Generative Art & NFTs – the future of Brand Design?

February 21, 2019

Here's what I learned after spending a Friday afternoon spent trying to understand WTH NFTs are:

The world is at a critical point of change, and Design, like everything else, is evolving. The last year of uncertainty and unexpected change has led me to deeply explore and question how Brllnt needs to evolve to stay relevant and even become a leader in this new age we’re entering.

The world of Crypto and NFTs, which once felt like an absurd fantasy, is here to stay, and I want to understand how creatives like me and my team can profit (stay in business) from these new technologies and art forms.

We’re wondering: what is the place for NFTs in the world of brand design? Is it possible for brand designers to continue to receive some kind of reward for having designed a brand that takes off? Should all of our brand packages include a set of NFTs (much like we’d create brand patterns)? How can our community design project we’re working on culminating in an attractive NFT whose purchase could be instrumental in the economic recovery of our community’s small businesses, artists, and individuals?

Here’s what I learned today:

To play in this crypto world, you have to set up a tool like Metamask. I did that, so I guess now I have an Ether wallet? What I loved about that tool was the intro about today’s internet and some cybersecurity stuff. Good nuggets in their onboarding about how to protect your keys and passwords (including locking them in a lock box, and writing pieces of them on separate papers — they’re not playing around with security here).

OpenSea is (I think) the largest, lowest barrier marketplace for digital assets/artwork. It’s kinda like Dribbble, but people can (bid?) pay for your art with Eth. It’s wild in here.

ArtBlocks appears to be kind of the main gallery for NFTs by professional/recognized creators: What’s featured here is purely generative art — digital art created by algorithmically generated visuals based on a set of rules (art direction/brief) created by an artist. Once you set those up, a computer turns these rules into digital art.

For those of us looking to get started (or figure out what the heck this even means), offers this great overview article with some incredible (and intimidating) examples of world-class generative designers and how their work is used in real-live (non-digital) spaces.

What I learned here is that this is not, in fact, a new technology! Lots of artists and programmers were experimenting in generative art mediums back in the ’90s (if you wondered why much of this digital art has that vibe, now you know why). Which reminded me of this incredible 99U talk by Zach Lieberman of the School for Poetic Computation that I saw a few years ago.

Getting scared that this tech is going to put us creatives out of a job? Industry leaders Roelof Pieters & Samim Winiger’s in-depth article On the Democratisation & Escalation of Creativity insist that we are in an age that’s expanding human creative potential. Here’s a hopeful anecdote by Anastasia Opera:

Initially she thought the procedural aspect would take away the creative aspect of the process. But she was surprised to discover that it forced her to understand what makes something look good. By defining explicitly what that looks like for a given object, she deepened her own creative understanding of how to create. The process of understanding and generating meaningful procedural art was a deeply creative act. (source)

Here’s my big takeaway about generative art: it allows us to solve creative problems faster. It’s requiring us humans to improve our understanding of and communication about what factors make the work good. Perhaps the future state is a whole lot of art directors, rather than entry-level pixel-pushing designers? Why not let the computers do the pixel-pushing for us, while we focus on understanding the problems and human factors?

Extra exciting: computers can use inputs about cost and accessibility to generate millions of possible solutions, then recommend the best convergent fit. This is great news for manufacturing solutions that enable those less able-bodied while saving time, money, valuable resources — making sustainable choices make business sense.

GM collaborated with AutoDesk’s Generative Design tools to create a seat bracket that was lighter, stronger, and consolidated several pieces into a single 3D-printed component. Source

Woof. I’m just scratching the surface and my head is spinning. Off to play with some generative art tools. Next time I’ll dig more into the brand application side of things …

Ready to give generative art a try, too?

And, after this whole deep dive, I was able to create some generative art of my own:

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