really irritating thing depends
on the context.
That's why it would be great to make computers aware of where the reader
is looking on the page/screen and adapt the typography according to new,
11. Can everyone learn how to create a programme?
python.org gives the programming language and manuals for free for anyone
Can anyone learn to read and write? Certainly! some
people will be better than
others. Only a few people will be professional "literatoor"
shouldn't stop people from learning to write. Same with programming --
have to be able to write really complicated things in order to be able
to solve your own problems. Most scripts and applets I use daily are remarkably
mundane. But my life would be miserable without them.
Will you be developing your programming knowledge in your future practice?
Do you have any plans in relation to the 'D + P' issues?
Yes. One of them will be to
come up with a better name than design and programming. Programming has
complicated connotations. Scripting is already a bit more friendly. Perhaps
Conditional Design, or parametric design.
13. Did you publish/can you recommend some articles related to the theme
We wrote a book about it, maybe you know it? ;)
(Of course, i know it by heart :-)