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The Dawesome Digest
Issue 21 / December 2018

Barefoot Data and being Inappropriately Dressed

Back in the summer of this year Vivobarefoot asked if I'd like to work with them to explore a creative expression of what it means to be barefoot — something that is at the core of their ethos and their footwear. Over the next few months I worked with their creative team, developing how I could capture the unseen — data from the environment and for the feet itself — to create a series of visuals and animations for their upcoming ad campaign.

Initially the shoot was pencilled in for Iceland so when I was thinking about capturing environmental data on location I realised I needed to make a device that could capture wind speed, temperature, humidity, location, date and time without relying on access to the Internet — something that may not be possible when standing in a remote location. To do that I created a machine I called VERA: Vivo Environmental Recording Apparatus. It's always good to give the things you make a name.

VERA was made up of a weatherproof enclosure and three Adafruit Feather boards — a main Feather, a GPS Featherwing and an OLED Featherwing with data logging capacity via an SD card. The Adafruit Feather system has been a real revelation to me, and is something I'll use again — it's a great evolution of the Arduino platform, almost like Lego for electronics.

Externally there was a temperature and humidity sensor and a wind speed anemometer. The whole thing was battery powered and could be charged via USB using a panel mounted XLR USB connector. VERA was pretty bulletproof, having learned from the past what might be great in the cosy studio might not be so good when you're out in the field subjected to whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at you.

Alongside VERA there were two other data capturing devices. For the feet there were Arion insoles — a wonderful piece of tech that captures real-time data from your feet as your run. For the brain I used OpenBCI, an open source brain wave scanner to capture brain wave activity from the models on the photo shoot.

Eventually it was decided to move the shoot to London and the Peak District. No trip to Iceland, no fermented shark. Over the course of the week I captured the data using all the devices, in urban environments in London and on cold and blustery hill tops just outside Sheffield — dressed entirely wrong. Then it was back to the comfort of the studio to take the captured data and the images from the shoot and create something for the upcoming campaign.
Often to create the final work I make a thing that makes a thing. In that, I create a coded system which allows me to load in data and have it play within the parameters of that system. Rather than use a framework that may impose aesthetic choices, I can craft by hand each and every element of the composition. After many iterations, following paths down blind alleys, exploring various routes with the creative team, we eventually arrived at something we were all happy with and would work well with the new photography, all born from the collected data.
The system I made to create imagery from the captured data
This is often my favorite way to work — the creation of not only bespoke software but also hardware helps to inform the end result, meaning my hand is on every part of the creative process through the tools and systems I make.

The final imagery and animations are centered around a flowing terrain — one per foot. This terrain is formed not only by the pressure at that moment in the foot — the higher the pressure, the higher the terrain — but also environmental factors such as the captured wind speed. The more windy it was the more wavy the terrain becomes, merging the physical aspects of the shoe with the effects and context of the outside world. On top of that were layered the actual Arion pressure data to add additional texture.

All this was created in Processing, with each image exported as a series of hires transparent images that were later composited together by Simon Coupe. 

The campaign is currently being rolled out on Vivobarefoot's Instagram channel with more work to come.
The Vivobarefoot Instagram account beginning to roll out the campaign
The data-formed visuals also appeared as a sequence of Instagram stories

HCD Podcast

During the Pixel Pioneers conference in Belfast where I was speaking, I met up with Gerry Scullion who — amongst other things — runs the The Human Centered Design podcast. Our mutual friend Andy Polaine said we should we should meet. So we did. After the conference was over Gerry very kindly asked me to be on the podcast, so in the bar — as everyone was clearing up around us — we chatted about my work and all things related to interaction design. 

The episode comes out on January 15th, but in the meantime be sure to checkout the episode with Andy about mindful service design — lots of lovely jewels in there. 

From the Blog

I've enjoyed writing on my blog again — from work-in-progress snapshots via Instagram to nerdy things involving my favourite text editor Vim.  Recent hi-lights include:

A look into the contents of my battered Altoids tin I always travel with.

Using Transferwise Borderless accounts to save money when being paid by international clients.

Exporting transparent hires bitmaps from Processing — as used in the Vivo work.

Scrubbing the floors — why I no longer worry about keeping up with tech trends.

Follow updates to my blog via good old RSS.

Upcoming Talks

The new year starts with the return of the wonderful New Adventures conference put together by Simon Collison. I've also got another conference booked in for June but can't say where that is just yet.

Talk in Nottingham / New Adventures / Jan 23 2019–Jan 25 2019

Produced for Use

It's been wonderful to be able to send out my latest creation via Produced for Use and see the reaction to Morfff — the letter holder made from code and concrete. People also still continue to buy Notes to Myself. I get a lot of satisfaction from wrapping up all these items to send across the world. Yeah I probably should use something like Shipwire, but I prefer adding personal touches to these deliveries, otherwise what's the point? Right now I'm planning the next products for release next year.

If you fancy something from PFU then feel free to use the code PFUDAWESOME which will give you 20% off till the end of the year.


Normally I round off the Dawesome Digest with things I've bumped into on the web and beyond. This time I'd simply recommend a park bench. Or any bench. Just sitting, watching, listening, thinking. These times away from a screen have had many benefits for me this year — in fact those moments sat with Lisa have been my favourite moments. Here's to more moments on benches in 2019 — as long as I'm not forced to sleep on one. That's something else entirely.

Thanks once again for letting me land in your inbox. Feel free to unsubscribe if you feel this is all utter nonsense.

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