Feedback on Clocks

Feedback on Clock Assignments from:
BG: Benedikt Groß, creative-in-residence at the STUDIO
HCL: 劉浩知 Lau Hochi, artist, MFA candidate and 60-212 TA
GL: Golan Levin, 60-212 Professor


HCL: Actually I think the clock is quite practical. It is true that you can't get the accurate time from it, but you can get a quick rough sense of time once you are familiar with the clock. But maybe the more important question is that why do you want it to be more practical?
GL: You went through a thoughtful process, and your writeup is excellent. I think the strongest aspect, conceptually, is the idea that the color at the center of the circles' Venn diagram is unique at every time of day. That said, I can't entirely reconcile the monochrome gradients and the colored circles, together: this seems like there are two very different visual languages colliding here. I appreciate the ambition to show a calendar and clock in the same canvas; I just think you would have created a piece with greater holistic unity, and made something more memorable, if you could stick to just one of your visual ideas. Another way of asking this is: given the gradients, what are the circles doing there? Or, given the circles, what are those gradients doing there? Why are those the right things to add to the other, and what makes the visual relationship (position, ratios, etc.) between the circles and gradients anything other than arbitrary? Separately, I also have to interrogate the idea of making the circles' size proportional to some quantity: did you use area, or radius? (They change perceptually at very different rates...) Was it really necessary to change the size of the circles? (Why is that the right thing to do -- does 50 seconds into a minute feel "bigger" than 10 seconds in? And if so, how come you didn't apply this idea of scale to the calendar (20 days into the month is "bigger" than 5 days in, etc.)? By the way, you might enjoy checking out the Kirsch-Hamilton Aurora Clock, manufactured in the 1970s.


HCL: The wireframe aesthetic looks cool. If it is geometry that interests you, I think you can find more interesting relation between time and geometry.
GL: It's a simple, attractive enough project. I definitely appreciate the premise of asking "what it would look like to be inside of a clock", and how that could offer a different perspective on a familiar object (and on the act of reading the time). I think this makes the "illegibility" of your clock, owing to its sideways orientation, forgivable -- though I do think it would have been even more appealing if you had added an interaction that would allow the user (with their mouse) to rotate the clock in 3D, in order to make it even temporarily legible. On the flip side, I think you missed the opportunity to reconceptualize how time is understood and represented: you obediently adopted Hours, Minutes, and Seconds as the way time is quantified and shown. So in this respect, you stuck to your comfort zone: the challenge you reached for in this project was primarily technical, not conceptual. Additionally, your writeup is, in my opinion, insufficiently self-reflective.


HCL: There is potential with the concept. But it is unclear what you try to achieve with the white circles though. It requires a more detailed explanation in documentation to explain the connection between visualizing seconds and the menstrual cycle.
GL: Your writeup lacks a discussion of your struggle to create this project, i.e. what problem (whether technical, conceptual, or aesthetic) you surmounted to achieve it. In other words: What did you learn in making it, what problem did you solve to get to this point, what failures did you encounter along the way, how did you arrive at this particular design, and (most importantly), stepping back to critically evaluate your own work, in what ways does your project still fall short? For me, this media object fails to operate as either a clock or calendar. If it were a calendar, I expect you would use the day() function (rather than the second() function) to advance through the, well... days; then you would have a timepiece or other time display that could, very conceivably, track a woman's cycle. If it is a clock, then you need to provide an explanation of how this media object should be interpreted for the other 32 seconds of every minute, when no visual change is apparent, and why you consider this to be your desired (even: optimal) design.


HCL: The initial plan would have worked much better. The shape of number would be more intuitive than representing time with columns. The current version does not have the element for me to kill time with it.
GL: Your concepts far outstrip your skills and fluency, at the present moment. The result is a large and probably very frustrating gulf between what you're able to imagine and sketch, and what you can actually make. So let me first encourage you by saying that this state of affairs is normal, yes it's challenging to be in this position, and you're learning productively in making the attempt, so keep trying. Regarding this project, the described concept is funny, and improbable, and idiosyncratic. Strategically speaking, I think it could be a good practice to create different programs that illustrate different pieces of your concept, even if you can't see how you might put them all together. For example: could you make a simple program that, when the user clicks the mouse, N flies remain still buzzing around, while the others are killed? Could you make another program that positions graphical elements in such a way as to make numbers (similar to a 7-segment LED display)? I also think can be OK to play to your strengths and do simple, effective things that don't require huge stretches in skill: for example, the project could look so much better if you had a few variations for the flies, rather than the same fly everywhere. Separately: The project writeup lacks polish.


HCL: The choice of hiding the clock works really well for me. The blob does give me a sense that is fake organic and I find that really interesting.
GL: It's been said that computer games either involve making messes, or cleaning them up. This clock offers a surprisingly engaging cleaning interaction -- it makes me feel quite obsessive. I appreciate the technical challenge you gave yourself. While there are a lot of different toolkits that would support (much) faster implementations of this idea (and the ones you describe in your writeup), what you have here is still fine work. Above all, I like the premise of making the user do work to help reveal the time, and I like the fact that it's a losing struggle. Design-wise, the little red schmecks around the numbers bother me, as they kind of "give up the secret" about what's going on underneath; are they supposed to be there?


HCL: haha the interface is good. I really like the contrast between the heaviness of the subject and the lightness of the deisgn, the graphics, the background color. The small font at the bottom saying the percentage of people you outlasted is also weirdly funny.
GL: Fine work, carefully considered both conceptually and visually. There's a lot going on here, a stew of ideas, including a latent critique of interface cultures, tools, advertising and design. The investment in a working interface with an absurd premise. I appreciated seeing screenshots etc. of the failed attempts.


HCL: The fractal looks interesting but I am not sure if that's a good way to visualize time. It is hard to interpret something out of fractal, especially when the frames are so similar every 20 frames or so.
GL: I see, essentially, a disconnected stream of unrelated fractals, which change every second; while I appreciate that it looks different at all times of day, it is difficult to understand how to read this clock. I would have appreciated something continuous rather than discrete (perhaps using the template for continuous millis() that I provided) so it would be possible to understand how one moment is flowing into the next. I also think you missed an opportunity to connect this to the conventional analog clock design in a legible way (for example: by making a fractal tree in which the left-hand branches were the hour hand, and the right-hand branches were the minute hand, etc.). Consequently it's difficult to tell how this is not simply a random fractal generator on a one-second timer (to me, the main shortcoming of the piece). Your writeup bears this out -- you don't provide, for example, a diagram (annotating a screenshot) explaining how I might be able to read the time: because, I think, it can't be done. On a side note, the number of totally-black screens is somewhat concerning; they further undermine its legibility.


HCL: The characters are really interesting. I also enjoy the ambiguity that I don't have to read it as a clock. The fact that each character has its own planet does give a sense of it all seems coincidental but it is not.
GL: Charming, imaginative, and improbable; fine work. That said: I'm not sure I understand how to tell the time from it. I think it would be a short walk to make this legible (as a timepiece), and I doubt that doing so would hurt the project.


HCL: Visually very pleasant, the dandelion is beautifully designed. The floating of the seed also works together with the mood. One suggestion would be to slow down the pace even more. Right now each flower is shedding one seed every second, that feels a bit hectic to me (as of 3pm).
GL: A gorgeous design, and (by means of the writeup) very well contextualized. I turned off the print() statement to get a better frame rate. Worth optimizing. You would also learn a good deal if you were to port this to a faster graphics environment, such as three.js, Processing or openFrameworks.


HCL: I think there is a difference between emulating and depicting. Right now it is closer to a metaphor which is saying everything in the world is locked with time.
GL: Sometimes abject projects indicate a lack of enthusiasm for the prompt. I find this clock perfunctory; it's difficult to know what aspects of the project, if any, are loved by you. While it's clear, by your own admission, that you didn't give yourself enough time to make the project, it's not clear whether you really wanted to. I hope you'll find another prompt more to your liking.


HCL: The idea in your documentation has potential but the way you illustrate the idea is a bit too direct. Try to show instead of tell.
GL: It's difficult to know what to make of this. It's opaque (non-legible) as a clock, and as a visual design doesn't hold together compositionally.


HCL: The chord and the sample is working beautifully. The idea that different chords are paired with different hours is interesting. The flowers is a bit disconnected with the idea though. I can imagine spending enough time with the chords, people can intuitively tell what hour it is even without perfect pitch.
GL: Great experiment. It's tough to dislike flowers; the really interesting part is the generative composition that accompanies them. That said, p5.js is not the ideal environment for generative music -- take a look at Max/MSP, PureData and SuperCollider.


HCL: The circle is a simple and effective way to visualize the cycle. But it is not clear what you are trying to represent with the fluid simulation. Is it a more ambient, "mood" visualization? or a visualization of the actual flow during the period?
GL: It's expressive, rather than utilitarian. (Which is fine.) The project itself is on that border between minimal-elegant and forgettable-cipher, but it's clear that you went through a learnful struggle to achieve this design. Solid effort.


HCL: It is poetic and effective. The fact that I only see one side of the conversation makes me think about how I maintain different kinds of relationship. I imagine adding some blank space is also nice, to indicate the time where you don't talk to this person.
GL: Compelling. I respect your investment in this material, which is clearly fraught. Per your argument with Jackalope: I maintain that it's OK to make software for a single person. Good work.


HCL: Cool! but does it only work for 12:00 and 6:00? I couldn't get it to work. The idea of telling glimpses of the real time with a chaos machine is beautiful and it is there.
GL: A little dry (in the way that physics demonstrations always are), but -- this is a very interesting investigation: a great starting point, beautifully designed and thoughtfully coded (with much learning along the way, it's clear). There are lots of opportunities for further experimentation and improvement, in the best way. I think to myself, "oh! you could try such-and-such! and, what if you did this-and-that", not because the project is bad, but because it is good.


HCL: Nice animation with the cat's arm and the graphics are nicely done. Simple but effective.
GL: Very well-executed. The nonlinear movement of the arm shows especially careful and praiseworthy attention to detail. Wikipedia states that the "maneki-neko is a common Japanese figurine", and it must be said that this "common" quality transfers to your design, too; your project is instantly familiar, but also (reciprocally) lacks improbability.


HCL: The visual elements look good. I think it is fine for the clock to be broken given the idea you have is related to cognitive impairments and perceived time, if that's what you want.
GL: This clock is flat-out gorgeous, quirky (having character), and unique. There's so much evident care. It's much better than you give it credit for being, even though, yes, you didn't get to fully explore the deep idea you were interested in. I wish your design offered even greater (generative) variability that allowed it to resemble the other hand-drawn clocks you presented in your writeup illustrations.