by Samia @ 8:29 pm 11 May 2011

Daily Life is a generative book.

Daily Life is a generative book. With it I strove to codify and programmatically structure the rules I use to design so as to make a book that designs itself. Daily Life is a program that reads in data (schedules I kept sophomore year of everything I did every day), allows me to choose a color palette and grid structure, and then generates a book of a desired length.

After wrestling with the previous assignment (generative), I found that I had a hard time grasping what it means to make generative art or design, and the process of going about making generative work. In that previous project, I dove in head first into the code, and ultimately that hindered me, because I did not have a sense of what my vision was that I was implementing in code. I realized in doing that project, that I needed to find a better approach to generative work, rooted in my understandings of the process-driven design approach. In this final project, I tried to encorporate more of that. I spent time thinking and sketching about how I wanted to create parts of my book, and that when I finally made it to coding, I was making fewer important design decisions, and instead figuring out the best ways to implement and create the vision that I had already defined.

The Written Images book.

PostSpectacular genre book covers

Amazing But True Stories about Cats

My process for this project began with sketching.

As I began working, one of my hardest challenges was working with two halves of the program — creating a system for the rules and output, as well as creating the visualizations themselves. My first checkpoint was making a program that allowed me to create a number of pdfs that I determined (documented in my checkpoint blog post). After that, it became a game of implementation, firstly, building the grids and color palettes (the color palettes took a lot of time wading through toxilibs documentation, which is rather robust, but has fewer examples than I would have liked), and then creating a series of different visualization-methods called by the program.


Overall, I feel like I had a solid learning experience with this project, scoping it out in a ways that gave me concrete objectives to reach. I found that when I got in to the details of it, that generative work is incredibly nuanced and difficult to manage. Though I had a fairly successful output, there were so many details of codifying the rules of design that I wanted to see implemented, that even just dealing with the smallest visual paradigm resulted in many many many edge cases that needed resolution. As a result, the final product I have (though I think I did make a lot of strides forward) is no where as near to sophisticated as I would have liked (especially in terms of typography). I was amazed at how much time and detail it took to realize and resolve very small aspects of the design of the pages. Additionally, I found that by spending so much time dealing with the “data-ness” of my data (past schedules), that I felt somewhat limited in how to represent it, as opposed to simply creating a narrative of visualizations that I specifically curated for the book. However, without the guiding constraints of working with a set of data, I’m not sure that I would have had as successful of an output, because I may have just spent my time worrying about what I was making, as opposed to spending time making that thing.

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