3D Printing Workshop

On Friday March 3rd, 2017 I co-hosted a workshop for 3D Printing.  This particular workshop was focused on the introduction to 3D printing, learning the origins, and the current economic and educational implications.  We also discussed the best practices for learning to model 3D objects for print, slicing, and of course the fun part, printing.

Below are a few images from a couple of the prints.  One print (the skeleton figure) was printed, cleaned, and then painted.

Workshop Resources

The workshop was split into 3 sections [3D modeling in software, preparing prints, and physical printing].  We have been working with the Ultimaker 3D printers and have found their online resources to be incredibly helpful for the entire process of 3D printing.  

3D Modeling
To kick things off from a beginners perspective we focused on the use of free open browser-based 3D modeling suit TinkerCAD. TinkerCAD is a great online source for learning the fundamentals of 3D modeling and best of all, its browser based, so no expensive software is needed.  After just a few minutes of their tutorials you will be creating 3D objects (simple ones anyway) with ease.

Preparing prints
Since we are using an Ultimaker Extended+ 2 we introduced a 3D slicing application that is specific to our hardware called Cura.  Cura is an open source 3D slicing application that allows you to import 3D Model files that are in the form of (*.stl, *.3mf, or *.obj) files. Once imported the Cura software allows you to further optimize your object for print by controlling the density (fill), resolution (fine detail), and other aspects like brim.

Physical printing
In this final section we walked through the startup, calibration procedures, and print surface preparation.  We also discussed the filament selection (type of plastic to be used).  We worked with the standard PLA material for its generalization of application and ease of use in the machine itself. Once we worked through the procedures we printed a small set of earnings as a live demonstration.

After we completed the formal portion of the workshop, attendee were encouraged to get their hands on the printer, material, examples, and to ask questions and print small objects if they desired.  Overall, it was a great workshop with lots of excited and enthusiastic participants and we look forward to running more workshops that cover the next steps and getting deeper into the science and art of 3D printing.

Disrupting the JPEG

I wanted to share a fun activity or in-class exercise I use when teaching advanced levels of digital imaging.  Most of us are very familiar with the JPEG file type. It is a staple commodity in our daily digital lives; we post, share, download, and save JPEG image files all the time without much thought.  However, we often forget that beyond the surface level obvious use for JPEG images, we can use this file format to rekindle the organic nature of randomly effecting change in the medium to produce unexpected and uncontrolled results. 

Original JPEG Image: Taj Mahal

Original JPEG Image: Taj Mahal

Disrupted JPEG Image

Disrupted JPEG Image

This exercise was originally based on the tutorial: "Breaking the JPEG - by Stephen Hislop of Computer Arts Magazine" before the magazine's web presence changed CMS's and lost the imagery from the post.  Please feel free to follow this exercise yourself and have some fun, or to re-purpose it to fit your needs (assuming you are teaching a class or course on digital images or compression etc.) I included a short video tutorial so you can see the steps below in action.


The Purpose of this activity is to give participants a chance to take a closer look at the code that is generated by the JPEG image compression format, and to gain an understanding of what happens when we change that code in random, arbitrary ways.   This activity also provides each participant the tools to create unique and "organic" works of art that defy the original code structure of the JPEG file by disrupting the source code. 

You might be asking how are we going to do this?  Well, we’re going to tear an image apart from the inside out and then put it back together.

Step 1: Source image

To begin with, select an image file (*.jpg, *.jpeg) that you would like to use.  This activity works better if you choose a lower resolution image (web-sized) since the amount of code will be reduced in the file.  I personally recommend an image around 800-1,500px in the longest dimension at a resolution of 72ppi.  You can of course experiment with all kinds of sizes and resolutions once you have the process down. For this tutorial I'll show you the image I used along the way.  Due to the trial and error approach to this activity, it's a good idea to use a source image, and them make copies from it to experiment with.

Source Image JPEG file (1500 x 787 px @72ppi)

Source Image JPEG file (1500 x 787 px @72ppi)

Step 2: Convert JPEG to Text

Once you have your source image you will convert the image to text by renaming the file extension. 

  1. Right click your image file and select "Rename"
  2. Replace the ".jpg" file extension with ".txt" to convert the image file type to a text file.
  3. You may get a pop-up warning dialog box asking if you want to replace the file extension - select the option to use the new ".txt" extension.
  4. Your image file thumbnail image may have already changed to a text icon.  Now select your image text file and open the file with a text editor (TextEdit on Mac or Notepad on PC etc.).
Rename file: change extension to ".txt"

Rename file: change extension to ".txt"

Yes - we are sure we want to ruin the file ;)

Yes - we are sure we want to ruin the file ;)

Step 3: Get your hands dirty

  1. With the file open you will see that the image has been converted to a mess of tortured looking text, what you are actually seeing is the ASCII representation of the file code.  All of those lovely 1's and 0's are still there of course, but since we used the ".txt" extension we see what those bytes look like as text characters.
  2. Now comes the fun part - scroll down through the image roughly to the top 1/8th of the document.
  3. Make a selection of the code and copy/cut the code (big or small does not matter, you can vary the size as much as you like).
  4. Scroll down a ways (roughly another 1/8th of the way) and paste the code.
  5. Now try and grab another section and copy it (but leave in place).
  6. Now scroll to a new location and paste it in.
  7. Repeat these steps (3-6) a few times until you have jumbled up some of the code.
Grab random sections of code and copy/cut/paste the code to new locations

Grab random sections of code and copy/cut/paste the code to new locations

***Hint: When you are first trying this out, I would start off by making only a few changes maybe 3-4 changes and then see how it turns out.  There is no "rule" for this, so you will need to experiment with different amounts of code and whether you are copying or cutting etc.

The main thing to keep in mind during this stage is that all of this code represents corresponding parts of the image, so the bigger chunks of code you take the bigger (or more pixels) you will be disrupting.  Another tip would be to stay away from altering the very top 1/8th or very bottom 1/8th of the code, that seems to corrupt the image more often than not.  But again, you are free to experiment.

Step 4: Return from whence we came

Now that you have changed up the code its time to put this file back to an image file type.

  1. Save your work in the current form of the text document to lock in your code changes.
  2. Now reverse our file naming process from Step 2 -
    1. Right click the file and select "Rename"
    2. Change the file extension to ".jpg"
    3. Confirm you want to use the "jpg" file extension if prompted by a warning dialog box.
  3. You will now have a disrupted JPEG image file.  You can preview your file and see the wondrous "random" effects your copying and pasting had on the image. 
  4. If you are unsatisfied with your first try, try again, or choose a different image.  The point is to keep experimenting.  Once you've learned the process it only takes a few minutes to go through the entire image transformation.  Below I included a few results from the source image used in this tutorial. 

If your image is completely broken (which happens a fair amount) you might have broken parts of the code near the top or bottom of the file resulting in an image so disrupted it is no longer recognizable as an image.  In this case don't sweat it, just grab another copy of the source image and try again, but use less aggressive changes, and try and stick to the middle of the image where the code is "safer". 

You might have a scenario where you can preview the image fine, but it wont open in an image editing program like Photoshop.  Again, no sweat, just grab a screen shot of the preview and now you have a "clean" image file of the disrupted one. 

Step 5: Turn it up to 11 (optional)

  1. Now that you have a fun disrupted image you can further the enhancements to this by opening the file in Adobe Photoshop or whatever image editing application you like.
  2. You might look to enhance colors - make custom selections on the broken segments and alter them to your hearts content.
  3. Have fun! :D

Like what you created? Share it! Feel free to tweet your creations at me, or share via Instagram - @seanthenerd #DisruptedJpeg


PHOT3190 - A new Class of Digital Artists

Course Description:

Students learn the theoretical and practical aspects of photographic digital imaging. Students develop a theoretical understanding of this technology and learn to apply these principles using Adobe Photoshop. Students learn to control, modify, and manipulate digital photographic images for both corrective and creative purposes.

In this course students used Adobe Photoshop (and Camera RAW) to explore the realm of digital image processing and manipulation. This course required students to look at taking imagery from a variety of sources and creating unique digital images. Students spent a lot of time on learning the Photoshop environment and how to work with digital files to bring their creative visions to life.



For this eight week course I used a scaffolding of projects to ratchet up the technical requirements (Photoshop manipulation skills) as well as increased creative control over the subject and composition of thier projects.  In total, three course projects were used, each building upon the previous project.  The first project (the most restrictive, and most simplistic) was focused on using state of the art equipment (cameras) and software (Photoshop) to re-create the visual aesthetics of vintage toy film cameras (styles made immensely popular via Instagram/Hipstamatic etc).  The second project focused on the theme of the self portrait, but the students were to re-imagine what the essence of a self portrait is and explore ways to visually compose an image that encompasses their abstraction of the "self image".  Finally, students were given an open ended project entitled the Uelsmann Experience, incorporating some of the free flowing design and creative process of image creation influenced by the legendary creative couple Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor.  For this final project students were to come up with their own image theme and develop a creative strategy to accomplish their vision.  This project can sometimes give "too" much creative freedom in which its vital to consult with each student to ensure the scope of their project is manageable in the timeframe of the course.

Throughout the course students engaged in small activities and in-class tutorial challenges focused on having the students learn new image manipulation techniques and put them to use in a time controlled environment.  This challenge scenario was used to enforce my belief that in the creative process, especially in digital image creation the point of failure is where we learn the most about ourselves and the techniques used.  For this class I wanted to create a "safe place to fail" - meaning I wanted the students to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and to try new techniques and ways of approaching the creative process without the fear that failing to succeed in their experiment would translate into an academic failure.

Overall, the individual growth demonstrated by each student, non only in technical proficiency, but in the creative process as artists was extensive.  Students were able to demonstrate a clear and purposeful rationale behind the technical, aesthetic, and compositional elements of each of their completed project pieces.

To cap the course off on the last day I put together a short time-lapse video of the class picture I created from a series of individual portraits taken earlier in the course (under the guise of a hands on tutorial on portraiture).  I wanted to use this simple image as both a visual "thank you" to the course, but to also serve as an example of how to re-imagine the "class picture" in a way that is contemporary and fun.  A Super A3 poster was printed in class on the last day and signed by each of the students as a momento that will be proudly displayed in my office.

For more information you can checkout the open course website: PHOT3190 Spring 2013 Webster University Leiden

Emotional Map Design - Experience iTunes

 Experience to study: purchasing an album on iTunes.

Emotional Map – a visual representation of the user experience of purchasing an album through Apple’s iTunes music store.  The Map can be read by using the vertical line to represent the main timeline of the process, with the horizontal text on the left indicating the individual steps in the process.  The lettered notes are indicated within each step, then mapped in color that ranges from negative (blue) emotion to positive (red) emotional experience.


Latent opportunities are ubiquitous: Pick an environment For this emotional experience I have established that I will study my own emotional experience of purchasing a digital music album online.

Who or what to study: For this study I will map my emotional experience of purchasing a music album from Apple iTunes from my laptop computer.

Establish a goal: My goal for this study is to identify areas of my experience that could be improved upon based on my emotional response to the various aspects of the experience.

Establishing modes and identifying touch-points:Modes:

  • Anticipation: Anticipation is the first mode, where the user reflects on the idea of purchasing a new album from iTunes.  Reflecting on previous experiences of purchasing music through iTunes from various devices, and any feelings of excitement or trepidation that may shape how the interaction is approached.
  • Launch (Enter): This is the second step where the user actually opens iTunes Store and gains access to the library of music, videos, podcasts, and other media available for purchase.
  • Engage: This being the third step, is where most of the interaction takes place.  This step is where the user interacts with the various components of the iTunes store and contain the majority of the touch-points of the purchasing process.
  • Exit: This is the step in which you have completed the transaction and leave the iTunes Store environment after your purchase is completed.
  • Reflection: The final stage in which you reflect upon the recent experience of purchasing an album through iTunes and how it compares to the anticipation stage from which previous experiences were used to foreshadow how the current experience would go.


  1. Online: (Anticipation)
    1. browsing music online searching for something new.
    2. Finding a new band/song that is catchy and new.
    3. Looking them up to see what other works they have, and band info.
    4. Launching iTunes (Anticipation)
      1. Hoping that the artists album will be available.
      2. Looking forward to seeing if iTunes has other similar matches that would be new “discoveries”.
      3. Opening iTunes Store: (Launch/Enter)
        1. Waiting for store homepage to load.
        2. Notice the new items promoted on the homepage.
        3. Enjoying the design layout of the iTunes store.
        4. Noticing the clear separation of categorical items (music, movies, tv shows, apps, books).
        5. View Top Rated Charts (Engage)
          1. Notice the “young” music at the top.
          2. Surprised by what is downloaded most.
          3. Click on few songs that are unfamiliar by artist/name.
          4. Search for specific artist (Engage)
            1. Type in search field artist name
            2. Waiting for iTunes search to be completed
            3. notice the variety of search results showing multiple albums/tracks
            4. browse options based on price
            5. encouraged by filter options that appear on left hand side
            6. Select Album (Engage)
              1. Click on album of interest (latest release)
              2. see list of songs and associated popularity (rating)
              3. preview songs (30 sec) - go through all
              4. read band info
              5. frustrated there are no reviews
              6. evaluate if there are more than one song that is good
              7. Purchase Album (Engage)
                1. Hover over “Buy Album” button to consider the value of the album based on song preview and album price.
                2. Click “Buy Album” button
                3. Please there is no further “checkout process”
                4. Wait for Download (Exit)
                  1. Downloads fast pleasing that it doesn’t take much time.
                  2. impatient for entire album to finish.
                  3. Play Music (Reflection)
                    1. play entire album and listen to each song.
                    2. burn to CD for backup
                    3. Load music on mobile devices (Reflection)
                      1. load entire album on iPhone and iPad.
                      2. Listen to as travel music on daily commute.

This project was inspired by the Experience Map created by Erik Berkman from Little Spring Designs on improving the Starbucks experience.

Creating Infographics for research data


Infographics have become a popular new trend on consuming data in a more elegant fashion than the boring tables and charts of the past.  So this year when I was working on sharing the student data collected for an online course (CEP 820) I am teaching this spring semester, I wanted to branch out into the art of infographics to share this information with students.

Every semester the students in CEP 820 fill out an introductory survey as the first order of business for the course.  CEP 820 is a course offered to master level students in Masters in Educational Technology program (MAET) or Masters in Education program (MAED) at Michigan State University.  CEP 820 has a course title of Teaching Students Online, and is focused around the concepts, theory and practice of developing online courses and modules for a variety of educational needs.  This survey is used to help this fully online class get a better perspective of the makeup of the study body.

This year I wanted to do something a little more contemporary with the data.  In the past the students are usually presented with a few graphs and statistics about the composition of the course.  For this year I decided to go a little out of the way and create an infographic poster.  My intent to create this poster was two fold.  First, I wanted something more contemporary and fun for the students to see and explore the data with.  Second, I wanted to create something that can easily be repurposed by any of the students or instructors of this course (eg paper/conference presentations, web portfolios, etc.).

Creating this infographic was very fun.  It allows the artist to represent data in a much more compelling way than just presenting the data as a standard chart.  Now, I'm not advocating that standard charts or data tables ever go away, it's just nice to have an informative poster in addition that can serve as a great entryway to get people interested in the data behind research.

I look forward to developing more infographics on some research that is currently ongoing.

1st Place - 2011 Global Focus Photography Competition

I just learned that I have received 1st Place in the 2011 Global Focus Photography contest.  I am thrilled to have my image selected as the top winner, as well as a second image I had submitted receiving an Honorable Mention. 

1st Place Image: Boat House (Maynooth Ireland - 2010)


Honorable Mention: Stormy Wedding (Saint Malo, France - 2011)


Custom Tee's and posters - MAET Style


For the 2011 summer MAET program I decided to create a custom look and feel for the course related material.  Since this program is so unique I decided to create a new look or "brand" for the course this past summer.  I wanted to create something that was both contemporary (in terms of design) but also representative of the educational technology focus of the program.  My original design inspiration came from the design group Build and their designs for the documentary film Urbanized.  

For the main focus I wanted to focus on the text of "Educate" since that verb is just what is happening, the students in the program are being educated, but the students themselves are the best possible educational technology advocates who take what they have learned and further educate their colleagues and students.   Secondly, since there are 3 years of the program, I wanted to create a unique design for each year trying to pull together a visual representation that was special to that year.  The posters are 16 x 24 inches at 300dpi.

Year 1: Grey Poster

This poster emphasizes the initial integration of what the Masters of Arts in Educational Technology is all about.

Year 2: Red Poster

For year 2 I wanted something slightly more "busy" as the level of technology integration increases as students start exploring and researching the integration of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK).

Year 3: Green Poster

Year 3 is a wonderful capstone to the program in which students are pushed to explore and experience many technology tools and platforms for which they can use in their own professions.  The students in year 3 will be exposed to a wide range of technologies from image editing, website development, audio and video production.

Why QR codes?

A common theme throughout the the posters in addition to the main textual theme of "Educate" is the integration of QR codes in each of the posters.  The QR codes were used to continue the theme of educational technology by enhancing the posters themselves which are printed on paper, as still being interactive when scanned with a smart phone or other device that can read QR codes, allowing me to keep the design fairly simple while still being able to provide the necessary information.

Finished Product:

The Posters came out great, the only small issue I had was with the green poster.  I could not find a print shop that could go as neon of a green as I had designed so I ended up settling for what they had.

Tee Shirt:

As an added element to the summer design, we decided to create a tee shirt based on the year 3 (green) poster.  Since the decision to make the shirts came late in the game, I only had time to get enough printed for the staff of the summer program.  I had a small run of 20 shirts run from the great folks at   The shirts were a hit, and you can be sure that next summer everyone will have a chance to order one.

Giving new life to an old Apple G4 Cube


I have always liked the look the Apple G4 Cube desktop computer case.  Thanks to my colleague Frank T. I was given an opportunity to recycle this once fairly iconic computer into something still useful in my office - a plant holder.  I was looking for a new little art project and this gave me the perfect little springboard to do something creative.

Frank had found this old G4 Cube and removed all the electrical components, circuit boards, cables etc.  It sat on his desk for a while and I always thought how neat it might be to re-purpose this piece of computer equipment into something more green, like a plant holder.  When Frank retired he tossed this little case my way, and well, I went right to work re-purposing it.

This was a really quick little art project, in total it only took about 15 minutes to do.  It only required simple hand tools (Phillips screwdriver, pliers and some wire). I had thought for a while how I liked the juxtaposition of the cold high-tech (well, once upon a time that is) computer case with the warm softness of a living plant growing from it.  To me, this little plant holder represents the possibilities of recycling old computer equipment into something useful again, and the reclaiming of life by nature over man-made obstructions.

Abandoned Buildings: They Need Love Too!

Here are a few images taken recently from a series I have been working on with abandoned buildings.

I have been working on this series for a few weeks.  I look for an old building or structure of some kind that has become dilapidated, yet strangely is still part of the “normal” landscape.  These old structures become forgotten yet they are not removed.  I find the juxtaposition of the old dilapidated buildings in “normal” surroundings ironically intriguing.

If you know of any old houses or buildings that are in pretty rough shape please let me know.  I would like to continue this series for a while longer yet.

All images above were shot with a Nikon D300.