Realtimebookdesign

Today I stumbled across this fascinating project: Realtimebookdesign. And when I say stumble, I do actually mean it.

I was trying to find out if there was any further evolution in both the n-gen application by Movedesign (Flash warning) and the Auto-illustrator application by Signwave. 2 applications which aim to automate the design & creation process (auto generated designs). Pity there is no evolution to report on that front.

So I was immediately interested when the Google search results returned the Realtimebookdesign website.

From the Realtimebookdesign website:

The goal of the project was to investigate the position of the (graphic) designer in a world in which the information that is traditionally designed and unlocked by the graphic designer has increased dramatically in scale. The development of information technology gave birth to enormous data structures (databases), that hold the equivalent of many libraries in information. Project Gutenberg / Realtime bookdesign is an installation which exists of six computer screens. Four screens display the entire catalogue of Project Gutenberg. The background of each column of the catalogue has a flowing color, that gives you the feeling the catalogue is dynamic / alive. You can browse though the catalogue and pick a book, you’re interested in. When you select it, more information is given on the book, and the you can choose to “generate” the book.

At this point the book is being extracted from the Project Gutenberg database, and downloaded to the local computer. From here a design is created for this book, based on a large number of graphic rules. The system gathers information about the book; the number of pages, the kind and number of words used in the title and metadata from the database, such as the original date of publishing, the category the book is in, and so on…

These rules, applied, make up a design for a cover, and a lay-out for the text. After a few seconds, the result shows on a fifth display. You can now browse though his custom designed book, and – since crop marks are generated with it – print it.

A sixth display shows a compilation of books that have been generated before.

Within this project the book has made a journey, from it’s original (physical) publication, maybe some hundred years ago, through the digitization and archiving of Project Gutenberg, it regains it’s physical state after it has been “generated” and printed with the Realtime Bookdesign installation.

Basically the essence of this project is to create a system for the automated, user-centric creation of a graphic design for a text.

Is this the future for the graphic designer? Will the graphic designer become a sort of programmer who makes up a rule set (or system) which will allow a customer to create a custom lay-out for the text he or she just bought? Interesting thought this is.

As the amount of available information multiplies at an alarming and ever increasing rate (including customer- or user generated content), it will eventually be impossible to lay-out all of it by hand. Which leaves us with two options: templates or design automation, of which automation is by far the more desirable option, because if we all start using templates everything will look the same in the end. Which would be a pity, I think.

The automation of the process also gives a user of such a system more control over the design. It could allow for input of the actual consumer of the text. A process which is now completely controlled by author / publisher / designer. And, by consequence, the consumer could end up with a better and more individual product.

Interesting stuff, I think. I’ll be following these kinds of projects more closely from now on.

Striking & The Internet

This morning, as I was driving to the Netlash office, listening to the radio, an interesting thought struck me. The newsreader was talking about the national strike going on here in Belgium, a number of unions are protesting against the “Generation Pact” proposed by the Belgian Government, and casually announced after finishing his report that because of the strike there would be a replacement programme on the radio. The radio stations would just play non-stop music.

I thought: “Ok, so alternative content on the media, but what about the websites? What are the TV and radio stations going to do with their websites? If they are making a replacement programme on TV and radio, why not do the same thing online?

So when I arrived at the office, first thing I did was check all of the websites of the media. All of them were in perfect order. Of course articles were published dealing with the national action and such, but not one of them seized the opportunity to actually “put their website on strike”.

I really think this is a missed opportunity.

It would be a relativly easy thing to do: just replace the frontpage with a simple message, something along the lines of: “Due to the National Action, this website is unavailable.” Just to take it offline for one day would be a very strong signal to visitors.

Again: a missed opportunity.

However, don’t take all of this too seriously. This is just my opinion.