QR-Code-Art

Portuguese artist Nuno Serrão wants to make art viewing more stimulating by incorporating music through an iPhone app and QR codes.

The artist’s photography exhibit called Project Paperclip is currently housed at the Centro das Artes in Madeira Island, Portugal. People can walk in and do something usually discouraged at galleries — wear headphones and listen to music while taking in the images.

“It can carry you to a different interpretation of that moment in the frame,” Serrão, who has a background in programming, design and music, told Mashable. “All the pictures are inspired by science, curiosity and imagination.”

People can experience it by downloading the free Project Paperclip app. The app developed especially for this exhibit scans the QR scans very easily, connecting to musical airwaves. Try it online, where a few images from the Project Paperclip are viewable.

“The QR codes are used to unlock the soundscapes so that the viewer has access to the reactive soundscapes designed for that photo,” he said as he explained how the idea evolved.

The experience at the gallery or using the app outside the exhibit will be different for everyone. The soundtracks will change depending on when and where you open the application. Your voice, level of noise in the room, movement, and location will set off different sounds, according to the artist.

This gallery is the first augmented reality art exhibit, revolving around a Cold War theme — chosen because it is interesting from a cultural, scientific and political standpoint.

SEE ALSO: Rooftop QR Codes Aim to Infiltrate Google Maps
“There has been an incredible wave of great feedback, I’ve been following mostly on Twitter,” said Serrão, who hopes to bring the augmented reality art experience to international audiences.

The photos are surreal, especially with the pairing of soundtracks. The artist captured natural sound where photos were taken and incorporated those into original soundscapes co-created with musician Alexandre Gonçalves.

“I think I feel in love with the concept of joining art forms when I read a book [by] Arthur C. Clark called The Songs of Distant Earth,” he said, mentioning the 1986 science fiction novel that eventually was sold with a CD based on the book after 1994.

The 16-photograph exhibit opened Feb. 11 and will be available until April 29. The app is currently only available for iPhone 3 and later.

Image courtesy of DiscloseProjectPaperclip.com

More About: art, Augmented Reality, iphone, Mobile, QR Codes, Tech

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A pair of model makers — Vincent Rossi and Adam Metallo — are taking on the task of digitizing the Smithsonian Institute’s 137 million-piece collection with high-tech scanners and 3D printing.

Once the process has been perfected, 3D printing will create close copies of artwork and specimens. The mammoth task of replicating and web archiving the almost two-century-old collection will allow the institute to display one-of-a-kind art at multiple locations and interactively on the web, according to a CNET report.

There’s only so much room for the art in Smithsonian locations and affiliate museums. An official statistic says, only 2% of the collection is on display at one time. Digitizing the art, making items viewable on the web, will help broaden the museum’s reach.

A printed replica of Thomas Jefferson at the National Museum of African American History in Washington D.C. was the first to be replicated.

The sculpture was the largest 3D printed museum quality historical replica on Earth, according to the institute.

For the Thomas Jefferson project, the Smithsonian team worked with Studio EIS to generate the 3D model and RedEye on Demand — a third-party company that specializes in 3D prototypes and digital manufacturing.

The Thomas Jefferson model was pretty spot on (see for yourself in the video above). But, Rossi and Metallo say there won’t be 100% accurate replicas until software is available to re-create geometrics of certain shapes. The process of 3D printing is essentially printing layers of material on top of layers.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways Museums Are Reaching Digital Audiences
How did these two fine art model makers make the big-time in 3D printing — creating the largest collection of 3D scanned and replicated items ever? This isn’t the first big task to document artifacts, according to Spar Point Group. In 2010, the duo found themselves documenting finds at a prehistoric whale graveyard in Chile.

The 123D Catch and a Z Corp printer were used to print objects from scans. 3D replicas of 5-million-year-old whale fossils. The replicas were scaled down to a fraction of the actual size.

What do you think about seeing replicas of original artwork and historic specimens in museums soon? Tell us in the comments below.

Update: We stated that RedEye on Demand is a Smithsonian partner in the video above, but in fact, they are not. We stated the Smithsonian Institute scanned the Thomas Jefferson statue, when in fact, a company called Studio EIS was contracted to create the detailed 3D model. We regret the error.

More About: 3d printing, art, Tech

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My first experience with pixels occurred in second grade. During the rainy months, our teacher allowed us to stay inside, where we replaced recess with video game tournaments. Huddled over old Apple II monitors, we maneuvered game hero Panama Joe through endless levels of Montezuma’s Revenge.

Panama Joe’s image featured an incredibly low pixel count, which made him vaguely reminiscent of Indiana Jones in that Joe wore a dapper hat, but that’s about where the resemblance ended. Otherwise, Joe sported a red jumpsuit with three pixel buttons; and one black eye pixel poked out from under his hat. Pixels didn’t leave much room for detail, yet we loved Panama Joe nonetheless.

Montezuma’s Revenge was limited in its pixel techniques by the technology of the time. Developed in the late ‘70s, people mostly associate 8-bit pixelation with video games of that era. However, today’s high-resolution technology hasn’t stopped fans from continuing to create pixel games and art. What’s more, artists are referencing pixels using non-digital mediums, like paint and Rubik’s Cubes.

Most admit that nostalgia is part of what makes pixel art so successful, that despite all of the amazing digital innovation out there today, people haven’t ended their love affair with the tiny bit-characters of their youth. But pixels are also appealing to a broader, modern audience – especially to a generation that can’t tell an Atari from a typewriter.

“I was really surprised,” says pixel artist Rich Grillotti, 39. “I thought it was mostly going to be the kind of people who…would have a nostalgic memory of gaming from their childhood that would resonate with what we were doing.” Instead, his company Pixeljam’s main audience is eight to fourteen-year-olds who send fan art in appreciation of his work, much of which involves creating retro-style 8-bit video games.

Grillotti studied fine art at Florida State University. He currently lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he wears locally created hemp pants, watches movies like Joe Versus the Volcano and plays pinball on his iPad. Artists and animators like Grillotti have been playing around with pixelation techniques since the early naughts. In the mid ‘00s the producers of a fashion show asked him to create accompanying pixel art — thus, the Model Series was born. Inspired by the models in fashion photography, Grillotti created pixel versions of beautiful (often nude) women. “I kept getting more and more minimal,” he says, “and started getting excited with how good they looked in so few pixels, these little pixel women.”

Grillotti remained fascinated with pixel characters in general. “A lot of people comment on how amazing it is that these minimal pixel folks have some sort of character, personality to them,” he says, “even though there’s not much information there to convey it.”


What Is a Pixel?


Pixel characters like Grillotti’s can be created on the computer in a number of ways. Some people pixelate digital photos in Photoshop, where they choose filter options like “pixelate” and “mosaic” to distort all or part of a picture. In Photoshop, the user can select a “cell size,” which increases or decreases the number of pixels that comprise a photo. However, many artists refuse to admit Photoshop pixelations come anywhere close to art. Others worry about the possible copyright issues associated with pixelating someone else’s photographs.

Simply put, a pixel is the smallest point that can be represented on a screen, and can appear in the form of small squares, dots or lines. Pixels are organized into a grid system, which then formats to everything from a computer screen to a printed page. Measured in pixels per inch (ppi), the more pixels to appear in an image, the more closely that image will resemble real- life (think high-def television). To put pixels in context, today’s iPhone 4S boasts a 326 ppi display, whereas Panama Joe in Montezuma’s Revenge couldn’t have been made from more than 30 pixels total.

Eight-bit pixel technology continues to thrive through digital art, game graphics and “chiptune” music, electronic beats often produced using vintage sound chips. Meanwhile, artists also create “pixel” art outside the digital space by arranging items like painted tiles and Rubik’s Cubes to evoke a digital image – in the physical world.


Toronto artist Josh Chalom used 12,090 Rubik’s Cubes to recreate The Hand of God, originally painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. “With 12,000 cubes, each cube has nine pixels,” Chalom explains, pointing out that only one 3 x 3 side of each Cube shows in the piece. “You have over 100,000 pixels that you have to adjust and make sure that one’s correctly next to the other.”

Chalom is a middle-aged, kind-voiced and broad-shouldered man who sports a graying goatee and shimmering neckties. He was born in Israel, raised in the Dominican Republic, and after working in life insurance for many years, eventually moved to Canada in 1990. As current creative director of a company called CubeWorks, Chalom and his team are currently working with Guinness World Records to re-create the entire Sistine Chapel ceiling in 2012, which would take 250,000 Rubik’s Cubes and would measure 156 feet long and 56 feet wide, almost half the length of a football field. In the end, Chalom says the piece will be 130% of the size of the real Sistine Chapel.

Although created entirely of Rubik’s Cubes, Chalom’s Sistine ceiling will rely heavily on a digital process. He first digitizes and pixelates a series of images. Then, he must simplify the infinite palette of the original work of art into six colors: the blue, red, yellow, orange, white and green of a Rubik’s Cube. “There is no flesh tone on the Rubik’s Cube, so you have to manipulate it to make sure that the white dots are near the yellow dots which are near the orange dots,” he says. “It’s almost like you have to go and do a complete makeover.” He has help to do so. A team of eight “cubers” not only helped to “play” the cubes into strategic color combinations, but also to assemble the entire piece in cube order.

Oddly enough, the pixel and the Rubik’s Cube are actually close cousins in the design family. In fact, the Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974, right around the same time pixels caught on. Chalom sees a connection between the nostalgia of the Cube and a continued fascination for pixel art. “There are people coming in today that are tech-savvy — they just love the sheer pixel art,” he says. “So it really is a combination of the Cube, the iconic imagery, the optical illusion. It all forms a beautiful blend, which serves to make people smile.”

“I think people are surprised that only a couple of color cards can represent an image or icon. It’s about the essence of an image,” says Roel Vaessen, founder of Dutch design firm ixxi. The company contracts artists who piece together dozens of tiles into giant pixel-like artworks. Vaessen encourages customers to “create their own ixxis.” For example, a couple can celebrate a new puppy or their daughter’s wedding by uploading a photo. Then, ixxi enlarges the photo, pixelates the image, and breaks it into dozens of individual tiles. Finally, the recipients assemble the “pixel ixxi” on their wall.

The company also sells pixel ixxis of Elvis and Pac-Man that, when assembled as floor-to-ceiling wall art, resemble “digital,” pixel characters. These pop art (and even fine art) interpretations are quite popular. When on a wall, they appear cloudy and distorted, yet instantly recognizable for their iconic silhouettes and colors.


Copyright Issues


On the other hand, evoking nostalgia can be tricky, especially when an artist re-creates an existing work of art. People continue to question the possible copyright and fair use issues surrounding this practice.

Essentially, when a recreation of a piece of art is considered fair use, it is an exception to copyright law. There are various qualifiers to determine whether something is covered by fair use. For instance, if it can be proven that a new piece of pixel art affects the value of the original art it imitated, it is not protected by fair use.

While the Sistine Chapel falls under fair use due to its age and iconic universality (in the U.S., art is in the public domain if it was created prior to 1923), other artists have experimented with pixelating more recent art – and some have run into trouble. Computer programmer Andy Baio licensed the rights to create chiptune cover songs from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album. However, Baio ran into legal trouble the summer of 2011, when he pixelated the photograph on the album cover. The original photographer, Jay Maisel, claimed copyright infringement and sought damages of up to $150,000 for each violation. Baio settled out of court by paying $32,500. “I think this settlement raises some interesting issues about the state of copyright for anyone involved in digital reinterpretations of copyrighted works,” writes Baio on his blog.

Baio juxtaposes pieces of original art next to those same pieces reinterpreted by another artist. For instance, he compares the Jim Morrison Doors album cover with a Rubik’s Cube recreation by French artist, Invader. By posting such permissible artistic interpretations, Baio questions how his pixel art, in fact, violated fair use law.

Apart from legal concerns, pixel re-creations face ethical questions as well. Ixxi’s Roel Vaessen says The Girl with the Pearl Earring is one of the Dutch company’s most popular pieces. However, Vaessen is unconcerned with the ethics behind repurposing the famous painting, and favors a more collaborative approach to art. “A pixel ixxi with a Space Invader [is] a combination of the original piece and the ixxi system. I think that’s just a good cooperation.”

Neither did Italian designer Nicola Felaco feel moral regret when creating his digital interpretation of The Mona Lisa. By organizing and layering geometric shapes, Felaco pieced together his Monalisa from the ground-up by assembling various sized earth-toned and green triangles to evoke an image of the famous seated woman, one that unarguably carries his own signature style. He toys with an offshoot of pixels known as vectors, which he explains are “based on forms, usually geometric, on primordial patterns,” whereas pixel art is more about the process of creating on a digital platform. “I’m curious,” he says, “always in constant search for innovation, artistic movements, social and technological experiments.”

Developer Tim Wesoly encourages people to experiment with pixels using a pixel editor tool like his Qubicle Constructor, a Windows program with which artists can build their visions from scratch. Artists using Qubicle can sculpt, organize and edit pixels on a 3D grid, then layer or export the resulting creations to game or animation projects. Since they’re building from scratch, artists don’t struggle with the fair use or ethical issues that arise when manipulating copyrighted photographs or art.

“If you simply use a filter in Photoshop (like mosaic) on a photo, then it’s not pixel art, and therefore no unique interpretation,” says Wesoly, who describes himself as more of a voxel artist, the 3D version of 2D pixel art. He shares a guideline that artists should keep in mind when re-creating other people’s work: “It can’t be too pixelated. That’s impossible. The fewer pixels the better.”

When asked whether he supports an artist’s creative license to recreate iconic works of art, he admitted, “I do that myself, and why shouldn’t I? One big aspect of pixel art is to interpret things everybody knows with as few colors and pixels as possible,” he explains. “I don’t look at it as stealing somebody’s ideas. It’s more like a homage to the original creator’s work.”


Pixel Art’s Appeal


For artists and their fans, that nostalgia continues to be a huge part of pixel art’s appeal. In the rapidly changing world of technology, pixel art represents a reminder of simpler times. And they’re fun. “Pixel art has got that friendly charm. It’s really hard to make pixel art look brutal or disturbing,” Wesoly observes.

Plus, pixel art is inherently shareable and format-friendly. Because the pixel is, by nature, digital, the art form lends itself perfectly to web culture. Most every artist mentioned in this article has capitalized on the Internet community, whether that meant taking pixel characters and animating them into video games or filming a colossal Rubik’s Cube undertaking and posting the video to YouTube. “The results spread very well on the Internet,” says Wesoly. “A lot of people think that those works are cool because they see the amount of work put into it.”

For artists, they’re pleasurable to work with. “One strong trait of pixel art is that it drives the artist to find levels of abstraction. And there’s something very satisfying in transforming an idea or an object into an abstract interpretation,” artist Kai Vermehr explains. “Pixels and blocks are really good at this, they are highly modular and very, very easy to handle and understand.”

Artists at Vermehr’s company eBoy “create re-usable pixel objects” and then apply those objects to larger projects with multiple contributors. For instance, they construct individual pixel characters and scenes that the team then assembles into larger artistic representations for magazines like Wired and Fortune, and into advertising campaigns for Yahoo and Coca-Cola. In that way, each piece of pixel art has an element of teamwork. “I’m probably most proud of our object-based workflow that makes eBoy much more efficient, results in almost zero pixel waste and encourages cooperation,” Vermehr says.

EBoy is modern proof that pixel art is thriving. The company caters to a wide swath of geek culture, one that not only celebrates retro pixel technology, but can also appreciate new pixel iterations. After all, the pixel is not static. Artists can work with pixels of many shapes and sizes, can arrange them in infinite types of grids, and can adapt them according to the tastes of different age groups.

That’s one reason pixel art has been able to reach across the generations. Ixxi founder Roel Vaessen says his customers cut across age groups. “A lot of them are young and creative, but also the older generation discovered pixel art. They are pixelating their own love portraits and icons,” he explains, judging from sales of his company’s customizable tile art.

In the end, pixel fandom remains strongest among the people who grew up alongside the technology. “Pixel art has that nerdic old school charm,” says Wesoly of Qubicle, “A lot of people between 30 and 40 like that style because it reminds them of the good old times before smartphones and Facebook. I do.”

Sistine Chapel/Rubik’s Cube artist Josh Chalom ultimately views art as a great equalizer. For him, nostalgia can surface at any time for any person, whether by means of digital art or a Renaissance painting. “It brings people back. It’s a throwback,” he says. “What’s old is new. What’s new is usually old.”

1. Pixeljam

Click here to view this gallery.

Dog image courtesy of Flickr, Brian Hathcock

More About: 8 bit, art, features, pixel, pixel art, video games

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Instagram photos aren’t just for sharing online anymore.

You can turn them into photo books, frame them in four-inch bamboo shadowbox frames, create a collage with them on iPhone cases, turn them into iPad screensavers and now, print them on canvas for your wall.

Earlier this week, CanvasPop launched a service that allows you to print your Instagram photos on two large-format canvas sizes: 12″ x 12″ (for $29.95) and 20″ x 20″ (for $59.95). The company sent over a 12″ x 12″ sample developed with an Instagram shot I took at Kate Spade’s Spring 2012 presentation in October.

The original:

The print (taken with a less-than-great point-and-shoot):

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A closeup:

I was impressed with the quality, particularly given the original image is 612 x 612 pixels at a resolution of 72 dpi. CanvasPop Co-Founder Adrian Salamunovic says the company uses “special filters,” among other methods, to improve the photo quality when enlarged. “Plus, canvas is a medium that is naturally forgiving to low resolution images because it is textured and porous, as opposed to a high-gloss photo paper,” he added.

The prints are 1.5″ deep and can be made with either a white or black border. The canvas appears to be stapled to the back by hand — as the staples aren’t perfectly lined up — and comes with a mount for hanging the print from the wall. Given the width of the prints, you can get away without framing them. And as you can see above, they look great in rows.

What do you do with your Instagram photos after you’ve shared them? Would you create print versions on canvas? Let us know in the comments below.

More About: art, instagram, photography

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Each day, Mashable highlights one noteworthy YouTube video. Check out all our viral video picks.

In this 11-minute timelapse video, freelance designer Dei Gaztelumendi illustrates a cover for comic book magazine Xabiroi from start to finish.

In a post on his personal blog, Gaztelumendi says that he was given free reign to choose the subject of the cover, and so he decided to add to his “Post-Apocalyptic Kids” series. This kid, he says, is the toughest yet, and fittingly so — the illustration was also made as a gift to a friend who lost his leg in a motorbike accident last year. “This is for him, because he really IS the toughest kiddo yet,” he writes.

SEE ALSO: Thanksgiving Made Easy: ‘Just Put the F___ing Turkey in the Oven’ [VIDEO]

In the video, Gaztelumendi begins with a paper and ink outline, which he then imports into Adobe Photoshop to build out. Given the frame speed, it’s difficult to pick up much in the way of technique — I’d love to have a closer look at the textured brushes he used, for instance — but the video is enlightening nevertheless. What’s particularly impressive is the level of detail Gaztelumendi brings to the piece. As one Reddit commenter remarked, “There were many moments when I thought, ‘This is impressively detailed,’ but then he kept adding more details.”

The final illustration:

More About: adobe photoshop, art, Dei Gaztelumendi, illustration, Timelapse, viral-video-of-day

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Maybe you haven’t always wanted to substitute your face for that of Brad Pitt or Paris Hilton, but you might soon be able to — at least digitally.

Artists Kyle McDonald and Arturo Castro have created a face-substitution program that makes it look like your face has morphed into someone else’s. Far from just pasting a static mask onto your image, the program preserves your facial and bodily movements. It looks uncanny, if not entirely real.

“It basically shows you the feed from your webcam, except it pastes a picture on top of your face in realtime, and does some smart blending to make it look more natural,” McDonald says.

Castro first came up with the idea by putting two concepts from open source code library Openframeworks together. The first was work by Kevin Atkinson that substituted one face for another on a static image. The second was a program that McDonald wrote (with the help of an open code library) to track a face’s detailed movement in real time.

When McDonald saw the first iteration of the resulting mask program, he responded with a version blending the lines between a fake and real face so they almost disappear.

Face substitution has been experimented with before, but it’s never been this creepily convincing. Right now, there’s no way for the public to use Mcdonald and Castro’s version, but eventually they hope to make it accessible through some form of exhibit.

“We’re curious to see what kind of mayhem and media skepticism results from having this technique available to everyone,” McDonald says.

More About: art, Dev & Design, Video

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Posters are a great way to cheer up your work space, whether your home office, the walls of your cubicle or even your swanky corner suite.

We’ve got a great selection of geeky posters and prints from classic Apple advertising to curious Android typographical illustrations.

Take a look through the image gallery, click through on the blue title text for more info on each image, and let us know in the comments which posters you’d pick for your office.

1. xkcd Map of Online Communities




xkcd’s “Map of Online Communities” is a fascinating snapshot of 2010’s web world.

Cost: $15

2. eBoy Cities Posters

We’re big fans of the eBoy group’s pixel art. They’ve created a whole collectible series of city posters that includes North American locations as well as London, Paris, Tokyo and Berlin.

Cost: $27

3. Periodic Table of Typefaces

The “Periodic Table of Typefaces” is a witty take on font classification. Also available: “So You Need a Typeface” flowchart and “Typefaces of the World.”

Cost: From $16

4. VectorSetPosters

As well as digital tools for designers, these VectorSets are available as prints. With tons of different sets, you could create a really striking grouping.

Cost: From $24.49

5. Andy Versus

One of a set of Android-themed illustrations, this poster depicts a little green bot fending off attack from a rather familiar figure…

Cost: $15

6. Nintendo Evolution

This simple Etsy print would be a great pic for a Nintendo fan.

Cost: From $8.50

7. Susan Kare Apple Prints

Former Apple designer Susan Kare offers limited edition prints of her classic icons.

Cost: From $89

8. The Oatmeal Grammar Pack

The Oatmeal’s “Grammar Pack” includes four great comics: “how to use an apostrophe,” “how to use a semicolon,” “10 words you need to stop misspelling,” and “when to use i.e. in a sentence.” We can’t think of a better set of rules to stick on your wall, especially if you work with words.

Cost: $32

9. Retro Videogame Propaganda Posters

Frogger, Dig Dug, Tron, Joust, Donkey Kong all get propaganda posters in this rad, retro set.

Cost: $49.99

10. Typography Deconstructed

More fun for font fans, this gorgeous graphic deconstructs typography, and would look great in your design department.

Cost: From $35

11. Fail Whale

If you’re a fan of Yiying Lu’s “Fail Whale,” then this three-foot wide version should bring a smile to your face.

Cost: $49.99

12. eBoy FooBar Poster

Grab a slice of web history with this now classic depiction of Web 2.0 circa 2006. It’ll be a collector’s item one day…

Cost: $27

13. Google Doodles

Everyone loves Google Doodles. Sadly, Google’s online store offers just seven designs in print. Collect the lot and hope for more in the near future.

Cost: From $4.75 each

14. Evolution of the Geek

Flowtown had a hit with its great “Evolution of the Geek” infographic. Now you can buy the poster version.

Cost: $19.99

15. Typographic Maps

There’s a whole set of typography-themed maps that accurately depict the features of major U.S. cities using nothing but type.

Cost: From $30

16. Susan Kare Facebook Prints

As well as Apple-themed prints, some of Kare’s contemporary Facebook icons are also available as limited edition prints.

Cost: From $89

17. Visual Aid Posters

We adore Visual Aid’s huge collection of geeky prints. They offer graphical explanations of a huge range of topics including color theory, types of hats, The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones, table settings, flight times and much, much more.

Cost: From £4 (approx $6.50)

18. Mac Reference Posters

This excellent Etsy poster offers you a field guide to Mac trackpad gestures. Also available is an OS X button legend and a quick reference for shortcuts.

Cost: $20

19. Why Working at Home is Both Awesome and Horrible

More from The Oatmeal with this hilarious comic that explains why working at home is both awesome and horrible. It’s an absolute must for any telecommuter.

Cost: $11.95

20. iA Web Trend Map

iA has mapped the 140 most influential people on Twitter, when they started tweeting and what they first said. Fascinating.

Cost: $59.50

21. Apple’s “Think Different” Posters

Finally, you can still get hold of Apple’s iconic “Think Different” posters on sites like eBay. Some are more rare than others, but just imagine how great the whole set would look framed on your office wall.

Cost: Varies

More About: accessories, android, apple, art, gallery, geek, Google, infographics, List, office, office accessories, posters, typography

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If you live in New York City, you most likely have a love/hate relationship with the subway (one that tends to wander toward “hate” more often than not).

Well, Brooklynite, musician and Google Creative Labs employee Alexander Chen has created a little HTML5/Javascript art project that is sure to put a smile on your face next time you’re crammed into a crazy person’s armpit whilst enjoying the eclectic symphony of children crying on your morning commute.

Conductor, Chen’s recently released project, is an interactive subway map that pulls data from the MTA’s public API to illustrate the motions of the New York City transit system.

Colored lines representing each train move across the screen in accordance with the real cars, and every time they intersect, they produce a “twang!” — like a stringed instrument. You can also “play” the map by tugging on a line with your mouse.

“As a viola player, it was interesting territory to try to replicate that feeling of tugging at a string,” says Chen, who lives off of the G line (known as the “Ghost Train” to locals) in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.

“Once I had that code down, my wife and I were talking about what other things could work, and a subway map came to mind. My friend has a Vignelli map on his wall, and it’s really beautiful.”

“I’ve also always liked the idea of inanimate objects generating music, coming alive,” he adds. “With all of the emphasis on realtime and location-aware technology, I thought it would be interesting to create a website that begins in realtime, but time slowly unravels.”

According to Chen, the map is not wholly accurate — so, New Yorkers, we don’t suggest using it to get to work on time or anything. The train launch time in the lower left is apparently on par with reality, but the map is mostly an exercise in creativity.

“For example, the 8 train and K train, which exist on Vignelli’s map, don’t exist anymore,” Chen says. “So in my world, I run them from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m., like ghost trains.”

You mean like the G?

More About: art, HTML5, javascript, mtv, subway

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