Capstone Journal Entries

Peter Ward
9 min readMay 14, 2021

5/14

As week one of capstone research is coming to a close, I’m still feeling rather overwhelmed, though fortunately slightly less overwhelmed than I was a week ago. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself during conceptual beginning phases of projects, and that combined with my tendency to think too abstractly for too long can make these types of thinking exercises stressful for me.

I’ve really been trying to hone in on what exactly has given me that rush of inspiration and passion in the past, as well as what modes of design are the most impactful and I feel the most comfortable working with. The class project that has been the most inspirational to me was Matt Wizinsky’s Speculative Design class. To briefly summarize this class, we used foresight analysis to create baseline and transformational scenarios for a future post-capitalism. We then created a design object that would exist within either our Baseline or Transformational future. We created a discursive video project showcasing the use of an immersive life platform that would exist within an Anarcho-Capitalist / Neo-Feudalist future. I tend to resonate with and feel the most stimulated by discursive, research based work.

In terms of design mediums, I enjoy and resonate the most with motion and interaction based work. I believe it to be the most visually stimulating and effective towards articulating communication, and I have the most fun creating within those tools. Last semester, I took a generative coding class, and I hope to further develop those skills and utilize them for my capstone.

In terms of interests, my most gripping is most likely music and its ability to build community and camaraderie. I am currently playing around with a recent idea of being able to manipulate music theory to create an online platform where people can write musical pieces through drawing/creating other visual elements. While music is a largely accessible field, I believe that there are a plethora of ways it can be more widely useable by those with certain physical and mental disabilities.

Here is an interactive visual system that I coded using imagery and hand-drawn icons.

5/21

My capstone progress is in a much better state than what I would have anticipated two weeks in. I was excited about most of the 20 concepts I brought forward on Wednesday, and have been able to boil it down to 4 concepts that I plan to dive deeper into.

The first two of my ideas fall under the category of music. The first being an interactive, web-based music generator that allows people to draw to construct musical compositions. This has a lot of opportunity that both excites and intimidates me, as I have to start considering how this idea can reach a place that is reasonable for me to assume the responsibility of. I have a few general ideas on what this could look like, and have started considering ways I could code something like this. Here I attached an interactive sketch that I made, which allows the user to draw using a series of letters. The color of these letters pulls from the data points of a pre-loaded image, so that, with enough time, the user could eventually create a comprehensive portrait. The size of the letters can also be manipulate by sound input. The user can also blur the composition by hitting the up arrow key. Giving the user the ability to draw is something that is within my skillset, but to consider audio output as well as a comprehensive music theory system behind the program is a tad daunting.

The other idea that I’m the most excited about is an interactive, daily collage. If someone could log their daily activities, as well as accompanying the logs with photos and general feelings, I want to make something that allows that person to input these data points in order to construct an interactive web-based visual depiction of their day. I can see this being used as a mindfulness technique, allowing someone to be aware of their daily activities and not get lost in the sprawl of life.

My idea for a collection of recipes from various individuals, allowing them to share their food as well as their history is one that also excites me, but I’m not sure if it is something I’d like to pursue over the course of the next year, seeing that it is most likely a print design project.

5/28

As I have felt rather comfortable in the last few weeks in regards to my capstone search, having multiple directions that I felt excited about, I am now feeling somewhat anxious about honing in on a subject. The two that I’m considering currently are my live music experience application and my daily visual journal generator.

The live music application is an idea that I have had for a few years but have not had time to further explore. This application is to create a community that tracks tour dates of musicians as well as learn about local live music options that they didn’t previously know about. While music is something widely enjoyed by a plethora of different people, the live music scene as it currently exists is not very inclusive to those with mental or physical disabilities. This idea of inclusivity is a large proponent of my application idea, allowing people to see the accommodations provided by venues and determine if they can attend a certain venue or not. While I usually believe that the “changing the world through design” perspective is often naive and idealistic, I do believe that design can work as a tool to help assist people. The problems in our world are deeply systemic and built from centuries of neglect, so I truly believe that there needs to be a complete rewiring of the system of our country and the way our brains operate before something like a design object can step in to make valid change or improvements. Regardless, I will do what I can with my skillset as an individual.

Nonetheless, the difficulty that I’m having with choosing a capstone is mostly based off of choosing which idea I’ll have more fun doing over the course of the next year, while also creating something that I’m proud of. While the music idea is a more solid project conceptually with more legs and a clear vision of an end result, I know that the process of creating a UI/UX object isn’t something that would be super stimulating to me. I am interested in experimental ways to manipulate code and tech, and my journal entry project has much more opportunity in that regard. On the other hand, the journal project is one that makes me somewhat nervous looking forward, as it will take much more conceptual exploration to make a defined and dynamic project. In beginning stages of projects, I find it important to stay inspired as much as possible, so I want to share this awesome micro site that I found that allows you to paint and create compositions using AI.

http://nvidia-research-mingyuliu.com/gaugan

6/4

I have officially honed in on a final project selection, and am anxiously awaiting feedback from my professors. While the virtual journal generator is something that I feel excited about, I’m nervous to continue to explore the possibilities for execution and how this platform can live. As of right now, my ideas for how this platform can live feel rather closed in, but I’m confident that as my researching continues, I’ll find more ways in. I think the idea itself is malleable enough to where it can change and develop in a plethora of different ways.

While the future is rather ambiguous and intimidating, I know that I’ll be able to conduct fun, experimental compositional construction, and this thought is comforting to me. I’ve often used visual explorations as a means of therapy. While in a depressive episode or a state of panic, it’s virtually impossible for me to organize my thoughts in a coherent enough way to conduct a wide range of mindfulness exercises. Conventional journaling, as it exists, doesn’t work very well with my disorganized and fast paced stream of consciousness, and I often do what I refer to as “visual diaries.” I collect my thoughts into a series of incoherent phrases and images, and arrange them in a way that I believe to be representational of how I’m feeling.

Above is an example of a very quick exercise I conducted to ground myself during a state of panic. Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with typographic structure and different was to articulate messaging. I adhere to the belief that the message of a paragraph can be articulated better through visual structure, rather than having to force the viewer to take the time to read. Giving people the power to construct diaries visually excites me, and there are many hurdles that I have to jump to be able to manipulate algorithms to allow extensive exploration and experimentation.

7/2

Over the past few weeks I’ve been experiencing some distress in regards to my capstone topic. I lost sight of it somewhere along the way, and it ended up feeling overall flat and uninspiring to me. I found solace by reaching within myself to remember why an idea such as this came to light. I looked back on my own personal experiences with visual journaling, and what kind of comfort that brought me. I looked back on one in particular, which I made while living in Portland where I endured a very mentally difficult few months; pictured below.

I was experiencing an especially difficult afternoon, so I decided to go for a walk. While walking, a man rode past me on a bicycle with a bird perched on his shoulder. This was perhaps the only thing absurd enough to pull me out of my head. I sat there, jaw dropped, wondering what this man’s story was, when I ultimately rushed home to draw a picture of this occurrence in the hopes to document it. This drawing continued as I continued adding elements and thoughts from daily occurrences. This process was very therapeutic for me, and as I viewed my work, my daily occurrences and emotions began to make more sense to me, and seemed significantly less daunting.

I then realized that this project extends outside of myself, and that I want to make this tool to give others the opportunity to experience this process and benefit from it the same way that I did. A big portion of my anxiety is a result of getting caught up in my own head, and thus being unaware of the people and occurrences that pass by. I must continuously remind myself that my work doesn’t operate within the vacuum of my own consciousness.

PS, I ended up seeing the bicycle bird man again, so I consulted the Portland subreddit about him, using my drawing as reference. I was eventually contacted by someone who works with this man, and was told that the bird follows this man everywhere and has the name of Captain Jackie. The bicycle man was apparently very happy to hear that he had fan art.

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It seemed ironic to keep a conventional journal about a capstone project that exists entirely because of how bad I am at journaling, so i decided to proceed by creating visual diaries. I thought that conducting entries in this fashion was much more beneficial and made significantly more sense to me.

7/9

7/16

7/23

7/30

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