Uglymaker (2013)

A piece of parodic software that used minimal user input to generate posters in the trendy "Pretty Ugly" style. Coded in Java-based language Processing and exhibited at the 2013 UCLA Design | Media Arts Senior Show as an interactive installation.

A young Asian woman inputs text in the main interface of Uglymaker. To her right is a wall of overlapping tiny colorful posters generated by the Uglymaker. A young Asian woman laughing while facing the 'PLEASE WAIT' screen. The letters are arrayed diagonally across the screen. The screen displays the first poster, which says 'Processing' in wavy text across a wavy white square on a cyan background. The screen displays the second poster, with the headline 'Processing' on the left and three images in red duotone scattered around its layout. The third auto-generated poster. A close-up of the wall of tiny colorful generated posters in the style popular around 2012. Hobo and Apercu are prominent fonts. Frames, overlapping rectangles, text distributed along the edges of the posters, wavy text and graphics, and gradients are other visible elements.

I started noticing this style popping up on Tumblr a few years before 2013, and then it became ubiquitous. The vast majority of it was mindlessly uniform, using the same elements and techniques and disregarding the appropriateness of the style to the subject matter. Because of its characteristics of widespread application, consistently used elements, and inherently random placement, I thought it would make a perfect style for a parodic graphic design machine, and decided that the simplest and most visually striking things, quickly consumable to produce—as well as my favorite things to make—were posters.

The last iteration of the program required a headline, some body text, and an email address. The headline was plugged into Google to retrieve images. The Uglymaker generated three different posters consecutively, then emailed them to the user.

The main interface of Uglymaker, with two form fields for Headline and Body Text and a 'Go' button. A black screen saying 'PLEASE WAIT'.

Generated posters.

A poster with a pastel rainbow gradient background, a wavy warped headline, and underlined text distributed on its four edges. A folder full of thumbnails of generated posters.