Stewart Smith


Directus 1

I’m delighted to join Ben Haynes (Directus), David Somers (Pixie Labs), and moderator Matt Minor (Directus) for “Digital Realism Roundtable: Bridging Bytes and Reality”—a virtual panel discussion streaming tomorrow at 10am ET. Join us here:

Stanley Downwood 1

This week makes three years since publishing my (unsolicited) browser-based music video for Thom Yorke’s 2006 track Black Swan. Rather than film footage, video, or pre-composed animation, my music “video” is composed of website elements pushed around in realtime as you watch it via a mixture of style sheet and JavaScript commands.

It was a fairly dark autumn in America, with the presidential election contest between democracy and fascism looming against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which had so abruptly turned the country upside down half a year earlier. (Not to mention climate change; the hottest summer and autumn on record to date.) Revisiting this old animation idea was a pleasant break from the reality around us—and served as a birthday present of sorts for Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood who share my birth month of October; the best month.

Read more about the Black Swan music video here, or visit and execute the animation here.

Sxsw Hero 1

Returning for its 16th year, SXSW Pitch showcases innovative new technology to a panel of industry experts, high-profile media professionals, venture capitalists, and angel investors. I’ve recently been invited to join the SXSW Pitch Advisory Board to recruit fresh startups for the pitch process, and to nominate judges for the live event panel convening next March at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

I was lucky to receive an introduction to SXSW Pitch event producer, Chris Valentine, via prolific strategy prodigy, Cindy Mallory. (Cindy has served on the SXSW Pitch Advisory Board for some time, and is also New York Chapter President for the VR/AR Association.) Chris felt I was a good fit for the board, and soon afterward I was put to work seeking new startups to submit their pitches—and excited to participate in the first (pre-SXSW) round of judging. It’s been a fun experience so far, and a fun way to reconnect with SXSW.

Transfer Hero 1

It was my pleasure to attend Transfr’s holiday lunch at their headquarters just off of Times Square. I’ve had my eye on this virtual reality startup for a while now; their mission is exciting and the folks are lovely.

Transfr first entered my radar in early 2021 when their Chief People Officer, Jessa Vatistas, reached out concerning an interesting opportunity that might be of interest to me or someone in my orbit. That began a conversation longer than perhaps either of us had expected; swapping stories about the evolving nature of recruiting in the virtual reality space. The idea of making the jump from Amazon Web Services to a peppy startup in my own New York backyard did sound tempting. (And I must stress that the people at Transfr are lovely—and a good group of sharp folks is always a big draw.) But I was both making a play for a more serious role in quantum computing as well as rekindling a friendship with my old Unity family. Although the context wasn’t quite right for me to pursue a formal relationship with Transfr, I have remained a big fan of their work. I was delighted to be invited back to hang with Marc Herbert (VP of Engineering), Shelley Hu (Senior Producer, VR Studios), and Evan Harper (Architect).

Autumn Path

I’ve just returned from an absolutely gorgeous “peak autumn” journey by rail up to New Haven, Connecticut as a recently-minted Artist in Residence at Yale University’s Quantum Institute.

Over this present academic year I’ll be collaborating with Yale students, faculty, and researchers associated with the Yale Quantum Institute (YQI) to create quantum-inspired artworks. This program is organized by YQI manager (and official rocket scientist!), Florian Carle, who created the artist residency role. I’ve impossible shoes to fill, with past residents such as Martha W Lewis and Spencer Topel. An exciting adventure to set forth on, to be sure.

I composed this short essay while living in London during the summer of 2012 for the UK’s Creative Circle publication. Strange to stumble upon it again two years later, having replanted myself in New York and feeling ten years older. Thought I’d share it now.

So I was asked what makes me click. Here we go: I'm motivated by playfulness—and playfulness comes in many forms. Sometimes it's the simplicity of Atari's Pong. Sometimes it's the intellectual gymnastics of Frank Drake's Arecibo message. A blinking computer cursor. Ten measures of a steady beat followed by one low-slung accidental. Curiosity. Exploration. Creating and solving puzzles can be satisfying but creating puzzles with a beautiful reveal is even better. I'm also motivated by learning—projects can be a valuable opportunity for paid learning. At university one must purchase new skills. Meanwhile, clients will pay you as you learn new things. I value teaching. Some of the projects I'm happiest with have a way of revealing how they were made—a hint at the grid or the process behind it. I learned to make things by taking apart and decoding the artifacts of others, it seems good karma to return the favor.

Whether it’s a hack, an eccentric debug utility, or clever marketing—there are raptors in hats hiding on Vogue’s UK website. Load it up and then enter the fabled Konami code to manifest a strafing raptor wearing a random designer hat. That’s Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A.
Oddly there’s also a general debug console that can be called up by using the same sequence but switching the order of the last two taps to A B. For the code curious, the JavaScript to trigger this raptor rapture is contained here, just do a search for “konami”:

If you open up your browser’s JavaScript console you can get the actual raptorization code by entering: $('body').raptorize

The analytics line of code in there makes me think it’s more of a clever marketing ploy than some hacker attack—as some supposed “news” outlets would have you believe. Ah, hype. I’ve posted the raptorize code after the jump in case it vanishes from Vogue’s site.

Update: This little easter egg appears to be inspired by a jQuery library called Raptorize created by Zurb in collaboration with Phil Coffman and Noah Stokes.

I’m speaking about my work tomorrow evening—Monday, May 6th at 6:30pm—at the SoHo Apple store in Manhattan. This is part of the ADC’s Young Guns series of talks (see ADC blog entry). Should be fun. The store’s schedule says I have from 6:30 to 8pm—way too much time. Let’s keep it short and sweet (maybe 1/2 hour?) with some Q&A at the end if that seems worthwhile. The content shouldn’t be much of a surprise: some favorite project highlights, random rants, and so on. Just walk up the glass stairs to the second floor where you’ll find some theater-style seating and a big screen.
Monday, May 6th. 6:30pm Apple Store SoHo 103 Prince Street New York NY 10012 212 226 3126

ASCII lyric vids are music videos made primarily of a song’s lyrics rendered as computer text and animated over time to pair with the vocals. [What is ASCII?] These pure lyric vids are distinct from representational ASCII art vids which use glyph shapes as abstract textural components, rather than as text meant to be read. These genres are not mutually exclusive, however. [What is ASCII art?] To celebrate being blown away by the new Petula Clark video, here are a few notches in the genre listed in reverse-chronological order. If you know of more do mention it.

I’m excited to be on the jury panel for this year’s AIGA Best of New England (BoNE) Show biennial design competition alongside Elliott Earls and Lucille Tenazas. The three of us will be milling about—drinks in hand?—for the casual Meet the Judges event this Friday evening. We’ll talk a bit and perhaps even have some fancy objects to share. (So do come down and say hello.) It’s the BoNE Show’s 10th anniversary, after all.

For an added slice of sunshine I’ll be at Boston University meeting with design students in some capacity for the majority of Friday morning and afternoon. You can hit me up with questions (or disenchanted meanderings) via Twitter: @stewd_io. Non sequiturs—if you were curious, this is what Google Glass feels like. And finally, today is Kurt Cobain’s 46th wouldn’t you know.