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Art Enhancing Software Development

Three MICA graduates integrate art and science to create new technology

Posted 11.01.12 by mica communications

"DestroyTwitter" by Jonnie Hallman '09 (graphic design).

It’s hard to imagine a world without computers, smart phones, and the Internet. MICA alumni are finding creative ways to use their talents to enhance these digital environments.

Colin Dunn ’12 (graphic design) has been testing his chops in the software development space since his days at MICA, when he created a mind-mapping web application for his senior thesis called Exobrain.

Exobrain from Colin Dunn on Vimeo.

“I’ve always been interested in technology and design, and I’ve been exploring the areas in which they intersect,” Dunn said. MICA provided an environment where he could explore his interests in a constructive and positive way, including taking advantage of connections to different design studios. Today, Dunn builds virtual classrooms for Lore, a technology start-up offering an online learning platform.

“I think tech companies like Apple and Facebook are demonstrating art design is a part of any software company and to be successful, you need to not only develop a really usable product but something people want to use and engage with. That’s where the design comes in.”

When Jonnie Hallman ’09 (graphic design) was at MICA, he created DestroyTwitter, a software application allowing social media users to customize their Twitter experience. When he left MICA, he moved to San Francisco where he worked for Adobe Systems Incorporated. Today, he lives  in New York and is trying his hand at entrepreneurship, running Destroy Today, LLC, a company creating software applications, such as the “to-do application” he’s currently working on.

One of the skills that has helped Hallman promote his work and his business is the ability to market himself. “MICA shaped me into somebody who’s independent and able to speak freely about my work without a problem,” he said.

Hector Leiva ’08 ’11 (video, Photographic Exobrain is an interactive web application and brainstorming tool developed by Colin Dunn '12 (graphic design) as part of his senior thesis at MICA. & Electronic Media) demonstrates how The Matter of Memory works.Hector Leiva ’08 ’11 (video, Photographic & Electronic Media) has always seen a connection between art and technology. In fact, he considers
art to be a way to humanize technology. His time at MICA only reinforced that concept, as he was urged to explore ways to merge the two through the use of programming and video installations.

“My peers and professors provided a great climate for what happened in my career as an artist,” Leiva said. In addition to his work creating videos and installations, Leiva works fulltime as a gallery associate in New York, where he maintains the website and does color proofs for clients to take home. He is also a freelance website designer and has created an iPhone app called The Matter of Memory, which allows users to listen to audio created by past inhabitants of a particular location.

“I really wanted to explore the fact that places have histories and people create their own memories and their own realities,” Leiva said. “Like art, technology can give us another perspective into what it might truly mean to be human,” he said.

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Image caption: Hector Leiva '08 '11 (video, Photographic & Electronic Media) demonstrates how The Matter of Memory works.