Transcription: 0029 - Reza Ali

Released: May 4, 2014

Darwin: Okay, this week, we're going to be talking to someone that I've never met personally, but has been pointed to, by a number of people. Particularly, one of my coworkers pointed to him as one of the bright and shining stars of the visual arts world. His name is Reza Ali and he is, a very prolific artist and coder, and he pretty much wraps his arm around much of what we think of when we think of art and technology as combination, I rested. How you doing?

Reza Ali: I'm doing good. Thank you for having me, Darren I'm, I'm honored to be called all those things

Darwin: Well, cool. I'm glad to be able to honor you. I like to start off the podcast by, asking people to tell me a little bit about the work that they're currently doing. I know that you just had a, had a gallery, opening just the other day, right? Yeah.

Reza: Yesterday I had a gallery opening, and that was through, Coda, __Maine__, which is a art tech games, sort of, non-for-profit nonprofit association here in San Francisco. They put on great events and they're getting into showing work. The last time they should work, was through public works, which is a kind of famous place in San Francisco for shadow work. So, yeah, it was great. I just showed off some, recent work I did last year with fluids and, sort of a real-time rendering. So it was a, it was a fun, fun exploration and, yeah, the gallery of __anyway__ __went__ great. I can share some links with you guys.

Darwin: Yeah, that'd be great if you can, if you can toss some my way, I'll put them up on the website so that people can check it out. Oh, __do__, what are some other, some other work that you've done recently?

Reza: So recently, there was a, visual show that I performed at a, the show was at Stanford. They have a program called, karma, which stands for the center for computer research, music and acoustics. And, every year they have a show at the end of the year where they're, they're students that graduate students or undergrads, some of them perform, their music, some have some visuals. And, so I got asked to do the visuals for, a couple really talented electronic musicians working with tools like Maximus __page__ that are live and all that good stuff. So their music is very like, eclectic and electronic, and I love that stuff. So it was a true honor to be part of that show. And some of the work, the whole, set was, was the whole show was actually live streamed.

Reza: The visuals are also live stream, but the quality of course, isn't, you know, super HD stills can be found on my most recent, on my website. And under the sketches tab, you can see sort of some of the sketches out __speech__ __and__ with, yeah, and that, that was really, a show all about, like I had built these sketches and these sketches were audio reactive and my whole performance there was just unfolding the sketches over time and allowing people to see their sort of beauty as they sort of changed and morphed and, transformed. So it wasn't so much cutting up live video or, or, applying filters, but more playing with generative systems and, sort of modifying their, their sort of parameters and physics to, you know, exhibit certain behaviors that went with the music. I find that kind of stuff really interesting and fascinating. I mean, I, I play with these systems all the time at home when I'm developing them for either for fun or clients or whatever. And it's really nice to share that process of discovery with people and have that be a performance that they enjoy.

Darwin: Sure. I, I know what you mean. There's something about, you get, when you get the right generative system going, the next thing, you know, an hour's gone by and you have kind of like a lot of drool on your shirt. Yeah. It's, it's a fun process. So, you're obviously wrapped into sort of advanced graphics and, and real time performance and generative systems. Why don't you give us a little bit of your background to tell us how you get to here?

Reza: Well, I was always fascinated by math. I think the first time that I saw a sign wave plotted on a graphing calculator, I think it was like a Tia 83. I think that was a, I don't know why, but I distinctly remember that moment. And it just blew my mind about like, you know, how beautiful that curve is, that there was something about math that led me to, study, like engineering in undergrad. So I ended up getting a couple of degrees in engineering, but also, I was really obsessed about the aesthetics and the visuals, like that was my main circle obsession. So it first resurrected itself as like, I love drawing graffiti. I think that was like an early graphic design kind of study for me. I mean, and then photography became my main sort of, tool of choice because you can compose very, very quickly, but it was all about form and composition, the elements of design.

Reza: So it was very intriguing. So, as an undergrad, you know, I ended up studying a mixture of like architecture and product design, electrical and mechanical engineering. And, and that was great because really I wasn't doing it because of, you know, any forced like thing you must get a job. It was more like I was just in like building things and making things after that. I know I've had a, an opportunity to go to grad school at, media arts and technology at UC Santa Barbara, where I met, Wesley Smith and Angus Forbes and Graham Wayfield and, Lance Putnam and all these amazing, sort of peers that I still, you know, we still have conversations today and we still chat. And, so I met those guys and they taught me, they basically opened up my world, in terms of like computer programming, computer graphics, sound, visualization, real-time graphics. Those are the guys who really taught me everything that I know. So you gotta think that sure.

Darwin: __Were__, where did you do your undergrad?

Reza: I went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Darwin: Oh, sure. Okay. Well that, that kind of makes sense because there aren't that many schools that allow you to pursue an engineering degree, but also take architecture and design and you kind of mix and match some of those disciplines. So that actually kind of makes sense.

Reza: Yeah. You had a great, program that had a product design and innovation program. That's where I actually started because it seemed most sort of up my alley. Right.

Darwin: So what have, what have the, your early education led you to UCS D in this, sort of like advanced, advanced media arts stuff? What, what is it that caught your attention and made you say that's where I'm going,

Reza: I'm just going to correct you for a second. It was at UC Santa Barbara. __Well__, I mean, yeah,

Darwin: Right. As you see SB, I wrote it down wrong. Sorry.

Reza: Okay. I guess what, what really led me there __is__ I was looking for plates that would allow me to like foster my creativity and allow me to also grow __be__. So, I mean, I applied to a couple places. I applied to, you know, a media lab, of course, design media arts at UCLA ITP. And __you__, and out of all those places, I think the place that I felt most at home was UC Santa Barbara when I visited their labs and just the space that they had, it was, __their__ there, the space that they had is very different from, media lab __ITPM__ DMA. What I really liked about the space was it just seemed to open an empty, which was really nice because it's a blank canvas where you can really define yourself, define what you want to do and what you want to study.

Reza: And really the guidance that you CSB was, is fantastic because it wasn't overbearing. And some people need a lot of, direction and guidance. But when I got there, I ready to just, I'm just ready to just explore a little bit and be a free spirit for a little bit and just figure out what it is that I was really passionate about. And that the school, basically, it just allowed you to like, do that without anyone really giving you a, a bad stare or anything like that, you know, and it's also right on the beach. So people are really easy going and the professors are they're people and they understand, you know, that aspect of life. So that's, that was the key thing about that school that, you know, I was actually, you know, to be honest, I wasn't actually going to go, to grad school. I was sort of, I was a little bit, sort of bummed that I didn't get into all these, I didn't get into ICP or a TMA or __T__. So I was actually just going to go back into the working world and just get a job, as a consultant in New York city. But, you know, after visiting, I just kept it open really open-mind and found that it was just, it was just the right place. It just felt like this can be the best thing for my future.

Darwin: Well, I think it's really interesting that, that one of the things that you found a real draw was an open and empty space, because it seems like for a lot of people, that's the most intimidating kind of space possible that if something has sort of like a build-out of some fashion, it gives them the feeling of they know how to fill that kind of space up. But if it's totally empty, it's a, it's a different kind of imagination it takes to tackle that

Reza: True. But I also think like when you have something that's already built up, there are kind of like set defined rules and regulations that you have to abide by, you know, if there are no rules, you can make your own and yeah, you can tell, you can totally go crazy as well, but I don't know. I think it's sometimes like you need that, that space where you are not told what to do. Right. You have to find what you want to do. Right.

Darwin: Right. So at Santa Barbara then, working with, or working around and with, and interacting with people like Wesley and Graham and some of these folks, what were the, did you find them pushing you in directions that kind of broke your starting mold or they did, they tend to embrace what you were doing and extend that, you know, I'm still one of the things that I think when I, when I talk to people __that__ go through an aggressive program, it seems like they're either broken or they're, or they're like lifted, lifted up, but it doesn't seem like anyone just kind of coast through, a heavy duty art grad program.

Reza: Yeah. I think it was, the relationship there was, I came into grad school and I was, you know, sort of a little broken from undergrad because, it was such an intense experience that all I wanted to do was make art. And I didn't want to learn any more technical things. I didn't want to learn how to code. I, I really didn't know how to, code at all. Actually I hated computer sciences as an undergrad because, you know, it wasn't taught the right way. I think there were, you know, what's interesting is, they just didn't teach it the right way. So when I got to grad school, I was kind of stubborn in my ways. And I just wanted to use like final cut in Maya and, you know, Photoshop and illustrator just to do my work, my artwork.

Reza: Even though I know, like I knew that wasn't the right path, right. I knew that that wasn't going to push the boundaries. So when I saw what, Wes and grant and Lance, and, all these amazing people were doing at UC Santa Barbara and the ideas that they were expressing with code the sort of art projects they were able to accomplish, I knew that like, it was time to just, you know, suck it up and, and learn. I think I remember, I distinctly remember one day where I had just sort of like shown a project and I don't think, you know, I didn't feel good about it. And I was in, one of the labs and Casey Reese's book. The blue one learning processing was on the table. And I just sat there for like six hours just reading through that book because I was just so frustrated and ready to learn something new. Right. So it's a very, you know, the process is not easy. It's, it's very, it's very frustrating. It's, it's hard. It's not, I mean, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it. Right. Well, it's, sometimes

Darwin: It does seem like everybody's doing it though. Doesn't it?

Reza: I think it's become a lot easier. Right. That's for sure. Like when I was, I think I sort of entered at a, at a golden age where processing was out and open frames was being currently worked on. There are some amazing things going on with, web GL and 3d stuff in the browser. So, it's become so much easier now for sure. And a lot more people are engaging in it. Maybe not to the degree of like, like Wesley or Graham, but there, anyone can do a three JS tutorial and do 3d graphics in the browser. Right.

Darwin: Sure, sure. So I'm talking, you know, you see you, weren't a coder and then you kind of like slurped in, the Casey Reese book. And next thing you know, you're a coder, but you obviously have, kept that up as an important part of your, your practice because, I'm writing that you're primarily an open frameworks person, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, I noticed that you're the person responsible for the OFX UI, which I think filled in a real need in the open frameworks community, which is creating robust and attractive UI elements. At what point did you sort of like the __make__, make the transition from being right, I'm going to use other people's coding stuff to feeling comfortable enough to say, yeah, I'm going to make something and I want other people to use it because it's very popular in the openFrameworks world.

Reza: Yeah. I think it was, sort of, let's see, I had just finished a project with dead mouse and, I wrote this basically a VJ application for his tour, though that would be used for his tour. And I think it was like, you know, it was a week of intense work, just staying up till like five in the morning, every day, just like intensely coding. And then I think that was the point where I had written like hit my 10,000 hours of like, oh, okay. I feel comfortable enough to implement anything. You know, I think when you first start out coding you, you're kind of like, you kind of dip your toes in and then you get your foot in. And then, at some point you're like, okay, I'm comfortable in the water, but then, you know, it takes a while for you to become a really good swimmer.

Reza: And I think after that project, I hadn't realized, okay, I can, like, I can swim. Like I can do this. And, I think when I became, when I sort of understood that it was just a tool and you can write code that does anything. I think that's, that was the point where I was like, you know what? I've been implementing, like UI stuff over and over and over again in openFrameworks. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. So I did one more project, where I did a, I did visuals for a concert in Hong Kong. And after that project, you know, like I was working super hard on it. The clients were constantly asking for changes and iterations and, and things. And I, and I got kind of like a little burnt out and I realized like, what is, what is so important here in this client work?

Reza: What's so important for me as a designer. And like, what's so important in terms of like, being able to just, I guess, control what we're doing. Right. And that was when I was like, well, UI, of course. And I looked at the other UIs and there were, there were a little, you know, aesthetically, I just didn't want to put them on top of my work. Right. They just did. They said something different. They said like debug screen, you know, from the eighties or nineties, no offense to the other people who wrote the UIs. They're, they're fantastic in their own way. So that's when it started, I had a month off of, free time, which is rare. And I decided to like, well, I've been using open firmer. So the last two years now I got to, I'm going to give back to the community because they've given me so much knowledge and just the tool set is amazing. So that was what, what spurred it? I think, it was one of the best things that I ever did. I mean, it was definitely one of, it's still an ongoing project. I still get bug, can have issues and, and in bug, you know, emails and, and, things like that. But I think it's been really rewarding in terms of getting, getting it out to people. And then seeing the feedback

Darwin: In, in what ways do you interact with the open framework community? Are you active on like the forums and stuff, or do use, keep a lower profile and just mostly speak through your code?

Reza: I guess I keep a lower profile to be honest. I don't, I used to post on the forums more. I don't post on the forums that much because I think, usually if I'm searching on the forums, it's because I've run into like a wall, like a junk wall. And, I guess for the stuff that I'm doing, I haven't run into those walls yet. Or maybe I have, and I just sort of solved my own way, but, and to be honest, I just, haven't had time to really engage in that aspect of the community. I think more, more, I'm more active on Twitter, so I'm more likely to tweet something to someone who's talking about openFrameworks or share my work __about__ that way, or, I do __without__, I mean, then it, then again, I also engaged in projects that use open frameworks.

Reza: Like I worked on clouds last year and a little bit this year. And clouds is an open frameworks project that, you know, it's a executable application that is a interactive documentary. It's completely generative __and__ as a bunch of generative systems inside of it, and many, many, many, many creative coders worked on it. So, you know, James George and Jonathan Menard and Patricio and, and, there's a bunch of great, amazing people working on that film. So I engaged in the, the open farmers community that way as well. There was a couple of hackathons in Brooklyn and, and at ITP that I was at and got to hang out with a bunch of cool people.

Darwin: __Yeah__. Yeah. I think I first heard about that from Luke Dubai was in New York at one point, and he was talking about how exciting that project was and, a lot and number of people that were involved that was, that seemed to be, a real vibrant community coming together for that.

Reza: It's amazing. Cause, yeah, James, James, George is one of the, the main sort of coders behind the, the film and he is, is also amazing at what, what's going on. And he was able to just sort of build this sort of architecture that just like really works well. And then I was able to contribute like, what I call like the resonator to the film and allow them to create these sort of like genitive scenes in addition to the sort of art, red, green, blue depth, video. Right, right.

Darwin: Very interesting. __Wow__. So one of the things that you seem to do is, is you seem to manage a pretty interesting balance between artistic work and what we might call commercial work or work for hire. I mean, if I, if I really wanted to honor what, like podcasts, listeners want, it wanted to know, it'd be like, where does he get the gigs, man, but, how do you, how do you approach, you know, putting yourself out there to get commercial work? How do you select from the projects that come available and then, how do you, what do you use as sort of your measure for when you have to balance out personal work with commercial work?

Reza: Okay. So it's funny. I think there's a lot of things that I haven't published on my website yet, and I'm super excited to like actually get them out into the world because then people will be able to see, sort of more of my personal work. The last two years have been really about, client work and working on projects for other people. So I'm super excited to, sort of get more work out on my website if, to answer your first question about where do I get my gigs. I think, the gigs naturally, I mean, I feel very fortunate to say this, but they come, they just naturally happen now. I guess my work has become widespread enough where, people just sort of know, which is nice. But before, before all that, where I got my start with, I just, you know, I started this website where I would just post about, like the work that I was doing.

Reza: Like it was really, really basic, processing stuff. And if you go back on my website, a couple of pages, you know, like maybe four pages or so you'll see like the most basic processing sketches. Okay. And I think what's really is to get your work out there and write about it in a way that kind of expresses what you were trying to do with it. And if other people see it and they're like, oh yeah, this person gets it. You know, their thinking is right along the lines of like what we're trying to do in this project. I think, that's really important. Like it's not just about pretty pictures, but it's about, the thinking behind the work it's about, how the work was made and how the work was presented as well and framed. I think with every blog post, I tried to, try to write it in such a way that it's not just about the pretty pictures, but it's also about the systems. And it's also about like exploring these systems and it's also about the lessons learned and let stop. So I would recommend like getting your work out there, as soon as possible, like it's, you might not be proud of it, like, you know, four years later, but, you know, you'll, you'll, it might get you some work. So that's how I got my start start. And then the other, what was the other question?

Darwin: What do you use as your measure for balancing, between client work and your personal work? I mean, is it the kind of thing where you start like really feeling an itch to do work? And so you like set client stuffs aside to work, you know, do you do either, or are you constantly cooking up both sides or do you build your personal work off of things that you've learned with client projects? How do, how do you play off the two sides, the client work or the commercial work and the artwork?

Reza: Yeah, I think to be honest, it's a very organic process where I haven't set clear boundaries. Here is the general sort of, my general like strategy or perspective on it. If someone, comes to me and proposes the project that I'd find interesting or challenging or __most__ like, you know, just fascinating, technically like maybe it's a super complex problem or maybe the data sets really interesting, or maybe the aesthetics that are going to be explored are cool, or maybe this is a completely free project that's going to benefit, schools and kids and blow their minds and expose them to this stuff at a really early age. So it, it all depends on kind of like, the underlying idea. And then, you know, if it's for a company, then it becomes a client project. So that's just naturally how it goes.

Reza: My personal work is, I mean, if I had the choice, I would just do personal work all day, every day for the rest of my life. Cause I think it's, I have a whole list of like things I've been writing down for about three years now that I haven't had a chance to get into until actually recently I left my job. My data, my full-time job, I think the balanced to be honest, like completely Frank it's like whenever I feel like the bank account's getting too low, I will do a client job. Or whenever I feel like the client is like sort of shares a similar sort of like perspectives and the way of working is similar and they're sort of like innovative and like sort of leading the field. Right. That's, that's totally like another, sort of criteria I think, because the thing is you'll get approached all the time about doing projects with people and you really have to be selective. Otherwise you're going to end up doing a bunch of projects that you'll never want to blog about or published because you're not proud of them at the end of the day. Right. So the process is really just it's me evaluating to, I find value in this and, will this be good for other people?

Darwin: Sure. That makes a lot of sense. Now, when I look at your work, one of the things I notice is that, you're probably primarily doing, doing work on sort of like standard computer systems, but seemingly kind of recently, you did some work with, Santa Barbara museum of art, I think, and, on a, on an iPad application that sort of explores cubism. Can you tell us a little bit about that and then, to extend the conversation then I'm __to__ want to know what you, how you like working on these smaller devices and what do you think are the positives and negatives of doing that, of putting your work on that?

Reza: So this, this was a client project done in, 2011, so it's recent ish. And the whole project was, was centered around analytic cubism. And, having people learn about that in a way that's way more engaging than just sort of looking at a painting. I mean, that's also fascinating. You can learn a ton by just sitting there and looking. But I do think when people play and put the pieces together for themselves, they're really engaging in the work and things are happening in their minds. That is just beyond just, you know, sort of casually observing. So the project was a collaboration between me and two museums, the Santa Barbara museum of art and the Kimball art museum, icon, who's the main curator there she is fantastic about, sort of what her goals are and her intentions are for the work.

Reza: And she's a great curator and she's fantastic to talk to you. So we had a lot of conversations about what they wanted to do, what they want to do to like get across to their, patrons and their, the people coming through the museums. Sure. So, this was actually my first, iPad application. And, so it was, it was a giant learning experience for both parties for them. This was their first, I've had application that augmented exhibit. So we actually worked closely together for many, many months on this project. This was like a labor of love, I would say for sure. And we came up with a couple of interactive experiences and then sort of, I had this job of going in, sort of implementing it and figuring out what works and what doesn't work and getting feedback.

Reza: So it was very much like it was awesome project because the learning was just through the roof. I mean, I was learning how to do really simple things and code, and also like really complex things with UIs and interfaces that eventually like taught me, you know, some of the things that I still use today. So specifically, like what was really fascinating about the project is like there were small data piss parts of the project. There were small games and puzzles. There were just visual elements that were fun to make. There were Jitter systems that, you know, control the, __four__ scraps.

Reza: And on top of it, all the biggest challenge was making it usable for people. A lot of the times you'll see a generative application and it's just, well more recently, some of the better ones are great, but, the controls are sort of just, you know, it's not intuitive. So making this thing usable and making the interface usable was a big challenge. So it was the first time that I had to do many, many iterations to get it to feel right. And, this was a great learning experience. So I'd recommend like for anyone who hasn't done this kind of project to dive into a project like this, where other people will be using it and study how they use their application because that's, it's a great learning experience.

Darwin: Yeah. That's, that's, that's really cool insight. Now w things that, when I looked at it, it kind of freaked me out is that, part of the application actually shows some of the, some of the, artist's work. And then you can kind of like stick your finger in and kind of swirl it around a little, right. You can like change coloring and all that kind of stuff. Right. That actually surprised me given that it was coming from a museum background because normally they treat that stuff pretty, sorta like a Pope's robes. Right. Yeah.

Reza: Well, what was really interesting about this was, I __was__ definitely an innovator and she had in terms of like, changing colors and stuff. She had, a company come in and take images of the work at different wavelengths. So like infrared UV and visible light. So I think for, for the museums, it was really about exposing the different layers, you know, not really like applying an Instagram filter on it, but just showing what is there that we can

Darwin: Oh, that's interesting. Because I was wondering, there was a discussion in the description about it being like a spectral imaging and I wasn't actually sure what, what that meant. Sure.

Reza: Yeah. That's basically what it is basically images that are taken at, different, wavelengths in the visible spectrum or not visible, but just spectrum in general. And then, yeah, those three, those three sort of, infrared UV invisible, or sort of mashed up together in one screen and you can sort of change levels of, of, one to see the other and then, sort of get a better understanding for what was done in the work, because at different wavelengths you can actually see further down in the paint. So you can actually see something that the artists painted over, which is actually really fascinating if you're thinking about process and understanding an artist is process.

Darwin: That's something that, artists who utilize code will never have. There's never sort of like the base layer that we paint over. I mean, it exists, but the delete key takes care of that pretty quickly.

Reza: Yeah, totally. Well, that's the thing about the work that we do on computers is that, you know, everything is so easily deleted. You can just drive to the trashcan and it's as if it never existed. And I think that is, personally, I feel right now, I feel like that is the best and worst thing about the field. I mean, I'm, I'm obsessed with, like, you know, having everything be neat and clean and sort of well-designed, but I'm also, you know, when you have a bunch of things around you that remind you of your past, or just, you know, fill your space with sort of character, you feel certain things your brain gets activated in certain ways. And it's kind of sad that you can't look at all your computer programs at once or your sketches at once. You know, you print them out, have them on your wall or 3d print them and have them on your table, which is actually what I've been starting to do now because, the materiality and like having an art object is actually worthwhile in a lot of ways.

Darwin: One of the things that this discussion kind of like makes you think about is the fact that, right now, in a lot of cases, we're sort of living off of the inadvertent artifacts of our favorite artists. You know, if you were a Jimi Hendrix fan, there's still seems to be like a new Jimmy Hendrix album every two years, right. Because they find scraps of tape behind the sofa or something, and it has more work. It seems like the generation of active artists now aren't going to be leaving that trail of crumbs behind them in the way that every previous generation had.

Reza: Right. Yeah. That's sort of a bummer, to resurrect those programs, you'll have to, you know, get an emulator. Right. Which will be really interesting. That's why recently, you know, for the last year I took a dive into, the web and I spent some time really, getting my hands dirty with what is the internet like, you know, how do we serve content? How do we, how do we get that to show across all browsers in the same way? Right? Like as an artist, you're, you don't want your work to, to, to be compromised, compromised because of like what browser someone's using your experience __in__. So to me, it was like a, a dive into sort of this uncomfortable uncharted territory for me. And, I came out of it and I realized a couple of things like the internet is the place where things go, where they can be easily shared.

Reza: And the longevity of hopefully like the browsers will allow that work to live as long as possible, which is really great. But if you're trying to do innovative cutting edge, things in new media, I think there are definitely limitations there, right. What you can do and sharing experience. So to me, it's like the sandbox experience where I can share something very quickly. But I don't know if what I'm sharing is really in my mind innovative, right. I mean, don't get me wrong. I think there's amazing things going on on the internet, for example, general Brendel's work with pat atop and Isaac Cohen's sort of, crazy, awesome wombs experience. And, they're doing some great stuff,

Darwin: But it doesn't, you don't feel like your, your voice necessarily fits that frame yet.

Reza: I feel like, yeah, you're right. I mean, I don't feel like that is the place where I feel comfortable expressing my ideas yet. I'd love to, I mean, I I'd spent, you know, almost a year working for this, JavaScript, startup called famous, which is, you know, their mission was to beautify the interfaces, on the, internet. And they did a great job actually doing that. And while I was there, I realized, you know, the internet definitely is going to be the future sort of platform. But I also realized, you know, maybe it's not there yet. Maybe for me personally, my work still needs to exist as, you know, non sandbox kind of applications.

Darwin: Right. Well, let's, let's talk a little bit more about the iPad because that is a very, very different experience than working on a laptop or a, or a projection based system, if for no other reason than your, your user interface. And the result has to share the same space,

Reza: Right? That is a challenge. It's basically a design challenge. __That's__ a constraint, but I, I personally think constraints are the best because once you have your constraints in place, you can be as creative as possible. And I truly think that designing a beautiful UI that, goes on top of your application is just as important as what your application is doing. People don't want to use something that looks like it was made in, you know, early 2008. They want, they're expecting things to be shiny and pretty, and they want their movements to be right. And if they're not right, they will know, and they will say something about it, but if they are right, the design challenge has been solved and it basically allows them to go deeper into the experience without actually compromising anything. So it's a, it's a very tricky challenge. The screen space is smaller. But you, I think, when people engage in the content, it's way more, it's way more visceral and tactile and you just, what you see and what you touch is what you get. Right. The mouse is sort of this indirect way of trying to get the computer to do what you want, but with touches, it's just so much more, you know, on point per se. Yeah. It's interesting that you

Darwin: Say that particularly that it's tactical because, one of the, so there's been all of these efforts to put like art and artful programs on all of these different devices and some of the first beat downs of, of stuff driven on tablets was that, oh yeah. You know, it's, it's all good and fine, but you know, if there's a slider and there's not an actual slider there, it's not as satisfying as you know, it's not as tactful as actually having a slider, which I guess is true. But on the, on the other hand, there's no device that I know of right now that has a physical slider on it that can have the user interface or the product of that slider existing right. Underneath the slider. So I just thought that that was kind of a funny critique of, of the tablet experience. And it seems like, as people are getting a little more thoughtful about their user interface design, that that's some of that is breaking down, it's actually becoming more, you're becoming more connected to what's on the screen, through the touch. __Yeah__,

Reza: Completely. I mean, I think the whole concept of a slider is a legacy thing. Right. I mean, when I see a screen and I want to manipulate some parameter, the whole __screen__ __is__ touchscreen. She'll be the space for manipulation. Right. I mean, it's kind of stupid to be able to like want to be able to hit a specific part of your screen to change something. I sort of like, I totally get what you're talking about when people want to touch things and sort of twiddle knobs. I think that comes from like the whole, music making process. It's very satisfying, you know, but it's also like, it reminds me of like, when people listen to vinyl and they had that slight hiss of the vinyl, you know, it's beautiful and it puts you in a different place. But I don't think they're gonna build that slight hiss back into MP3s, you know, it's just not going to happen. Right. So I think they're just two different things and they have two different, different capabilities. Right. And,

Darwin: And they kind of had two different audiences as well. I mean, to certain extent, it's already rapidly getting to a point where talking about sliders, is sort of like the equivalent of talking about vinyl and tubes, which it's, it rapidly digresses into old guy radio, you know? Yeah. And, because, and, and, you know, I hate to say it strictly generational cause they don't think it is, but there does seem to be the sense where people who, people who are not married to a specific past seem to be really open to ownership of new user interfaces.

Reza: Right. And I like those people and I dunno, I think, whenever I make anything, I totally understand like what parts of the past it's embracing like the UI library. I know that there are some aspects of it that are so antiquated. But I know that like when you make something, you can't make it so foreign, it's so weird that no one's going to get it right. So we're in that transition state where there are going to be some things that are old and they're gonna be some things that are new. It's kind of like when, Apple's UI, you know, went from completely, skeuomorphic to completely flat, right. If they did that in the beginning, people would, they would lose a lot of people, but they, they took the great strategy where they're just over time, evolving their UI and making it better and better. And I hope to do that with the UI project as well. Like there's some really exciting things that, I'm going to start prototyping and making over the next sort of year and hopefully, share that with the community as well.

Darwin: Given what we've just talked about, regards to UI and self, what are the things that you see right now that you think are interesting and attractive sort of best, best examples of UI design? What are things just, you know, whether they're physical entities or software pieces or whatever, what are the things that you look at and say that that's the right stuff.

Reza: Wow. Okay. Let's think about this. Look around your

Darwin: Apartment. You probably bought some of it.

Reza: okay. Well, God, that's such a hard question though, to be honest, because there are a couple things that I use every day and I know their UI is not perfect. It's really okay. So the other day I saw this, prototype for a car user interface. And it was by this designer. Let's see, what was his name? Mathis __pren__. I'm not sure if I'm writing, sort of spelling that, right. But basically, if you Google a new car UI, you'll see that, you'll see that like the concepts there are fascinating. The UI is beautiful and honestly he thought about he, he recognized problem and started to solve. Right. I think when I look at projects like that, I see the future happening and coming, and I get really excited about that. Those are the things that I sort of look forward to in terms of UI.

Reza: I have a couple of ideas as well in terms of like, sort of gestural based UI as like, I was really excited about leap motion as well. As you get to still sort of go really, really deep that hopefully in the next six months, sort of do a project with the motion. Google glass is another sort of UI that I'm, I'm sort of fascinated with. A friend of mine works at glass and he's an, an, a fantastic designer and I mean really excited about, the kind of things that he's going to produce as well. So yeah, I think about these new machines, and their interfaces, and I get super excited about the future of UI there because I recognize these products are futuristic, right? So those are the things that I'm fascinated with right now, especially because I used to be a researcher at Nokia working on wearable technology and sort of these interactive ecologies.

Reza: And, we did a lot of work with touch screens and phones and tablets and, you know, wearable technology, devices like, I can't, I can't tell you what they are, but, those are the things that also got me excited and it's kind of sad that I haven't seen more of those things out in the world. I have a Nike FuelBand, I wear it every day. I love the UI on that. It's super simple. There's one button and there's a bunch of LEDs that, that, are on screen. It's it's probably one of my favorite things to just touch and play with. It's tactile, it's got LEDs, so who doesn't love that. Right, right, right. My iPhone is also another object that I think is fascinating. So I mean, these are the objects that I interact with every day.

Reza: I also, I think the MakerBots UI is, it's interesting. I'm just looking at the objects in my room now. Okay. Sure. And you know, it does its function. There's some things about it that like, you know, what's really interesting about the MakerBot is that it is like the printer of the future. Right. Right. And, imagine having to like, like, you know, you feed your printer paper, that's like a normal thing people do, right. __The__ purchase out of paper. I'd like to get to the point where 3d printers are like, essentially that, where you just ran out of material, I just have to feed it more material. And there isn't so much like upkeep or sort of, the meat maintenance functions. Right. Exactly. So, you know, when those problems exist, there are still design challenges to be solved. So, I think the key thing about making good UI is just recognizing frustration and solving that frustration and allowing you to like go beyond what's possible, you know? Right.

Darwin: So what do you, what do you think right now, the biggest hurdle to getting to a better user kind of more ubiquitous, better user interface designs?

Reza: The hurdles, I think just recognizing frustration is, is something that a lot of people aren't able to do because they just accept the fact that you have to do it this way. I think when someone starts to like learn how things are made and program, they understand that it was made that way. And someone was thinking about, or someone wasn't thinking about the frustration that might be caused by the interface provided. I think if people understood that, you know, people use technology all the time, but there's, there's a huge difference between using and making and understanding how things are made. So I think once we get more people who understand how things are made, you know, wants to get more people writing, coding, processing, or openFrameworks or 3d printing, or just making things with Arduino, we'll, we're going to start to get people who are going to start to question, what, what are the norms in terms of interfaces and, products and what can we do? That's better. I mean, it's already starting to happen. You can look at Kickstarter and they've, there are so many projects on there that solved, everyday frustrations. You know, I think we need more people to be frustrated and understand why they're frustrated. That's the biggest hurdle. And once we get over more people on board in that boat, there's just going to be, the future is going to get way better, because hopefully that will breed more designers and makers and hackers who will just change it and make it better.

Darwin: Yeah. That's, that's a great view of it. And, and actually what that does too, is sort of like honors the hour, the millions of hours every day, or that people experience frustration. Well, I want to thank you so much for the time. My dog is telling me that, I need to stop, so unfortunately I have to stop.

Reza: Okay. Thank you so much. Oh,

Darwin: It was fantastic. And I appreciate it. Just kind of opening up and telling us, how things are, because it's, it's really fascinating. And, and, I know so many people that appreciate your vision of things. It was really great to hear it from you directly. So thanks and have a great day anytime.

Copyright 2014-2021 by Darwin Grosse. All right reserved.