December 21, 2005

Math rock in Illustrator, Josh Davis-style

Adobe.com features a new profile on Joshua Davis and his work that brings together Illustrator with scripting to create generative art. The work combines known building blocks (sketches scanned & vectorized in Illustrator) with algorithms that introduce chance and chaos. Josh presented a great lecture on this work at the Adobe Ideas Conference earlier this year–a bracing, whirling blur of charisma, tats, code, and f-bombs that lit up an otherwise sedate gathering.
I’ve been thinking for quite a while about ways to make our tools freer, to tap into what my friend Matthew calls the “math rock kids”–the sort who make and use experimental apps like Auto-Illustrator (no relation). People can build beautiful, freeform interactive drawing pieces in Flash, so why can’t we use them in Photoshop or Illustrator? Why not make it easier to create offbeat interfaces that leverage these deep imaging engines in new ways? And could we combine that power with the linear animation chops of After Effects? Let’s be less predictable, more playful, more absurd.
[Adobe.com link via Branden Hall]
[More from Joshua here and here.
He's also contributed a chapter to John Maeda's Creative Code: Aesthetics + Computation.]

Posted by John Nack at 11:01 AM on December 21, 2005

Comments

  • Mordy Golding — 2:09 PM on December 22, 2005

    I think what you propose sounds pretty cool. But I don’t think it belongs in Illustrator. In fact, I’ve been struggling with where apps are going.
    On one hand, Adobe is touting apps that increase efficiency and productivity (mainly using the ever-so-vague W word – workflow). On the other hand, Adobe is supposed to offer a creative environment where I can explore and experiment.
    The idea of math rock belongs in an application where I can play. But don’t touch my Illustrator and make it slower and heavier with such functionality. I have to use AI to get my work done fast.
    The best thing that Adobe could ever do (in my humble opinion), is to create an application where I can put all of my ideas. A sketch pad if you will. The sketch pad will offer a range of tools that focus on creativity. It will be a world of pixels, objects, text, photos, and anything else.
    The beauty of this sketch pad app is that once I have charted some course of the direction I want to move in, I will be able to move ideas into the apps that I need to make my idea come into reality. So I could take an element from sketch and bring it right into ID, PS, AI, AE — and so on.
    :) Mordy

  • Mike Downey — 6:23 PM on December 23, 2005

    Heh. No mention of Flash in an article about one of the most well-known Flash designers in the world. And the artwork that the article focuses on was likely all generated using ActionScript in Flash.
    I’m guessing this article was written pre-merger. ;-)
    Perhaps we need a sequal to the article?
    Cheers,
    MD @ Adobe

  • John Nack — 8:10 AM on December 24, 2005

    I don’t remember whether Josh was doing the scripting inside Illustrator (using JavaScript), or whether it was in SWF. As I recall he discussed both approaches onstage at the Adobe conference. He ended up with a massive Illustrator file.
    I’d guess that the article was written before the deal had closed, and that in order not to give the impression that we were jumping the gun on integration, it omitted direct references to Flash. You’re right that we should update it.
    In any case, it’s great that we can work together now to integrate the tools more closely.
    Cheers,
    J.

  • 2006 — 11:51 PM on December 26, 2005

    catering to “math rock kids” would have been cool four years ago

  • John Nack — 7:51 AM on December 27, 2005

    It’s not about being “cool”; it’s about opening new possibilities for creative people, which is pretty much the only reason I work at Adobe. (If that were to end, I’d go back to designing–or possibly join the circus.) But if we did care about being cool, what would you have us do?

  • Alex Lovett — 8:20 AM on April 25, 2006

    Good stuff, id use it, makign stuff more open and extensible is fantastic, sure it adds complexity, but only if you choose to use it, and I for one welcome it, even if I do waste more time messing and playing!

  • Alex Lovett — 8:49 PM on May 01, 2006

    I love generative art, and have at times been forced to use other apps and plugs to help create such itterative math based pieces, so if I could do things like that within Photoshop, that would save a lot of time running back and forth.
    As apps try and do more things, the line blurs as to what job each app should be doing. Should Flash have some simple bitmap editing tools, should Photoshop have some Flash like programming tools for this math art, etc etc.
    I think ultimately, it should be one environment, that shares all the code in the form of modules. And you switch between layouts that have logical grouping of these tools and functions.
    So Photoshop is no longer an app, but becomes a logical grouping of image manipulation tools and palletes, Illustrator becomes a set of vector editing tools, Flash becomes a set of programming and animation tools, and so on, and they are grouped in one environment, they could be purchased seperately and added to the workspace. And integrated or seperated as the user wishes.
    So Flash would get Illustrators vector tools for example.
    That’s integration :-)

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