Zach Lieber­man

“He thinks about vis­ual iden­tity as a liv­ing and breath­ing or­gan­ism”


Even a cur­sory glance of Zach Lieber­man’s most re­cent projects is very much a “woah, re­ally?” sort of ex­pe­ri­ence. New York City-based artist, ed­u­ca­tor and coder Lieber­man is the guy mak­ing the sort of projects we thought only pos­si­ble in ac­tion thrillers, or in our wildest imag­i­na­tions. Take the eye­writer project, for in­stance: a low-cost, open source hard­ware and soft­ware tool­kit that helps peo­ple draw with their eyes. Or the IQ font, a project where a stunt driver drives a type­face. Yes, re­ally.

“I want to make vis­ual forms that are play­ful, whim­si­cal and ab­surd and that en­gage and ex­tend the body and space,” says Lieber­man. “I think the round trip from body to brain to body is in­ter­est­ing. I also am in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing vis­ual forms that are am­bigu­ous, where your brain has to work a lit­tle harder — 3D that feels like 2D, and 2D that feels like 3D.”

One of Lieber­man's most ad­mirable achieve­ments was his role in help­ing cre­ate the School for Po­etic Com­pu­ta­tion in 2013, hav­ing been teach­ing for a decade at Par­sons School of De­sign. This idea was to cre­ate a “low-cost, al­ter­na­tive school” where stu­dents study for short 10-week ses­sions — a “mix­ture of an artist res­i­dency and an in­ten­sive sem­i­nar” ex­plor­ing how elec­tric­ity, code and the­ory can come to­gether to make po­etry.

At the heart of Lieber­man's prac­tise is in­ter­ac­tiv­ity: mak­ing the viewer an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant. “In­ter­ac­tive work is about ask­ing ques­tions of the au­di­ence, about invit­ing the au­di­ence to be­come per­form­ers, and I find of­ten they bring their cre­ativ­ity and vi­sions to the work I do,” he tells us. “I build sys­tems, not ob­jects, and when you in­vite peo­ple to play and en­gage with th­ese sys­tems you can see the bound­aries more clearly. I learn so much about my work see­ing other peo­ple en­gage with it.”

Wolff Olins New York de­sign di­rec­tor Jan Eumann can't get enough of Lieber­man's “amaz­ing ex­per­i­ments” with track­ing and gen­er­a­tive de­sign. “He keeps it rather loose but with an ob­ses­sion to ex­plore and iter­ate around a sin­gle ap­proach,” says Eumann. “That's some­thing we, and brand­ing over­all, should and could as­pire to: think­ing about vis­ual iden­tity as a liv­ing and breath­ing or­gan­ism — some­thing never im­ple­mented by any­one, but su­per ex­cit­ing as fu­ture op­por­tu­nity.”

This page: Lieber­man’s 3D an­i­ma­tions are made us­ing openFrame­works, a cre­ative cod­ing tool­kit he helped co-de­velop.

Clock­wise from top left: Blob re­flec­tion colour sub­mis­sion for bot­tled wa­ter brand LIFEWTR; ex­per­i­ment­ing with spheres and lines in openFrame­works; Lieber­man’s ‘noise stacks’ give off the im­pres­sion of rip­ples and rib­bons; Ex­truded Blob #1, sold as a print in Lieber­man’s on­line store; Blob Fam­ily, also avail­able as a phys­i­cal print.

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