Essay 1 of 3 for MdN Magazine March/April 1995

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I briefly contributed a series of short essays for MdN Magazine in Japan at the invitation of Prof. Yuichi Inomata of Tama Art University. I stopped because I saw that rapid change required actual work, rather than my unneeded, feisty discourse.

Graphic design is at a standstill. Many designers attempt to move forward. earnestly exploring the digital realm with the fastest computers, the most memory, the largest monitors, and the biggest hard disks. Yet they all fall short of defining the next revolution in visual communication design. They fail because their Macintosh-fueled design tools are explicitly programmed to express a finite set of visual expressive styles, hence implicitly guiding designwork performed with these tools along precisely defined stylistic axes. Designers who seek to break free from these constraints are usually the first in line for the latest upgrade to KPT** or any other similar tool that even slightly breaks from the run of the mill. In the old days, originality wasn't sold in stores.

About a decade has passed since I first began work on the interface design and system architecture of predecessors to Illustrator, Photoshop, and PageMaker out of a lifetime of interest in print media. At some point, I built up the courage to stop simply making tools or graphic design, and instead began to actively produce graphic designwork professionally. Seeking a purer expressive truth, I tossed aside the computer as my main expressive vehicle and rediscovered my hands as the perfect means for expressing myself in sketch, painting, and sculpture. Since this experience, I have worked on building an alternative philosophical framework for digital graphic design where the role of the computer is not that of time-saving "tool", but of a time-enriched "media" that extends, while completely redefines, the static traditions of paper media design.

Since the end of last year, I have begun to publicly express my alternative philosophy for digital graphic design not as a printed image but as computer programs. In these programs, I explore the possibility of designing forms that exist in time, much like a computer graphic animation, except without a predetermined beginning or end. In the accompanying work to this article, I summarize some of my earlier work in time graphics by presenting three dynamic variations on a cross. Each variation can be individually selected by clicking on the numbers 1 to 3, or inputting the numbers 1 to 3 from the keyoard. The tab marked "PULL" can be stretched out horizontally to adjust the amount of activity applied to the time form.

**KPT refers to the then immensely popular "Kai's Power Tools" package of super-plug-ins for Photoshop.


The download described in this essay is available [here]. It is designed to run on a pre-OSX Macintosh for a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels. There is no guarantee that it runs any longer.


Copyright 2005, John Maeda.