Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Bret Victor's "Dynamic Drawing"

Sam Aaron pointed me to a talk by Bret Victor, a designer who has worked at Apple among other places. Victor says that "creators need an immediate connection to what they're creating" - the same principle of liveness that Luke, Chris and I have been promoting for programming languages more generally.

Checking out Victor's website, I see that he has already been playing with the idea of new languages to support this kind of experience when doing graphic design. He calls these "Dynamic Pictures" - an interesting comparison to my original proposal to create "Living Images" some years ago.

Some of the things he says in this little essay could easily be repeated as motivations for my current project:

  • I believe that dynamic pictures will someday be the primary medium for visual art and visual explanations.
  • Dynamic means that the picture changes when you change some input. A dynamic picture looks different in different situations
  • Dynamic drawing means that the artist creates the picture by directly manipulating the picture itself, instead of working with some indirect representation that doesn't resemble the art-in-progress.
  • With today's tools, dynamic design requires creating pictures by writing text. It is only because we are so accustomed to this situation that we don't recognize how bizarre, even barbaric, it is.
  • A "user interface" is simply one type of dynamic picture. [Apple designers] were dependent on engineers to translate their ideas into lines of text. […] It's fashionable to rationalize this helplessness with talk of "complementary skillsets" and other such bullshit. But the truth is: An author can write a book. A musician can compose a song, a animator can compose a short, a painter can compose a painting. But most dynamic artists cannot realize their own creations, and this breaks my heart.

He offers the following illustrations of the text/picture divide in some typical artist/end-user environments:

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