Working on the aforementioned sega_sibyl series took a considerable amount of time, but riffing on memphis and neo-memphis design styles can be formulaic. For example – one thing I was never crazy about with neo-memphis was how there was something like a canon of shapes and colors you could use and have it qualify as that style. There’s a lot of room within that frame, but it made me think that it had parameters that were set by the community – and parameters fit programs better than people. So with sega_sibyl I tried to take those parameters and push them and bend them a little while figuring out just practically speaking how to make some of the shapes on demand or in patterns or whatever.

I was in touch with the artblocks team a very long time ago. Checking my discord, I was in there in November of 2020 chatting with people about generative art. Not a lot mind you, I had my own thing going already – and the more I learned about how artblocks worked, the more I was aware of the fact that my major generative project thus far (Lazlo Lissitsky) couldn’t work there. Lazlo was designed without reference to token hashes or seeded randoms (just using a seeded random instead of hash value feels like cheating to me still). Lazlo was also pretty un-railed by design, so a lot of the outputs were too chaotic or too empty and the curation process was built into the expression of what that was meant to be – not to mention the era-appropriate titles/dates and in-jokes and alliteration and such that ended up becoming a part of what made Lazlo so fun. None of that fits artblocks and I didn’t want it to and I didn’t want artblocks to change either – it was just two different kinds of projects under one genre umbrella.

Eventually artblocks built their application system, started scheduling releases (I was only vaguely aware of all this). I was mostly enthused about Jeff Davis, an artist who designed one of my favorite artblocks projects, created a social currency for ABST (which I loved the idea of, obviously) and then not only promoted artblocks artists but actually collected work from non-artblocks projects (like Lazlo!!) to share and promote. It’s just the kind of leadership I like to see, and he seems like such a genuine and supportive person that when he messaged me saying that my application had come up I jumped. I kind of forgot I’d filled it out when I checked in and saw that they had a system. So I needed to build something.

I still have a job though, of course. So it was lunch breaks and after hours and lots of posting to a smaller discord group about how difficult it was. I essentially started a new program every time I wanted a particular memphis/neo-memphis style effect and worked until that program could generate the effect somewhat randomly but accurately and be positioned different places – then grafted that code onto the main body and worked with hash values to make it deterministically possible. I was ready to finally get the code live when I found out that trying processing.js on artblocks (or any browser, really) worked okay if you used only the very basic functions that haven’t become obsolete – but if you use anything more advanced you have to convert to p5js. So my code was thousands of lines and in the wrong language when I asked my friend and collaborator on Lazlo and Moniac Mod – Tartaria Archivist – to help me sort it out. He did, but it was another couple of months and then some before every single function worked correctly, deterministically, and scaled to whatever viewer size the live view demanded. I only needed to mint a handful on rinkeby, but I kept coming back to it over and over just to see what it would make. I think that’s a good sign.

Some of the test renders from rinkeby (note: not cherrypicked, so one that needed re-rendering to IPFS wasn’t loaded yet)

What does autoRAD mean, though? Well I liked the idea of playing on autoCAD – computer aided design. This is the joke, though – when we say computer aided design we just mean that you make schematics for a building or a machine or a product – we don’t usually assume it means computer aided graphic design or art. I had friends teaching in colleges who had told me that in their opinion, graphic design for simple things like banner ads and basic website stuff would all be done by AI within a decade. They could even show me machine learning diagrams that proved their point after a few days. I found that a little intimidating as someone who had made a significant portion of their life’s earnings doing graphic design of one form or another. So another aspect of the program is imagining that autoRAD is what corporate executives will buy in the future when they need something cool – no more hiring designers, they license a copy of autoRAD, the sure-fire software for creating really rad designs. I feel like that concept walks the line between being cynical and joyful, because while it’s cynical to imagine creative endeavor is so formulaic that we really ought to let computers do it – it’s very hopeful to design a program that brings you a little happy shock every time it creates an instance because you wouldn’t have made it *just* like that yourself, but it feels like you *could have* and it’s good. It’s something like being happy that we can mass produce candy – not because it means that handcrafted candy isn’t good and maybe even better, but because the ability to share it with more people and consistently make something that brings us happiness is its own kind of little creation and it’s own kind of little celebration.

The autoRAD collection from artblocks is now its own collection on Opensea: