• Summer 2023: what's on the slate?

    1 August 2023

    What’s been going on in the studio this summer?

    UAL Creative Computing Institute

    I finished another term of teaching at CCI: as usual, teaching the first year BSc Creative Computing students about Sound and Image Processing - an introduction to implementing audio and graphics in code. That means pixel arrays, dithering, audio buffers, unit generators, building up to particle systems and flocking - all with a focus on the creative application of these topics. It was great to see where the students had got to in their final portfolios - some lovely and surprising work in there, as always.

    A reminder: why do I teach alongside consulting and development work? I have no employees, and so this is my way of sharing back my knowledge and developing new talent - as a practitioner-teacher, and as someone who can share expertise from within industry back to students looking to break into it.

    I value “education” as an ideal, and so spending about half a day a week, around client work, for a few months, to educate and share knowledge feels like a reasonable use of my time. It’s also good to practice the teaching/educating muscle: there’s always new stuff to learn, especially in a classroom environment, that feeds into other workshop and collaboration spaces.

    AI Clock P2

    Matt's photo of P2 on his shelf

    I spent a short while working with Matt Webb on “P2” - prototype 2 - of his AI Clock. He’s written more about this prototype over at the newsletter for the project - including his route to getting the product into the world.

    This prototype involved evaluating a few different e-ink screen modules according to Matt’s goals for the project, and creating a first pass of his interaction design in embedded code. I built out the critical paths he’d designed for connecting and configuring the clock, as well as integrating it with his new API service. The prototype established feasibility of the design and, during its development, informed the second version of the overall architecture.

    Since I’ve handed over the code, he’s continued to build on top of it. I find this part of handover satisfying: nothing is worth than handing over code and it sitting, going stale, or unmaintained. By contrast, when someone can take what you’ve done and spin it up easily, start working with it, and extending it - that feels like part of a contracting/consulting job well done: not just doing the initial task, but making a foundation for others to build on. Some of that work is code, some of it’s documentation, and some of it’s collaboration, and it’s something I work towards on all my client engagements.

    Lunar Energy

    I’ve been working on a small project with Lunar Energy. The design team were looking to prototype a specific hardware interaction on the actual hardware involved. I’ve been making hardware and software to enable the designers to work with the real materials in a rapid fashion - and in a way that they can easily share with technical and product colleagues.

    It’s been a great example of engineering in the service of design, and of the kind of collaborative toolmaking work I both enjoy and am particularly effective at. I’ve been jumping back and forth between browser and hardware, Javascript and embedded C++, and I think we’ve got to a really good place. I can’t wait to share a case study.

    Promising Trouble

    Finally, I’ve started a small consultancy gig with Promising Trouble on one of their programmes, spread over a few days this summer, and then a few more towards the winter. My job here is being a technological sounding board and trusted advisor, to help join the team join some dots on a project exploring a technological prototype to address societal issues. A nice consultancy project to sit alongside the nitty-gritty of the Lunar work.


    And what else? I have capacity from early August onwards, so if you’d like to talk about opportunities for collaboration or work, now is a great time to get in touch. What shape of opportunities? Right now, my sweet spots are:

    • invention and problem-solving: answering the questions what if? or could we even?; many of my most successful and impactful projects have begun by exploring the possible, and then building the probable.
    • “engineering for design” - being a software developer in the service of design, or vice versa; the technical detail of platforms, APIs, or hardware is part of what we design for now, and recent work for companies like Google AIUX and Lunar has involved straddling both worlds, letting one inform the other, working in tight cross-functional teams to build and explore that space, and ultimately communicating all of this to stakeholders.
    • projects that blend the digital and physical. I’ve been working on increasing numbers of projects that straddle hardware, firmware, and desktop or browser software, and the interactions that connect all of them.
    • technology strategy; that might be writing/thinking/collaborating, or building/exploring, or first one, then the other; I’ve recently done this with a few early-stage founders and companies.
    • focused technical projects, whether greenfield or a companion to existing work - that might be adding or integrating a significant feature, or building a standalone tool. I tend to work on the Web, in Ruby, Typescript and Javascript (as well as markup/CSS, obviously). I like relational data models, HTTP, and the interesting edges of browsers.
    • and in all of the above: thinking through making, informing the work through prototypes and final product builds.

    You can email me here if any of that sounds relevant. And now, back to the desk and workbench!