Project 5: Leonardo

The final brief, and another chance to explore non-random randomness. A quick thought provoking exercise involved spending half an hour creating a drawing with a pen, paper and something moving at LCC. So obviously we bought some fags and taped paper to the top of a couple of bins outside. This would show the remains of the extinguished cigarettes. Plus held a sheet in the air and one of us closed their eyes as they poked holes through the sheet. It was an unexpected process with an interesting outcome.

Photographs of creative exploration, Robot project • David Valente

Robot day! Before drawing, as a group, we discussed the direction we wanted to take. Ideas included literal drawings in abstract form, patterns and chaos. Introducing other mediums and tools like a Spirograph and constraints for colour and pen nib thickness were also raised.

Photographs of constructing and complete robot • Karol Tylke

Supplied with brown wire, we assembled a robot.

Photograph of initial robot drawings • David Valente

We bought some chalk and went about struggling to attach it to the robot such that it would actually translate to the paper. It went surprisingly well. This was the medium we thought world yield interesting results, thus we continued with it into the afternoon. Videos.

Photograph of afternoon robot drawing • David Valente

In the last project there was an aspect of collaboration between the groups introduced, where we shared ideas at the beginning on the process. This time, all groups worked in the same space throughout the process. There was still an element of secrecy as the designers in the room wanted to develop their ideas with ownership. But on the whole, the design is a team sport, theme is starting to gain greater traction among the class!

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Photographs of tie at Zara & Wall picture at John Lewis • David Valente

After a browse through John Lewis I was ready to start drawing again. One of the reasons we were given this brief was to explore other mediums. It’s all too easy for digital designers to get lost in Sketch plugins and endless icons. Something I mentioned briefly while the robots were all dancing, is the icons and structural conventions we feel are intuitive, are all metaphors from the real world. Exploring other mediums — even ones like drawing robots that superficially appear irrelevant to our course — further broaden our perspective. Not to say that this alone will break us out of our bubbles, but it at least expands them.

There is an argument to be made that digital design should exist on its own merits, and work to its own strengths. But that’s not how the world works. All fields can’t work adjacent to one another. Cultural diversity and medium diversity are the key to solving new waves of societal issues and opportunities.

So I took the robot home, and being somewhat careful to not get any chalk on the carpet, I began drawing again with my newfound inspiration browsing lamps. To further embrace letting the robot dictate the drawings, I didn’t take the coded instructions too seriously, I simply made simple edits to very small lines of code without predicting the result.

Photographs of additional robot drawings • David Valente

One thing I tried was dictating the starting point of a number of lines and allowing the robot to drive in a straight line. This resulted in the thicker white chalk lines on the right of the black sheet. This diverted from allowing the robot’s personality to dictate the whole sketch after being programmed, but allowed an insight into the human-robot relationship. There were a couple of wheel slips and the curvature of the lines varied for reasons only known to the robot…

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Computers are the dumbest thing known to man. They need to be told everything. The idea continues that, they are predictable. The execution of this brief illustrated this can’t always be the case. There are too many factors at play to guarantee and outcome from a computer. We have an innate misunderstanding of these devices. We don’t appreciate their capabilities and we take them for granted. Much like the tech we use day-to-day. Who would have thought a decade ago that Twitter would have a Neo-Nazi problem or that computers would make poor decisions on dictating the death of a patient. In the afternoon, John said It’s too pretty for me” when looking at my groups drawing. My short sightedness at the time, laughed at this. But design is not pretty. Design is politics. Politics is ugly.