Project 3: Have a Squircle Christmas

Finally out of my depth. For the first two week long projects in this five week series, my mind was instantly buzzing with ideas for what to implement for interesting and exploratory solutions. This time round, I was using a medium I’m not familiar with. I don’t have experience with experimenting with shapes. I am a design machine whose role it is to create arrangements of rectangles.

On the first day, without my partner, I really struggled to come up with something that could be taken seriously. Code here.

Screenshot of geometry project experimentation • David Valente

I felt it embodied the direction of the brief, as it embraced the possibilities of 2D shapes, but to a very limited degree. However, it did teach me more about the application of the simple possibilities available in Processing. In this, I found that moving things relative to the cursor was incredibly simple, meaning I could introduce a great amount of complexity to this, as one direction. Second is the option of keyboard input. This is something that I used to allow the user to modify the width of the head and neck. Taking this newfound confidence, the next day I had an ideation session with my partner.

In this time we developed themes around randomness and user image creation on a blank canvas. The brief expressed ideas of constrained rules and reproducible, simple interactions that could lead to an unforeseen outcome. One of the ideas developed was to give the user a blueprint for a map and allow then to click to add simple shapes representing buildings in abstract, just like a map. This would demonstrate the relationship between each new object and allow the user to watch a town develop over time. Another idea involved a graffiti can that would constrain the rules in regards to the aesthetic of the spray.

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After browsing Pinterest (, and probably thinking about Christmas break), I had the idea to create a snowflake and allow the user to customise it. I began to create the idea in code, at which point my partner finally turned up. He was immediately was drawn to the idea. Finally we had an idea that embraced geometry, constrained rules, predictable interactions, and something we could be proud of.

When it came time to creating the interface for the user to customise the snowflake, for a second project in a row I’ve ended up using sliders. On one hand I feel this isn’t as creative as I could have been, but on the other hand I really need to put my ego aside for user-understanding and usability.

Back to the snowflake, sharing the coding on this project turned out to be really easy. As each feature was tied to a slider, each of us could just send the other the new code and paste it in. I bring this up as this was a fear that my partner expressed towards the beginning.

Another lesson learned was not to do something challenging just because you can. At one point my partner wanted to hard code a hue slider; he got quite far. But time was ticking so I found one online to use instead. 

One of my initial ideas was to minimise the complexity on the snowflake by keeping it white, and introducing it back through interaction, by adding as many sliders as I could. These would customize the main snowflake properties and the snow in the background. However, this felt cluttered and stepped too far from the intent of the design.

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The animation, I included this to heighten the interaction with the user. It feels alive and not a like a heartless computer that you poke occasionally. Recently I’ve been thinking about how I don’t like that technology is this mysterious, magical, creepy layer above society. I want tech to be woven into our lives. Something we understand and trust. The motion and colour in this project is in response to the anxiety among users of companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook who increasing have less trust, but the engagement doesn’t fall. The same sense of feedback from the design goes for the spinning on mouse hover movement.

Focusing on unforeseen outcomes — the simple constraint of two sliders, universally changing either the distance of each shape from the centre, or the size of each shape — resulted in a great number of possible outcomes for interesting shapes.

Screenshot of geometric project final • David Valente

As for the shapes produced, I explored removing the default stroke given to each shape in processing and found it completely detracted any meaning in the creation of the snowflake form. 

Finally, when we presented the work, one student gave the suggestion that the main customisable snowflake could me mimicked in the falling snow in the background. This, I feel, would bring the whole design together. Other than that, I’m happy with the final design, I just feel, creatively, I could have gone beyond a circle of circles.

Caption: More screenshots of geometric project final • David Valente

Here’s the code for the final design.

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