Algorithmic generative design, is basically the defining of rules to define behavior boundaries and letting random() take the wheel. I was asked by a client to incorporate motion into a project and had been struggling to decide what tool to use to prototype it, framer, aftereffects or whatever. I had asked a few designers what they would do and got some suggestions about puppet tools and precomping behavior and so on. I was not excited at the the time I was expecting it would take to manually key frame the kind of dynamic feeling motion I was after.
Thankfully one of the people I talked to had mentioned Processing, the code language made specifically for dynamic visualisations. Not in the D3.js dataviz way, but the Conway's Life kind of way. I had run into it a little bit with some maker projects (ie the Ambilight dynamic backlight) but had not really seen the potential until I saw openprocessing.org. The gallery of work was amazing and after digging through some code samples and a little bit of prodding and poking I was able to get close to the behavior I was looking for, and with processing.js it can run in browser.
What I really liked was that it was easy to add both user and data interaction to create dynamic generative behavior that could reflect some underlying data making it more than decoration but an abstraction of some piece of information.
The specifics of the behavior are known, but the starting points and thus the visual is different on every page load, which is also really interesting to me. I don't know that I would use processing on an enterprise scale project, the in-browser calculations would be kind of a jerk thing to unleash on folks, particularly mobile (battery constrained) people. Granted it could done serverside with node.js or something, but for small scale of the project it seemed like a fair match.
As part of Weather Underground's mission to make weather and climate accessible to everyone they attend a wide range of events, from the Tech Crunch hackathons to the AGU science conference and smaller weather community gatherings. Designing an experience includes both the web and app interactions, but for the smaller audience that gets an in-person experience the take away can be memorable
One of the great things about Weather Underground is it's communities, the weather watchers checking in with their monitoring stations and the photographers chasing down the best nature has to offer.
The Wunderphotographers have organized annual meet-ups at different locations around the country to get some face to face time and to see something new in the sky. Weather Underground has been creating shirts to commemorate the locations and the community.
Weather Station Owners
Weather Underground uses a number of data sources to build it's forecasts, one of the things that makes it unique is the personal weather station data that comes in from their community of users. Reaching out to station owners is an ongoing job to let people know that they can use their station data to help their neighbors, and use the tools in their apps and website to get the most from their investment.
Sketch 3 was introduced to me as a photoshop killer, which of course it is not. Once I got over the enthusiastic introduction, and accepted it as a new and different thing it seemed to be a bit easier to give it a chance.
To get an idea of what sketch was about I took on something familiar, reproducing the Weather Underground homepage, it made focusing on the tools and how they worked easy.
It has it's own logic for how it imagines things to be built, and while it makes sense and makes some things fast, sensible to edit in an iterative workflow, some generative tasks felt slower and clunky to me. It may be that I am so used to my Adobe workflow, shortcuts, etc so I will give it more time.
I had started to use Keynote here and there for quickie wireframes and medium fidelity mocks, and this has a similar feel with way more power.
I have a few side projects I can run though it to see how I feel after putting a few more miles on it.
I was pretty grumpy when one of my first projects was unreadable and I lost some time, but with a tentative pardon I gave it another go. Once I gave it some traction on real site projects (multi-page, multi-option exploration) the tool really opened up.
Now I am that guy in the office evangelizing "oh sketch can automate that, oh sketch has a plugin for that"
Another year at the gigantic hackathon that is TechCrunch with Weather Underground. We had a few devs from the API team out to support the hackers that might have questions pop up and help them along. I came out to support the devs with boxes of little electronic bits and we hacked together little things to pass the slow spots as the clock went around the small hours.
The material I designed for last year's TechCrunch is HERE