Vera van de Seyp

16. July 2018

Photo: © Sotuda Azizzada

Your work examines huge global challenges like climate change, surveillance or national identity. How much are you theoretically involved in your projects?

A lot! I always want to know as much as possible about the topics I work on. Diving into theory is one of my favourite parts of the design process. However, I never claim to be a specialist when I am not — which is usually the case with such heavy matters. When a project requires more knowledge than I can take in, I get in touch with people that know more. I always make sure that the content I use is fact-checked, but the story still comes from my own perspective, meaning that sometimes it can bring forward an opinion.

On what your artistic and research activities are you focused at the moment?

I have been working in collaboration with a biologist on a project about DNA computing: a technique in which DNA is used to calculate problems that are extremely intensive for computers due to combinatorial explosion. DNA computing is really cool, I plan on working with it more! Next to that, I have been tinkering with several types of image recognition APIs, that do things like connect keywords to images or find the borders of an object in a picture.

In your practice design and coding seem to have no clear boundaries and often have a physical output (installations, books, objects). Is this something you look for or it is an inevitable consequence of your design process?

The saying is as old as time, but I try to let form follow function. I use code as a tool, and the output completely depends on the most optimal way to visualise content. I avoid a too generic generative aesthetic that is often the result of code heavy projects. In exhibitions or shows physical objects are more accessible than something that only lives on a computer screen, therefore it often happens that a website or app is not the most optimal form to show a project. So the medium is definitely an inevitable consequence of the type of content and the narrative!

What existing website would you love to redesign and develop?

Who inspires you the most at the moment?

Ramon Amaro blows my mind.

You successfully master the challenging balance between sophisticated tech, conceptual thinking and great design. How do you handle all these different aspects in your projects?

Thank you! It traditionally starts with a concept phase, around which I create tools and/or code to visualise the story or content, as well as establishing a design system. I try to push myself with every project to not repeat myself and make visuals and form from scratch. I am a perfectionist when it comes to the balance between concept and visuals, so I am happy to see when it is noticed!

Which tech should design students learn, if they want to dive into creative coding?

Processing is a great environment to start learning programming, as it’s well-documented, has many examples/tutorials and creating visuals with it is really easy. It is also possible to do more advanced stuff like connecting APIs or hardware with it.

Otherwise I would suggest OPENRNDR, a recently published language that was developed and documented by my dear former colleagues at RNDR — previously LUST + LUSTlab. They are active in fixing bugs and responding to questions, and it’s a very powerful and versatile tool.

Why is Den Haag the place in Europe for creative technologists?

Above all, I think Den Haag has a perfect balance of nature, art institutions, galleries and workshops. Especially the nature part is essential for me: the best way to clear my head during an intensive project is to go for a run in the forest or cycle along the seaside —  both less than 15 minutes away from my studio.

Because of the conservatory and the art academy here, Den Haag harbours a small but active design scene where disciplines collide, and local festivals such as TodaysArt and Rewire feed that cross-over as well. There are many no-nonsense designers, developers and artists around that work on their own cool and inspiring experiments. And when the relative calm starts to bother me, Amsterdam and Rotterdam are less than an hour away.

Lauren McCarthy writes: “I make art about what confuses me.”. Is that what you do too?

Not exactly but close — I often make work about phenomena that do not make sense to me. If a system or event seems really illogical to me, I try to find a solution or a way to pinpoint why it doesn’t feel logical.

Processing or p5.js? Choose one!

Processing! p5.js is awesome, but Processing was my first coding love.

Who should we interview next?

Domitille Debret

Ramon Amaro