Gradwatch 2018: Designer Daragh Anderson, Central Saint Martins

Designer Daragh Anderson is one of 10 creatives featured in our annual Gradwatch showcase; putting the spotlight on art and design graduates who we feel have produced outstanding work

AutoGraphic, a generative design system that uses machine learning to improve itself through user interaction. (More info on the project and how it works here)

Daragh Anderson is a design and interaction graduate from Central Saint Martins. His portfolio includes creative experiments with coding, AR, VR and moving image – including a graphics generator powered by machine-learning and a 3D typeface created for VR. He also has a keen interest in science and the role design can play in communicating complex ideas.

Creative Review: What sparked your interest in graphic design?
Daragh Anderson: I’ve always been interested in the effect visual design can have in communicating more than just a surface-level functionality. I began expressing my creativity through music and being in a band professionally for a while; I picked up my interest initially by exploring visual communication through branding, moving image, album artwork and application design.

I’d spend a lot of my spare time on the tour bus reading about the various studios producing the most cutting edge visual design work and that spurred me on. The work of Eddie Opara at Pentagram, Gmunk studio, Moment Factory and the typography of Laurenz Brunner were clear influences on using design as a clear and engaging vehicle for communication – often by using cutting edge technologies to create something truly unique.

CR: What themes, ideas or mediums are you particularly interested in exploring?
DA: In my self-directed work I’ve tried to explore some pretty esoteric concepts. This work usually involves rigorous research which allows me to learn along the way. This often concerns concepts that have been largely unexplored by design. In my publication Superposition, I explored the lack of visualisation of Quantum Mechanics using the visual history of the atom as an analogy. This, I hoped, would encourage users to question why technical complexity has become a barrier for the legitimacy of visualisation.

In my work ScalAR, I’ve worked to explore the tiniest physical scale in nature, the Planck length, by making a pop-up augmented reality gallery that uses real world scales to show the extremities of the subatomic world by comparison with everyday objects and spaces. Most recently I’ve been exploring machine-learning and generative design to provoke discussion about how AI might one day be used to model aesthetics and threaten the design industry itself.

AutoGraphic generates a unique artwork every time. Users can vote on whether they find the image aesthetically pleasing and the system learns from their responses

CR: Can you tell us a little more about your work and your approach to design?
DA: As a keen science enthusiast, I’ve always had an interest in using visual communication to unwrap the ever-growing complexity that science presents in an ever-more complex world. My work often explores this complexity and attempts to find ways to communicate the core wonder of the principle itself while still remaining true to the technical scientific truths of the concept.

I feel there is so much scope for design work in this area to engage a wider audience in amazing new developments in science, in finding new ways to convey rapidly expanding and quickly shifting information and to show scientists the importance of translating these ideas to inspire future generations and to challenge their assumptions on what the limits of science are.

Design for You & AI: a platform to help the public understand artificial intelligence through news, discussions, tutorials and file sharing. More on the project – a collaboration with Chris Baker, Kendall Slade, Oliver Pearson and Jordan Smith – here

CR: You’ve worked on a lot of projects that involve coding and automated processes – did you teach yourself coding skills or is it something you’ve been learning on your course?
DA: Coding is something I’ve always been interested in. Once you start to explore large datasets it becomes impractical to traverse those without using some kind of automation. Having a knowledge of that is vital in my practice. I’ve been a huge fan of John Maeda’s work at M.I.T. and the code-based visual exploration he employs in his work in general.

I feel like some of my favourite design studios are employing more and more programmatic, generative processes to make unique work and it’s a really exciting time to bridge the divide between creativity and technology. I’ve always learned by being inspired by work like this and have been mostly self taught because I will just dive right in and try to figure out how things work. Of course, the support technicians at Central Saint Martins where I studied were regularly inundated with my questions and they were great at pointing me in the right direction and helping me to debug code!

Hexagram Regular is a 3D typeface created for VR – “I wanted to create a type specimen that a prospective user could walk around and interact with,” says Anderson

CR: You studied at Central Saint Martins. What do you feel you gained from your degree course?
DA: I feel like studying at CSM was one of the best decisions I ever made. The network of wonderful, talented classmates and course leaders I was introduced to completely inspired, challenged and inspired me fundamentally to take my research to a new level and use the creative tools at my disposal to find my voice as a designer with a somewhat unique perspective. Though I never really fell into the normal channels that traditional graphic design students occupied, I felt having a diverse and insanely talented group of peers pushed me to think in entirely different ways about design problems.

Remember, a typographic installation created in response to a D&AD brief set by Monotype by Daragh Anderson, Ollie Pearson and Jordan Smith

CR: What are your plans for the future now you’ve graduated – what would you like to do next?
DA: I’m currently working on some freelance projects in the tech sector and will continue to do self directed work as a creative technologist alongside whatever more long-term projects I take on. Whatever I do, it’ll be driven by wanting to explore how we can use technology in new ways to educate, challenge and enhance user experience.

CR: And finally what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given so far?
DA: Back in my days playing music, a famous producer, now very good friend of mine, once said; “The work you make that you find important to you today is just a snapshot. It will be meaningless before you know it and you’ll wonder why you were so stressed, or obsessed by it. Do your best now and always move forward.”

In other words (or what I took from it) was, don’t have any self importance about what you do, think iteratively, work quickly and fail often. Treat those around you with empathy and respect because although hard work is essential, being open to laughing and learning from everyone around you is a far greater gift.

andersongraphic.co, @daraghanderson 

GROUP GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Bedford, Bedfordshire