II. Motivation


Graphic design has not yet advanced in the digital age. At one point graphic designers employed typography and images to communicate using fixed posters and signage. The term "graphic design" has lost its original meaning. We now communicate interactively with constantly shifting pixels and audio speakers. The new digital design is a simultaneous experience of vision and hearing and communication. To create a new understanding of light, space and motion on the computer screen one must depart from pre-existing tools to the more rigorous process of the computer's native language, computation. In order to advance, we must find harmony between the disciplines of visual design and computer science. This requires new languages to evolve to explain and express the new design process. This thesis proposes one such language.

Thus far, graphic design on computer screens has sought to mimic existing visual technologies. We present text on a computer monitor as if it were paper. We present movies on a monitor as if it were a television.

The computerized tools for designers ease the creation of print and video work. But the design work being made for computer screens is not inherently different in presentation than work created for print or video. In order to innovate a new method of design and interaction for the screen, the designer must begin to move away from the numerous commercially developed tools that facilitate the authoring of pre-constructed visual elements and pre-determined interactions. The computer designer can only be at one with his medium through building custom programs.

The designer must be in full command of his medium. The computer, as a computational medium, can only be truly tamed through the use of computer science. However, the field of computer science has, until now, found little use for graphic design or designers.

Current movements linking computer science and design generally emphasize a collaboration between experts in these respective fields. A programmer is asked to fabricate a designers vision as closely as possible. This is equivalent to asking a painter to paint a photograph with the utmost accuracy. In each case the result is diluted. It will never reach the heights and the clarity of a master at work in his or her native medium.

Our group has created a new design process that emphasizes the moment of interaction as a performance. This is the process of simultaneous computational design wherein the craft of computation and a visual and/or audio result become fused into a single movement. This method allows for unhindered creativity in the computational realm. We have made work which moves beyond pointing and clicking on icons to the creation of novel physical interfaces and visual explorations which treat the computer projection as a malleable grid of light. Using the fastest and most complex graphical systems available, We have created dynamic sculptures, pliant architectures, and human interfaces which attempt to predict the next generation of digital design.

Yet how does one describe this new direction? What methods exist to explain methodology, define approaches? Painfully few. We describe computational approaches with logic diagrams and pseudo-code. We explain graphic design with grids and typographic terms.

This thesis aims to define a new language for this new design of digital systems. Similar to Gerstner's "design programmes," this thesis is about "inventing rules of arrangement." These combined rules (or language) should serve as a polemic device, as a method for discourse on the subject of aesthetics & computation, and as a technique for future researchers in the field to organize and examine their design process.