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A lot of what passes as art is really an understanding of rules. Here I am using "art" loosely to mean anything from fashion to design to painting a picture. The more rules you know, the better you are as an artist.

Let me give you an example from design. Say you want to design a magazine cover about a hot new type of consumer gadget. One idea for the cover involves a picture of the gadget and nothing more. The other idea involves a picture of a person who happens to be using the gadget. Which one do you pick?

Answer: The person using the gadget.

One of the rules of magazine covers is that you want to include humans whenever possible. Humans are wired to be more interested in other humans than anything else.

My wife and I are in the process of building a home and choosing all the details that will be in it. One of the choices involves doors. If you start the process by imagining all the possible doors in the universe, the task is overwhelming. But eventually you can figure out the rules, and that narrows your decisions. For example, you want most of your doors to look the same, or at least be in the same general vein. That's a rule. And the closer any two doors are, the more similar you want them to be. That's a rule. And once you have made a decision on the general style of the home, the door choices narrow by about 90%.

In the course of my Dilbert career I've posed for literally hundreds of photo shoots. I like to observe the photographers and figure out their rules. I know they always want the lamp removed from my desk. I know they want my computer "cheated" in a way that is unnatural for the user but looks good in pictures. I know the window behind my desk is going to be a lighting problem. And I know which six-or-so positions they are going to ask me to pose in.

This all makes me wonder how far computers will advance in creating art and design. My guess is "farther than you think." The limit will be our human ability to realize when we are using rules versus something squishy like judgment or having a "good eye" for something. Once the rules are understood and programmed into computers, they should exceed our skills at everything from architecture to fashion design.
 
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Mar 23, 2009
Scott, methinks you underestimate the power of the human mind.
 
 
Mar 21, 2009
And of course, the most famous rule of magazine covers: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_-qF6CbJo2vY/RmQTXuXBLnI/AAAAAAAAAYw/hib49IDKW5E/s400/Lampoon82.jpg
 
 
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Mar 20, 2009
Computers have been changing the rules for what humans perceve to be the natural order for ages now. We all know magazines only show pretty people throughout for a start, but its funny when pretty isn't enough, or they just don't like what's in a picture and feel they need to change it and use computers to cheat. Although what i find hysterical, is when these "improvements" go wrong. Theres a great site that lists these (http://photoshopdisasters.blogspot.com) but I do wonder if we'll see laws someday limiting their use, as the wholesale acceptance of these images as normal is distorting human perception on just what is deemed to be "normal".
 
 
Mar 20, 2009
I wonder, Scott, if you have read Ian Ayre's book Super Crunchers? It's been a while since I've read about your "we're living in a program" theory, but the coincidence of you talking about computers making decisions while I'm reading that book reminded me of it.
 
 
Mar 19, 2009
It is important to think of these "rules" for what they really are, which is "conventions". By doing so, one can easily understand why art is not static, why it is dynamically creative.

Art forms are in a constant state of evolution ... moving from the conventional to the unconventional, until the new unconventional becomes conventional ... and so on.

Consider Picasso. Now consider all of the "conventions" he ignored in becoming what he became as an artist.

Computers will get better and better at manifesting programmed conventions, but have no ability to consciously and creatively ignore them for the purpose of making fresh artistic statements.

Webster
 
 
Mar 19, 2009
First of all, graphic arts will be mostly done by computers as you suggest. Secondly, a lot of the art that hangs on living room walls will come from India and China.

Art will be outsourced just like manufacturing, engineering, customer service, attorney services, medicine, and religion. Soon, our Federal Government will be outsourced because we can't afford those idiots in Washington, DC anymore.

Dilbert will be safe. There is no way (famous last words) that some office worker in India can envision the dynamics of the American workplace, if we have one left.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 19, 2009
This reminds me of a theory in creating Manga. I'm a Manga artist, and in the Manga industry, it's all about how popular your Manga can be with readers. There are generally 2 ways of creating Manga. The first way uses rules. These rules are mostly based on current trends, what people like to see in their Manga. So you can easily create a Manga with these rules: Cool high school heroes, special powers, subdue demons/monsters/ghosts/aliens, fancy swords, lots of fighting, gorgeous heroine, funny side-kick.
The second way, is for the Manga artist to do whatever he/she pleases. It's still bound by certain rules of creating Manga, but it doesn't follow the "standard formula" of putting in all the elements that ensure success.

Manga history has shown that while Manga artists can be "manufactured" by creating their Manga from the standard formula, but the best Manga artists are the ones who did it the second way.

I think the Dilbert comic is a success because you really are genuinely critical of corporate culture. The seeps through the strips, and many run-of-the-mill comic strips lack that.
 
 
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Mar 18, 2009
Combine this with the well documented correlation between Music and Math. I'd say it's a safe bet that the next Beethoven has silicon chips
 
 
Mar 18, 2009
Confusing rules and contemporary application of rules.

I admit there are rules in art (e.g. Gestalt Laws), but those won't tell you what kind of doors to put in your house. That decision depends on what kind of doors you have seen in houses similar to yours.

What you are describing is contemporary interpretation of those rules. An artist from the middle ages would not think Picasso and Kandinsky as artists.
 
 
Mar 18, 2009
Thank goodness, computers have an on/off button. Humans rock/rule! Screw computers and their so-called "art"!!!
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 18, 2009
The music industry already uses software to analyze new music and determines if it will be popular. This is how they decide if a new group or artist will succeed. This may be a good starting point, but clearly it is not perfect. The example of it not working is that it didn't think Nora Jones would be a hit because it didn't sound like any current hits. GIGO (Garbage in, Garbage out). Fortunately she had connections and was allowed to release the album.
 
 
Mar 18, 2009
unrelated to this entry and comments :- what are the relentless video interruptions and fake lotto ads all about?

stop soon please
 
 
Mar 18, 2009
unrelated to this entry and comments :- what are the relentless video interruptions and fake lotto ads all about?

stop soon please
 
 
Mar 18, 2009
To the Art over design/craft proponets- just because you do not know the rules or can articulate them does not mean that rules are not involved.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 18, 2009
yea, breaking the rules is what makes things interesting. of course, there's probably a sub set of rules for breaking the rules, and more rules for rules regarding breaking the rules, ad infinitum. that seems dificult to program.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 18, 2009
Its not just the outside appearance that matters for a door. Get solid-core doors, not those light-weight hollow ones. The solid ones are much better an insulating sound (good for the bedroom doors) and take longer for a fire to burn through.
 
 
Mar 18, 2009
The moment I started to read this post I smiled to myself because I knew I had several angry comments to look forward to. Art is one of the few places humans have left to go to when they need to feel special and unique. We already know machines are better at things like speed and strength because we ride around in them and use them to lift heavy objects.
But can machines be better at art than humans?
My guess is, yeah, probably. Art is mucking and messing about with our senses and instincts, and about everything else is mathematics, whether you liked it in highschool or not. The one aspect of art that I'm surprised you didn't mention is music.
Like your photoshoots, there are only so many ways to combine the elements in a way that are pleasing to the senses (in this case musical notes and how they're produced and presented).
What interesting is that we already have the first signs of mathematically based machine produced music ... sorta:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlCWo1qdTdE
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 18, 2009
I'm surprised that nobody has yet linked to Alexander's design patterns work:

http://www.amazon.com/Pattern-Language-Buildings-Construction-Environmental/dp/0195019199

His attempts to write a "pattern language" for architecture have motivated similar attempts in many other fields (notably software engineering.)
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 18, 2009
I'm not so sure you really addressed "art" here. The Dadaist "fountain" (men's urinal) is a classic example of art breaking rules to be art. Look at Picasso, Warhol, etc. they are all about doing something new, breaking rules. Computers can design things that will be pleasing I agree but when a computer really makes art I think we need to talk seriously about AI and the ethical treatment of gadgets.

PS - you are obviously not a car nut. Car magazines and their covers are invariably about the car. They are quite popular.
 
 
Mar 18, 2009
In Made to Stick, it talks about figuring out that about 80% of all ads and like 100% of the ads that win awards follow about six basic templates. After teaching lay people these templates, their ads were rated as really good by industry insiders.

However, I agree with sdotcx about art vs design. Design is like a craft, so is most photography and most writing. Art is something else.
 
 
 
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