I’ve been teaching a computer to paint letters
The results may make you worry about your future job prospects
2015 has been a really interesting year for computational visuals. Undoubtedly one of the biggest things has been Google’s Deep Dream and other similar neural networks. They’re all trying to teach machines to “see.”
So far the end-user applications have focused on “art.” For example: make a psychedelic image (high likelihood of NSFW images) using your photo. And while I do love a good body horror image generated by a machine (paging David Cronenberg), I’m left wondering if we can’t do more.
On the outside, Deep Art doesn’t appear to offer much more than the other Deep Dream services. Make your photo look like a Van Gogh! Starry Night! These are the types of imaging examples from 1990s Photoshop filters—albeit done much better. But why ask a computer to copy a master when it could become it’s own artist?
The cool thing about Deep Art, however, is you can also define the artistic style that gets applied. And like any designer with a healthy ego, I had the self-indulgent idea to use my own generative images.
So that’s interesting, but these really just look like slightly better Photoshop filters. So what if we asked these thinking machines to try something else?
And again, as a designer, I’m thinking about typography.
I ran a script to generate a bunch of character samples in Helvetica (Deep Art only accepts JPEGSs). I then uploaded each one manually to Deep Art with a black & white image from a series I’ve been working on. Essentially, I wanted to see how Deep Art did at painting type in the defined art style of me.
Why Helvetica? Well, duh. (Also I was at work and only had a few fonts on there, I swear.) But something tells me Massimo Vignelli isn’t in love with what the Deep Art software developed. (OMG are neural network servers post-modernists?)
So yeah, holy shit. What came out of this processing was something beyond my wildest dreams (pun not really intended but I’ll take it). Perhaps the future of lettering and typographic art really is better off in the hands of bots. What follows is one in a few series I’m in the middle of creating.
Keep an eye out as I continue to explore this area of computational typographic art.
Oh shit, I wouldn’t be much of a designer without posting a cool ampersand, would I? Sorry I almost forgot about that part.