Link o'the week

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a link of the week, but there’s been a couple that I’ve added to my bookmarks that ought to work there way here, both exploring the theme of simplicity of design.

Dissertation Haiku

Dissertations can be long, technical, and (with the exception of the author and his or her PhD committee) unreadably boring.   So why not condense the pure essence of a dissertation into a haiku, the Japanese poetic form used to communicate its message through extreme brevity whilst also achieving a wistful, yearning and powerful insight?   That’s the premise of Dissertation Haiku, wherein PhDs present their doctoral research in five, then seven, then five more syllables of Zen-like wisdom.

For example, friend and former colleague Josh Liason summarizes his thesis “Tube Representations of Ordered Sets,” and investigation of the orderings of abstract geometric shapes in 2, 3, and higher dimensions, as

Triangles in a
triangular tube; some are
further to the left.

Philosopher Jonathan Auyer’s PHD work discussing Ernst Gombrich’s theory, which postulates that the way in which pictures represent objects involves some kind of illusion, is nicely distilled as

See a painted tree?
‘Tis there, ’tis not. Not deceived ”
Simply illusion.

My personal favorite — well, aside from the one I posted, of course — is designer Ursula Murray Husted dissertation involving the evolving visual language of social authorship in masked internet communities:

Funny cat pictures
anonymously linger.
I can haz tenure?



When I was a kid, I enjoyed making 8-bit illustrations: designing images that could be rendered as 8×8 (or 8×16) grids of pixels.   This was based partly on my fascination with 8-bit video game systems like the NES, but also on my ageless fascination with various “constrained art” problems: illustrations designed to convey a certain image or message under a set of user-imposed constraints, such as making a recognizable face out of an 8×8 grid of squares, or designing a signature that displayed rotational or mirror symmetries, better known nowadays as ambigrams.   (Before I was a mathematician, I pursued an interest in graphic design, so this latter bit is not too surprising, I guess.)

Apparently, however, I’m not the only one fond of the simplicity of the 8-bit design.   Check out Very Important Pixels, which provides weekly (16-bit) pixelated send-ups of pop culture icons, such as the evolution of Michael Jackson:

or popular 80s action heroes

The site is pretty young, but it sure looks promising.

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