“Tracking nearly anything you do is alarming and humbling. The aggregates of our actions are lost on us: we can watch hundreds of hours of television and write it off as a small time commitment. How much is too much? It’s hard to make pretty charts without learning something and thinking about what they should look like.”—Tom MacWright (Quantified Self)
1. Why do you write your own software rather than only use existing software tools?
A few years ago my work became almost exclusively data-driven and my design process became increasingly centered on a rules-based approach. I developed a set of processes for creating maps and charts that were effective, yet laborious and time consuming. It soon became apparent that in order to produce more and to tackle larger data sets, I would need to find a way to automate the routines I relied on. With Processing, I have been able to design applications that channel my methods, instead of bending my approach to work with existing software. These applications are accountable, so that if the output doesn’t match my expectations I am able to audit the code and find the issue. They are also inherently malleable, allowing me to mold the code to fit each project.
2. How does writing your own software affect your design process and also the visual qualities of the final work?
When I first began writing software, the programs I designed simply allowed me to do more of the same work in a shorter period of time and in a more flexible manner. As a result, the final product was not impacted by the use of software. With more practice and familiarity with the tools, I have started to produce work that would have been unfeasible or impractical using manual methods. I have experimented with maps that rely on difficult algorithms and developed tools that allow me to test a range of variables before outputting a final visualization.