The Dawesome Digest #8 — news from Brendan Dawes
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Stationery. What's not to like?

The Dawesome Digest

Issue number eight; probably not worth waiting for.

It's July. I know it's summer by the sounds that drift across the fence from the neighbours; the boing boing of the kids practicing their awesome routine on the trampoline that seems to revolve around "knee knee bottom knee up". Or something. The shouts of "harry... harry... HARRY" as a neighbour tries to get their dog to stop doing something or other. Then of course is the legal requirement to have the sound of a jig-saw / angle grinder somewhere in the background. And in between all that is the sound of typing. Me. Typing away, trying to ignore the fact that the last time I sent out an issue of the Dawesome Digest was last year, when taking a selfie was still considered part of the current Zeitgeist and everyone still thought Brazil was the greatest footballing nation on earth. How things change. Here's what's changed for me since issue seven...

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Dot Dot Dot

I was very kindly asked by the Sheffield Institute of Arts if I would like to create an exhibition of some of my work. Of course I said yes and from February to March the gorgeous gallery space at the SIA played host to a collection of projects with data at their core.

The exhibition featured large prints, namely my work for EE and some Cinema Redux stuff, electronic gadgets I've built, iPhone apps, 3D prints and even a wall of 1024 Velcro dots that could be played with by visitors to create their own messages.
The team at SIA were great especially the brilliant Peter Downes who never seemed to be phased whenever I changed my mind about something or when I would utter the dreaded phrase "Peter could we possibly make this..." Peter was a true craftsman too, doing things like adding beveled edges to the wood on the podiums. All these things made a difference to the final exhibition.
Peter Downes checks the levels during the install.
To display my apps I designed a simple laser cut, bolt together system that could house the iPod Touches, hiding the home button.
The poster for the show was created in Processing using a swarm behaviour courtesy of Joshua Davis' brilliant Hype framework. The typeface was Danmark from one of my favourite type foundries, Playtype.
Whilst the Velcro wall of dots was a big hit, The Happiness Machine proved to be really popular. I had the idea of using bulldog clips suspended on fishing line so people could easily display the printed out messages, making a free flowing wall of happiness, helping to further split the space up and adding more texture to the flow through the space.
It was a shame that it all had to come to an end at some point, but it was a wonderful thing to be able to do and hopefully I'll be able to do it again sometime in some other place. I've had several requests asking me if I'd like to take it to other cities.

Source Files
Some of the source files for the show, including code to create the projections and the graphics for the posters is available on Github.

Big Bang Data

Keeping to the exhibition theme, CCCB in Barcelona have created a really great show about data and data visualisation, from the very early days of Florence Nightingale right up to the present with concerns over how much we're being monitored by the NSA.

Three Cinema Redux pieces are part of the show but the really cool part is several exhibits, of which Redux is one, are being monitored for how long visitors stand in front of the work. That data then gets translated into grains of sand which you can see when leaving the exhibition.
Big Bang Data is on till 26th October in Barcelona, but if you miss it you can catch it in Madrid next year. Oh and be sure to check out Timo Arnall's wonderful commissioned piece Internet Machine.

Kennedy gets a big update

Since the last issue Kennedy has been through a few updates, with version 1.3 bringing some new features including what I'm tentatively calling Data Explorers.

Data Explorers are new ways for people to discover the things they capture with Kennedy. Places groups all your captures based on cities, with each capture plotted on the all too familiar map view. Statistics is for the geeks amongst you who love a good piechart. You can see various metrics such as most popular days of the week you capture things, whether it was raining more than it was sunny plus what was your most listened to music. Finally for now, and my favourite thing, is the Postcards from the Past. These are typographic, visual postcards to show what you were up to a month, six months or a year ago that week. It really does remind you of things from the past, reminiscent of Photojojo's time capsule service.

There's also been quite a few UI tweaks plus people can now share their captures on Twitter, Facebook etc. 

It's certainly been fun creating Kennedy, not least seeing how people use it and how much they seem to love it – apart from the occasional angry reviewer. It may not be worth billions or about to be acquired anytime soon, but there's another type of value I'm getting out of it. It's my take on capturing our lives. It's far from perfect but I continue to craft it, improve it and make it better. People use it everyday. That, in itself, makes me happy.

The latest version of Kennedy is available from the App Store.
Sketching out some of the ideas for the Data Explorers.

Radio 4 Digital Human

BBC Radio 4's Digital Human is a great half-hour show about living in a digital world, with each week looking at a different theme. For the show entitled Quantize, host Aleks Krotoski looked at how human beings can cope with a world saturated by data.

I was lucky enough to be asked to be a guest on the show alongside Nicholas Felton and others. A reporter was dispatched to my home and recorded the conversation between myself and the show's producer, talking about some of the things I've made that use data as well as my opinions about living with all this data and how we can make sense of it.

Have a listen via the BBC Digital Human site.

This is not Powerpoint

Over the years I've done many talks, usually using Apple's Keynote. When a few months ago I opened up a presentation to find it corrupted I said to myself enough is enough. It was time to make my own presentation software, built for my needs, and hopefully a few others too.

So for want of a better name, Flip was created. Built in Processing with the source freely available on Github, Flip lets me show images, video and text. That's it. Each slide is made up of a folder that can contain any of the above. It doesn't let you make bullet points, graphs or any of that stuff. There's no presenter notes. It's just very simple.
I've used it over ten times now at various conferences and it's worked like a dream every time. There's no more having to know what aspect ratio the projector is as it automatically scales the slides, images and video to suit. It also has support for Touch OSC so it can be controlled via an iPhone. One AV guy said it was the best presentation software he'd ever seen. I don't think that's true but I know I'll never be going back to Keynote or Powerpoint.

Flip is available for free on Github


This is just a simple thing but I wanted to mention it namely because of the nice new web > API service that's recently appeared called Kimono.

When I was deciding what was going to go in the Dot Dot Dot exhibition earlier this year I wanted to make a few new data powered pieces using some of the materials I had to hand. One of the things I had stuffed in a drawer were these nice LED string lights. So I took them and wired them to an Electric Imp and wrote some code that connected it to the US Embassy's air quality reading for Beijing which in turn made the lights breathe. The faster the lights breathe the worse the air quality. All of this was then packaged up in a Chinese made vending capsule.

Kimono is a great service that can turn pretty much any website into an API that you can then use to power things. It does nice things like structuring the data as well as caching it for when the source might not be available.

You can see Breathe in action here.

Coming soon

The project I'm working on for Mailchimp, exploring connected physical objects centred around email, is almost complete and should be finally revealed in August.

One of the many things I've loved about the project is creating the accompanying films for each completed object. I'm always dismayed when I see a great project ruined by a poorly made video. I'm not talking about using a pro level studio to record these films but just having a sense of narrative is enough to tell a story. I don't have an expensive studio setup either so I use what I have to hand, namely a DSLR, natural light and a clean backdrop. I am however a little excited to use the dolly I just bought to add some needed dynamic movement into the pieces. I probably need to get out more.


A few things I've bumped into since the last issue...
Loving the work of Denmark's PUT PUT, Cooley GO – great document resource for start-ups, Mac fill patterns free to download, Present & Correct – great stationery shop in London, client feedback on the creation of the earth, truthful synopsis of the Wizard of Oz, every Eye magazine cover, animated vines from MIT's High-low tech group, beautiful vintage cable from Urban Cottage Industries, make an under desk tool drawer by Jude Pullen, 2D geometry cookbook.

Until next time...

I'll be working on a project with audio + 3D printing, planning some things for the Design Manchester festival, putting a proposal together for a weather based data visualisation, continuing my obsession with pencils, finishing off my Instagram archive iOS app, installing work at a boutique hotel in New York and no doubt generally playing around with things, pushing buttons to see what does and doesn't work.
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Thanks for reading this issue of The Dawesome Digest. If you liked it please feel free to hit one of those share buttons below. Until next time, happy making.
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Dot Dot Dot photographs by Lisa Brammah-Dawes, Philip Robbins and Pam Bowman.