Analogue In, Digital Out

by Andy Polaine on December 7, 2006

I just read Brendan Dawes’s new book, Analogue In, Digital Out, in one day. A day when I was teaching all day too. I even stayed up late to finish it. It’s not often that happens.

His approach is very much about diving in, pulling things apart, connecting things together and seeing what happens. Kind of a Jamie Oliver of interaction design really. It reminded me very much of the approach we took at Antirom. It’s really about playing with these new forms, technologies and cultures and trying to discern some interesting features about them and the underlying language.

Any interaction designer, all students and pretty much anyone else involved in coming up with ideas for a living should have a copy I reckon.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karl DD February 3, 2007 at 1:59 am

I just finished reading this, so I am sure you are dying to know what I think :)

There is no doubt the passion for discovery, along with the desire to be prolific, are really useful parts of the design process represented in this book. I can see this being useful to early-stage design students and those countless designers bored with cutting HTML and looking for inspiration.

It is not exhaustive or comprehensive and I am sure is not intended to be. Subjects such as generative ‘chance’, tangible media, experience design etc… have been the subject of much research/writing and this book introduces them in an accessible way. Providing something of a history to such topics would be useful, as would providing further references to other texts which deal with the subjects in full.

I find this book quite contradictory. Dawes mentions at the outset how he seeks inspiration from the real world – this is great advice – but then he plays down the role of web-portals and design books. Aside from the obvious fact that this too is a design book, he seems very much involved in the industry of offering inspiration to bored designers. Moreover, the real world to him seems very occidental (check out his bookshelf on page 235); when the ‘world as your playground’ approach could be broadened significantly by the input of unfamiliar culture.

So while I find his process full of energy, the work he creates is nothing new. The audience here are no doubt web-designers who’s responses to his play-doh interface seem very typical – either thinking it’s magic because they don’t understand the technology, or just not seeing the use of it. The project iteslf seems to fit into the ‘Mariah Carey Syndrome’ category of using technology simply because it’s new and you can. It is all to easy to scan through Campbell’s formula for computer art and pick an input (play-doh), create a control algorithm (video speed) and then map it to output (movie playback).

My recommendation is to borrow this from the library and save your money for one of those nifty bluetooth Arduino’s

2 Andy Polaine February 6, 2007 at 1:24 am

I can’t say I agree, of course. He makes it plain at the very start that this isn’t an academic text, so in that sense he’s laid out his stall. You can’t really then pick him up on that point.

Yes, a lot of this stuff has been written about and researched, but a lot of that writing and research is both very dry and often not that useful when it comes to actually making things. “Web-portals and design books” aren’t the real world at all. Not only that but a focus on them (which happens a lot to my students) narrows your creative/inspiration ‘gene pool’ enormously. So I think it’s good advice.

In terms of creating new work? I think he probably does and has done, even if some of that isn’t new now. The project they did for Blueprint Studios has a really nice sonically driven interface, which I haven’t seen before in Flash.

I think it’s a mistake to think this is only good for web designers. There are plenty of other areas of design/art that would benefit from this more playful approach to working. If you work in interactivity, you tend to have that input/output thing going on – it’s the nature of the beast. I’d prefer to see someone mess around with play-doh and a kung-fu video and see where it leads (and bear in mind, this was about an expression of a process, not intended to be a finished work) than some of the awful, theory-driven ‘academic art’ that I’ve seen (some of which was at Transmediale).

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