Project 02 – Staff Picks

Take a look at Bo Kim’s sensitive yet economical solution to the Variable Face prompt: this is hands-down excellent work. Consider how each of its random variations actually looks like a plausible, yet different person. There are so many characters articulated by that nose! Exquisite. I’m reminded of drawings by Schiele and Matisse.


Bo is a novice programmer, like most of you. She based her project off the same code template as everyone else in the class. What makes her project exceptional, in my opinion, is the extent to which Bo worked to make the project her own. This can be particularly difficult to achieve in computational media, given that we’re all working with the same brittle and impersonal set of graphics primitives — but it is possible. In Bo’s case, doing so was the result, in part, of some very deliberate experimentation with p5’s curve-drawing commands. But it was also the result of a simple decision to adopt a different perspective: Bo’s is one of only two submissions (out of more than 80) rendered in three-quarters view. This is a great choice for a portrait view that shrinks the barrier between subject and viewer, while simultaneously deflecting the challenging glare of the frontal gaze.

Orianna Green was another student who explored the plastic possibilities and expressive potential of drawing arbitrary curves, in her singular “generative silhouette” submission:


Other unusual and well-crafted work came from Antonia and Ji Tae:


So….. when we published the Variable Face assignment last week, we included a template program with it, in order to give you a “leg up” and help illustrate some ideas about how you could structure your code. Alongside this template, we also wrote:

This template presents the minimally viable solution. We often regret presenting templates like this, because some students think that trivial modifications to such a template would represent satisfactory work. But we know your generative faces will be much more interesting.

Unfortunately — exactly as we feared — literally dozens of students simply changed a few colors, and submitted our own template back to us. While we appreciate how a Project template might seem like a proscription for what we “want”, it’s not! We’d really like to see more creative ambition in the open-ended creative Projects presented publicly on WordPress. Get weird. Experiment. Make something really lovely. The Projects are where you will discover and develop your identity as a creative coder; this is your place to shine!

A few students used the template as a starting-point, but really pwned it, and created well-developed, interesting compositions. Some especially good solutions came from Alison, Kevin, and Lily:



Note how their solutions present canvases which are carefully and completely composed. Their characters are more than just floating heads (as in our template); they have necks, shoulders, bodies. They experimented with graphical primitives (such as arbitrary polygons, or rotated ellipses) beyond the scope of what we showed in class. There’s also effort given to making something unexpected, even with such basic colors and materials.