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The Dawesome Digest
Issue 18 

Plastic Player redesigned and made open source

At the end of 2016 I created something I called Plastic Player — an NFC based analogue controller for digital music. It was a way to combine my love of digital music such as Spotify with the physical nature of analog inspired by vinyl records. People seemed to really like it, so much so that I would often get emails asking how can they can buy one? Taking something like this that I make for myself to a viable commercial product is a big ask and fairly complex.

So instead I decided to redesign it and then make it open source so that anyone could read the details, download the code and make their own version of the Plastic Player.

Exploring Generative Adversarial Networks

Inspired by my friend Mario Klingemann — who's doing amazing work using artificial intelligence to create art — I ventured into learning some more about using Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) to make images. 

In these very simple examples I used CycleGAN, downloaded a whole Instagram feed of modernist chairs and then let the computer train itself on what a modernist chair usually looks like so it could then try to generate its own chairs. The results are pretty nice.

Following that I wondered if brutalist style buildings might make for a good training set, so after finding a great Instagram feed of those types of buildings I created something that I'm now calling the Preston Town Centre Generator.

I'm just getting started with all this AI stuff, meanwhile there's people out there doing amazing work already with what these new possibilities offer. Certainly something I want to explore further.

Kennedy finally updated for 64-bit and iPhone X

This has been residing in my mental todo list for a quite a while now — a much needed update for Kennedy, my iOS app for capturing the now.

With the advent of iOS 11 Apple have begun to remove anything from the App store that is no longer 64-bit compliant.

With that threat of deletion hanging over my head I dusted down the code and spent a few weeks making Kennedy not only 64-bit computable but made for new large screens including the iPhone X. Luckily because all the graphics in the app are actually created in runtime (using a thing called PaintCode) rather than static images there was no need to make lots of new bigger images — most of the time was taken up fixing positioning bugs.

A playful new way to explore my work

As much as I love a nice grid it isn't the only way to display information and it's certainly not the only way to create an interface on the web, not least something that is meant to encourage exploration and play.

I used to make a lot of weird exploratory interfaces but then somehow got a little seduced by the relative safety given to me by the all encompassing grid, yet this is not print so why try and emulate it in medium that is formed from design and code?

With these fears rattling around my head lately I turned to my own work archive to try and make a more exploratory interface to my twenty years of projects. 

The result is an interface that creates shapes and forms from different categories, using time to shape these forms as well as sound to create a dynamic data driven soundtrack. You'll see that whilst the web category is quite sparse, the data category is heavy with work — you almost feel the weight of it as it moves around the space.

It's far from perfect and it's best viewed in a desktop browser, but it's something I'm keen to explore further. You can read more about my thinking in this post I wrote.

Now go have a play:


Various things I've bumped into since the last issue.

Jaron Lanier's tribute to Ted Nelson — so much great stuff in this.

Programmable Droplets from MIT

In praise of The Gibson, the world's finest drink 

Great piece by Kai Krause on the idea of pre-delight

Estonia — the Digital Republic

Turning a design mock-up into code

Relativity & The Equivalence of Reference Frames — great video explanation from Filipino student Hilary Diane Anadles

Dogtooth — from Yorgos Lanthimos, director of Lobster, I finally got round to watching this earlier film. Dark, funny, scary and uncompromising. 

The Science of Glass — In our Time discuss the extremely strange thing that is glass



This edition of the Dawesome Digest brings with it a new look together with a new publishing schedule that I'm hoping to stick to. All being well it'll now go out the last week of every month, so thanks again for allowing me to appear in your in-box. In the meantime you can always keep up to date with what I'm up to on my process blog which I post to most days, featuring sneak peeks of work-in-progress as well as book recommendations and other found things from the studio.

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